Imagine how life in these United States would be affected if for some reason our supply of cattle, sheep, and hogs was reduced to the level that bison were in the 1880s and 90s. Here is a sketch of what would be missing from our lives:
As of 1977, according to the American Meat Institute, the per capita consumption of cooked red meats in the United States is currently about 4 ounces per day. The modern meat industry uses 20 percent fewer cows today than it did in the 1960s, to produce the same amount of red meat.
The single most obvious, and economically the most valuable, byproduct of the meatpacking industry is leather. But there are others that, though less well known, are of inestimable importance to our national health and well-being. A few of them are now produced synthetically, but the models originally came from cattle and hogs, and some, for some individuals, must not be synthesized.
The pharmaceutical industry uses blood, brains, stomach, gall bladder, heart, intestines, liver, lungs, ovaries, pancreas, parathyroid glands, pineal glands, pituitary glands, thymus glands, testes, spleen, skin, bone cartilage, and spinal chords. Other industries have uses for animal skin, bones and bone cartilage, hooves, horns, and practically every one of the trimmings, including ear tubes, pizzles, mammary glands, heads, knuckles and feet.
The secrets hidden within those parts have magical names that sound like incantations, meaningful only to the practitioners and the afflicted: aprotinin, catalase, chenodeoxycholic acid, chymosin, chymotrypsin, enterogastrone, heparin, kininogenase, melatonin, pancreatin, prolactin, secretin, thromboplastin, trypsin, and many more.
They heal, nourish, assuage pain, prolong life. They help in diagnoses of certain diseases such as cancers; they regulate the heart, control bleeding, thin blood or thicken it; stimulate bodily functions such as digestion, lactation, and metabolism; help with skin grafting, organ transplants, plastic surgery, eye surgery, and childbirth; treat anemia, burns, and frostbite; provide substitute heart valves . . . &c, &c., as Lewis and Clark would have closed the list.
Collagens from the trimmings help to glue the world together, literally. They have roles in the manufacture of cheese, wool, paper, fabrics, gelatin, sandpaper, picture frames, billiard balls, composition cork, imitation hard rubber, gummed tape, automobile bodies, caskets. They make airtight caps on match heads. Whole or dried blood and blood albumin work as fertilizer, fix pigment colors in cloth, and more.
Certain bones are turned into crochet needles, dice, chess pieces, electrical bushings, and buttons. Bone black is used as bleach for oils, fats, and waxes; it serves as an ingredient in livestock feed, and in fertilizer; it is still used in sugar refining. White hooves serve for imitation ivory products; black hooves are used in the manufacture of potassium cyanide. Horns become imitation tortoise shell wares, such as napkin rings, or knife and umbrella handles.
John Romans, The Meat We Eat (13th ed., Danville, Illinois: Interstate Publishers, 1994).
Reviewed by Jerry Breiter, Vice President for Allied Products, American Meat Institute, Arlington, Virginia, http://www.meatami.org