By Glenda Price: CNJ columnist
My father’s favorite aphorism was “waste leads to want.” I’m sure I heard him say that a gazillion times during my growing-up years.
The cowboy I married was just as adamant. He never threw anything away because “it might come in handy someday.”
Amazingly, it often did. For example, he made a beautiful table lamp by covering an old, ugly one with suede leather and beads. It was better than anything we could have bought.
When we butchered a beef, pig, or deer (during hunting season) nothing was wasted. I remember a boiling pot on the stove cooking a hog’s head. My mom made mince meat out of it.
Every country person has eaten oxtail stew, made with the beef steer’s tail and son-of-a-gun stew made from mysterious body parts.
Halters, belts, even bracelets are made from braided horsehair and are treasured by country folks. Sheep pelts make beautiful rugs, and wool gives us many useful products besides lanolin for our skin.
All this is great, but modern science has found useful products in our animals we didn’t imagine. I have a friend who just received a pig valve in her heart.
Beef animal by-products are legendary. Examples include trypsin (an enzyme that aids digestion of protein) and thrombin (for blood coagulation). Actually, 99 percent of a beef animal is utilized. Beef is the richest source of heme iron. In fact, one 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides as much usable iron as 1 liter of spinach. I like spinach, but not that well.
Beef by-products also are used in all sorts of mechanical items. For example, chemical manufacturers use the fatty acids of inedible beef fats and proteins for the production of lubricants and fluids. From industrial cleaners and fertilizers to printing ink and high gloss for magazines, many useful products are created from beef cattle.
Chickens, my “unfavorite” animals, have starring roles in recent useful by-product discoveries by USDA Agricultural Research scientists. It turns out those stinky chicken feathers I hated plucking can be made into many great products. Although they can’t compete with goose down for softness in pillow stuffing, they can be made into paper, and that discovery led to excellent filters and absorbents.
Also, feather-derived plastic can be molded like any other plastic. Scientists are developing fully biodegradable flower pots.
Facing possible knee surgery? Roosters’ combs are being used to make an injectable treatment for arthritic knees, possibly avoiding surgery.
There are those who disparage animal husbandry and declare land would be better used to raise plants. I’ll agree with that just as soon as I figure out how to grow some extra stomachs so I can digest grasses and other plant life like ruminant animals can. Those animals prosper where farming is impossible (rough terrain, no water, etc.) and make our lives better in many ways.
However, I draw the line at growing a gizzard, like chickens. Swallowing stones to grind my food is not on my list of enjoyable activities. I’d rather keep my ordinary stomach.