According to the dictionary, an animal by-product refers to something derived from animal body parts. The USDA classifies animal by-products as items “harvested or manufactured” from livestock, excluding muscle meat. Swine, cattle, and sheep all offer numerous useful and interesting by-products. Some by-products produced are readily identifiable such as leather from cattle. Others, like insulin from swine, are perhaps more unexpected.
Swine offer many valuable by-products; however, one of the most important is insulin, a product of the endocrine system. More than 1.5 million diabetics need insulin shots to control their disease, and insulin is supplied by the pancreas glands of slaughtered swine. Data shows that it takes approximately 8,000 pounds of animal pancreas glands to make just one pound of insulin. Animal insulin, by the way, was one of the very first products used to control human diabetes. In today’s world where so many people have allergies to so many things, swine insulin continues to offer a needed source of insulin with few allergic reactions.
Cattle also produce many by-products, but one that is used by all is leather, a product of the integumentary system. The earliest use of leather dates back to 2200 BC, and it is still in use world-wide today. Cow hides are tanned by using different chemicals to create both a durable and workable creation from which to make many products. Popular leather products include shoes, boots, belts, handbags, luggage, clothing, automobile seats, furniture, book binding, and saddles. Leather may be produced by individuals, small operations, or huge manufacturers.
Sheep, of course, provide many by-products as well. Perhaps the most common might be wool; however, a more interesting by-product is sutures. The sheep’s intestines from the digestive system are processed to make suture material. Veterinarians find these sutures eliminate many complications which might come from the synthetic alternatives. Another great point in sheep sutures’ favor is they dissolve on their own.
In conclusion, the animal by-product business is tremendously important to both the livestock producer and the consumer. From medical uses like insulin and sutures to personal items like leather accessories, by-products from livestock like cattle, swine, and sheep affect our daily lives. Monetarily, animal by-products are valued in hundreds of millions of dollars. While the meat value of these animals cannot be overlooked, inconsistent market prices hurt the producers. The by-products produced from these commercial animals undoubtedly provides the livestock industry with an opportunity for additional revenue.