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When people see cows roaming around a field, they usually think of farm animals that give us milk and may eventually end up on your plates, unless they’re vegans or vegetarians. Then they probably think, “What a beautiful animal.”  The point is, people most commonly associate cows with food, but cow by-products are actually used in a wide variety of places. Over 34 million cows are killed each year in slaughterhouses, but only 51 percent of their bodies are used for food because consumers only eat select cuts of meat. But if we know one thing about the animal agriculture industry, it is that they are always looking for a way to turn a profit, so many of these “leftovers,” which include hooves, skin, bones, and glands that are used in other ways.

Rendering plants” take in these animal parts, as well as entire animals that cannot be eaten by people, and separates them into fats and proteins for many of the unexpected uses you are about to discover.

Prepare yourself: The places where unidentified cow parts crop up may surprise and shock you. They might make you worry that it’s impossible to avoid products made from cows, but never fear. After reading these facts, you will be prepared to make informed decisions like a cow-product-avoiding-superhero (okay, maybe the official name is up for debate), or at the very least a well-informed consumer.

1. Sports are Overflowing With Cow By-Products

Leather is used to make a variety of sports equipment. It’s estimated that 20 footballs can be made out of one cowhide; every year the National Football League manufactures around 700,000 footballs. That means around 35,000 cowhides are used annually just for this single sport. Keep in mind that leather is also used to make baseballs, baseball gloves, and basketballs. While you were likely aware that these sports require leather, you might be shocked to learn that cow intestines are utilized for “natural gut strings” in tennis racquets; it takes about four cows’ guts to make one racquet.

2. Cows Can Put Out Fires … At Least Their Hooves Can

Keratin, a protein extracted from cow hooves, is used to create a specialized fire-extinguishing foam. This extra-strong protein helps to bind foam together to put out hotter, higher-intensity fires. Keratin fire extinguishing foam is commonly used in airports to stifle fires caused by jet fuel.

3. There Might be Cow Bone Hiding in Your Chocolate Chip Cookies

Processed white sugar is decolorized using a filter that is often created using bone char from cows, sometimes referred to as “natural charcoal.” Bone char effectively works to strip away any “impurities” from sugar and leave pure white crystals behind.

4. Gelatin is in More Than Just Jello

You’re probably familiar with the fact that gelatin is made from rendered cow bones and skin. This product is commonly found in Jello, marshmallows, and other gummy candies, but what you may not know is that gelatin can also be found in the film. This means both photography and movies are likely to require animal products unless you go digital! Hey, knowing this is a great excuse to go buy that new digital camera you’ve been dreaming about.

5. Cars are Brimming With Cow By-Products

Car tires are made using stearic acid, a cow by-product, but that’s not where it ends. Many cars, of course, have leather seats, but they also use glue created from beef protein in car bodies, and hydraulic brake fluid is actually made from cow fat. Anyone up to walk to work tomorrow?

6. Cows Parts Create Explosives

If you thought that industrialized animal agriculture was destructive enough, just consider the fact that glycerin, which is derived from cow fat, is used in dynamite.

7. Many Medications Contain Cow By-Products

Cattle Empire proudly boasts: “More than 100 individual drugs performing such important and varied functions as helping to make childbirth safer, settling an upset stomach, preventing blood clots in the circulatory system, controlling anemia, relieving some symptoms of hay fever and asthma, and helping babies digest milk include beef by-products.”

Insulin, for example, is produced using cow pancreas’, additionally, gelatin capsules are commonly used for a variety of medications.

8. Check Your Personal Care Products for Hidden Cow Parts

Fats, fatty acids, and protein meals from cows are used in a wide variety of everyday household items, including in candles, cosmetics, crayons, perfume, mouthwash, toothpaste, shaving cream, soap and deodorants. Stearic acid derived from cow fat is the most common culprit in these items. An easy way to avoid these products is to look for a cruelty-free label that indicates the product is not made with any animal ingredients.

9. The Roads are Paved With Cow By-Products

Most asphalt contains beef-based fat that acts as a binding agent. Yes, your car tires are derived from cow by-products and the roads you drive on are too. More than anything, these facts drive home (excuse the pun!) just how much we rely on cows and cow-based products in our society.

10. Cow-Hair Paint Brushes

Paintbrushes that are labeled as “camel hair” brushes are not really made from camel at all (not that this would really make them any better). Actually, these brushes are composed of fine hairs from cow’s ears and tails.

Avoiding Unwanted Cow Products

While these different cow parts are used in a variety of different industries, they all stem from one: animal agriculture. As a society, we are incredibly reliant on cows to supply us with countless commodities, but at what cost? Cows are highly intelligent and emotional creatures who deserve to be regarded as worthy individuals on their own right. In addition to the inherent cruelty of this industry, it is also responsible for an enormous amount of environmental Pollution. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent. Not to mention deforestation related to cattle grazing and growing feed for farmed animals is systematically destroying the world’s rainforests.

While it might be difficult to avoid these unwanted cow products, we can help to lower the demand for them and drive innovation for sustainable and cruelty-free alternatives by reducing our consumption of meat. All of these industries are supplied by the “leftovers” of the meat industry. If we lower the number of cows needed to produce meat, we could tangentially lower the number of cow-based by-products available on the market. Plus, from an environmental standpoint, you can cut your carbon footprint in half by leaving meat off your plate.

Companies are already starting to find synthetic alternatives for Insulin, cruelty-free personal products are becoming more and more popular, and plant-based meat options are quickly becoming the future of sustainable food. When we are informed about which products contain animal products, we can help to sway the market towards more compassionate and environmentally friendly alternatives.

Easy Ways to Help the Planet:

  • Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based Recipe app on the App Store to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
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  • Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, Donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!