Myth: Meat Is the Only Product from Animals Raised for Food

Fact:

It varies by animal, but in many cases half of an animal does not go toward meat. For cattle, 44 percent of the animal is not used for food and in pigs 30 percent of the animal goes to other sources. Other animal products include the hides, skins, hair, hoofs, horns, feet, heads, bones, blood, organs, glands, and intestines.1

By-products from cattle and other species are routinely used in a variety of ways. Textile, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and other industries are all able to find a functional use for animal by-products. Outputs derived from items that may otherwise be disposed of include, but certainly are not limited to: leather and other textiles, pet food, animal feed, soap, personal care products, industrial lubricants, biodiesel fuel and medicines….2

Converting by-products of meat production into usable products, is known as rendering, which is excellent example of a sustainable system. The National Renderers Association estimates that removing by-products from landfills has about the same effect on greenhouse gas emissions as removing over 12.25 million cars from the road.3

Dig deeper...

When compared to other foods the popular media, often refers to the meat production system as “unsustainable” due to its carbon footprint. However, much of the sustainability analyses have focused only on specifically on meat, as the end product of the system not acknowledge the large variety of usable by-products that also come from animals that are raised for food. When you include the impact of by-products, livestock production becomes much more sustainable.

It’s certainly true that we can make things like faux leather, soaps, animal feed and fuels without using animals, but the environmental impacts of those products must be considered as well. Many faux leathers are petroleum based, so there’s a significant environmental impact in that manufacturing process.

Using animal-based products makes the most out of an animal’s life, supports the lives of other animals with high protein feed, and sustains people with nutrient dense protein. As a whole, meat and livestock production offer many benefits that are often not considered in sustainability discussions.

  1. Where’s the (Not) Meat? Byproducts From Beef and Pork Production Economic Research Service/USDA, November 2011
  2. Rendering is Recycling National Renderers Association
  3. Environmental Impact National Renderers Association