When you are excitedly digging into a fat, juicy, perfectly char-grilled steak, the brain is focused on producing happy little endorphins, not sobering, potentially guilt-ridden thoughts. Brief concerns over soaring cholesterol levels might be met with a defiant, “Back off brain… I’m busy eating!” Momentarily pondering over questionable factory farming practices could also easily be addressed with a flat-out, “Argh, can’t you see I’m in the middle of something pretty darned important?” For those who are really dialed into their paleo-chomping ways, the last thing that they’re thinking is, “Gee, I wonder what happened to the rest of this cow?” During those times when consuming a peanut butter and jelly sandwich facilitates a bit more flexible cerebral contemplation, however, the story proves to be rather interesting. Alas, unless you believe in recycling reincarnation, there is no happy ending for the bovines that end up on our dinner plates, but you might be blown away by the seemingly endless everyday products that their remains are used to create.

cow recycling

Dishware If your grandmother frequently unveils her “good china” in honor of special family gatherings, she is probably serving edibles on hard-paste porcelain dishware made with assorted clays, feldspar, flint and at least 50% cow bone ash (the latter of which bestowed the pieces with translucence and durability). Lenox is the only American-made bone china factory today and it likely obtains its raw bone ash from our country’s largest producer, Ebonex Corporation. Fashion accessories One hundred percent of the profits obtained from the sale of Amy Walker and Maxandra Short’s minimalistic Uweza Necklaces — made with recycled Ankole cattle bones wrapped with thin-gauge, scrap metal-obtained brass or aluminum wire — benefit the Uweza Aid Foundation, which strives to empower Kenyan communities. Lorica Apparel crafts Wild West-influenced “neon cowgirl” hand-painted suede and recycled cow bone bolos. Hair clips, buttons and pins are also frequently made with a combination of recycled cow bones and/or horns. Sports equipment Most obviously, tanned cow skin has been used for decade upon decade to produce leather baseballs and catching mitts, but many of the world’s top tennis pros are partial to what are referred to as “natural gut tennis racquets” strung with tightly wound, recycled cow intestines (one racquet requires the donations of three cows). Domestic safety Hoof-derived keratin is used in fire extinguisher foam because it is a great bubble bonding agent. Construction At a total cost of $26,000, Dan Phillips built a 750-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bathroom “Bone House” in Huntsville, TX, using typical landfill-destined materials as well butcher-donated beef bones that were transformed into floor mosaics, kitchen counters, stair trim and even rib-slatted furniture. Sugar refining Sugar cane does not automatically glimmer like freshly fallen snow. It requires a great deal of processing in order to transform the brown, syrupy liquid extracted from the raw cane plant into the crystalline white sweetener that we all know and love. The main ingredient necessary? Bone charcoal, which (at least in the U.S.) is produced by Ebonex Corporation, the reigning king of recycled cow products. Sustainable furniture With the help of a few strategically placed industrial metal pieces, Ama Darko Williams’ 3rd Leg stools, which can support up to 220 pounds, seem oddly delicate in spite of the fact that they are crafted from reclaimed butcher bones. Eco-plastic Clemson University scientists figured out how to transform meat and bone meal — the U.S. cattle rendering industry produces 9 billion pounds of it on an annual basis — into partially biodegradable, petroleum-free plastic blended with ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene. Colorants Melvindale, MI’s Ebonex Corporation fire kilns and then mills charred animal bones so they can be converted into custom-blended paint/lacquer/wood stain/artist’s supply pigments as well as colorants for ink, paper, plastic, leather and vinyl. Additional uses For centuries, cow horns have been used to make powder flasks, knife handles, chess pieces, bugles, drinking vessels and other decorative elements. Baker Commodities recycles deceased cattle into various types of usable products, such as leather goods, tallow for soap/animal feed, biodiesel and other industrial applications. Asaf Jacobs envisions such unique bone-recycling applications as tooth implants, toothpicks, pencils and calcium pills.