Pig Parts: Playing a Bigger Part Than You Might Think

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Whether or not you eat bacon, odds are that before breakfast you will have already encountered some part of a pig during your morning routine. At least 185 non-pork products contain pig, including soap, toothpaste, anti-wrinkle cream and shampoo and conditioner. Christien Meindertsma, a Dutch artist, describes these products and more in a recent TED Talk about her new book, Pig 05049.

Meindertsma’s book is a catalog of the afterlife of a single pig—number 05049—and all the products that its skin, bones, meat, internal organs, blood, fat, and other parts. went into creating. What she found was that pig parts end up in some surprising places and that most people “don’t actually have a clue of what all the products that surround us are made of.”

Meindertsma maps out how pigs end up in various and often surprising daily products.  Pig hair, for example, is used an “an improver of dough” in some bread products. Cellular concrete, used to build roads and buildings, contains proteins from pig bone. Pig can be found in some kinds of paint and, calling it the “strangest thing she found,” Meindertsma explains that pig parts are used to make some types of bullets.

Pork is, of course, a common food product but, says Meindertsma, pig can be found in meat products not generally associate with pig. Portion controlled steaks, for example, available in the frozen food section, are sold as cow but actually contain, in addition to cow meat, fibrin from pigs blood.

In general, says Meindertsma, consumers know very little about the ingredients and labor that go into the many products used on a daily basis—not just the ones containing pig. “In order to take better care of what is behind our products,” she says, “the livestock, the agriculture, the people,” we need to first be aware that they even exist.

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