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What You Didn't Know

Written by Dennis Sun

When we are out there promoting beef, we usually mention by-products at some point. But if you are like me, you only mention a couple. A person lately was asking me more in-depth questions on beef by-products, and I had to be honest with her and confess that I didn’t know much about them. After having looked them up, I realized there are a whole pile of by-products, and then I wondered if we were getting paid for those by-products or if they are valued-added product for the meat packer.

Beef by-products are divided up into three different categories – edible, inedible and medicinal by-products. Of course, the main product on the beef carcass is meat, but if you have a 1,150-pound market steer, that steer’s carcass yields around 500 pounds of by-products. It all adds up on what that carcass is worth. The market price for the hide and offal the week of Nov. 20 was $10.53 per hundredweight. A hide with no brand or a hip brand is worth the most.

The overseas and Mexican markets are where the most value for the organ meats is, except for the ethnic markets in the U.S. Livers, tongues, kidneys, sweetbreads, hearts, tripe, oxtail, brains, head meat and cheek meat are just some of the value-added by-products sold overseas and here at home.

From the hide and hair, we get around 16 products, including leather footballs. Not all footballs are made from pigskin. Basketballs and other balls used in sports are also products we see. From one cowhide, you can get 12 basketballs, 144 baseballs, 20 footballs, 18 volleyballs, 18 soccer balls or 12 baseball gloves.

From beef fat and fatty acids, we get some 34 other products, from chewing gum, mink oil and shaving cream to perfume, dish soap, make-up – including lipstick and other cosmetics, medicines, crayons and more. The list goes on and on.

  From the bones, hooves and horns, we get some 31 products, ranging from piano keys and dice to ice cream, steel ball bearings, marshmallows, adhesives and hair shampoo and conditioner.

From the intestines, aside from sausage casings, we get all kinds of strings – from musical instrument strings to tennis racquet strings to medical surgical sutures.

It is surprising all the medical supplies we get from the by-products, from bandage strips to ointment base.

The next time you hear a vegetarian or vegan say they don’t eat or use anything from an animal, just subtlety let them know what all they are using from not only a cow, but sheep, goats, pigs and horses. They will be shocked.

Not only does the U.S. harness value from by-products, Australia and Brazil are big markets for the by-products, so we are in global competition. And a strong dollar doesn’t help, especially when we’re considering exports. Importantly, these value-added products do add up.

Remember, every cent counts these days, and we need to take advantage of areas we can get more value for our product. We need to be mindful of any trade agreements being reworked and make sure we get a fair deal globally. There are dollars in by-products.