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After slaughter, what happens to the unused cow parts?

  • m

Have always wondered. Simply out of curiosity, not from any morbid fascination to the gross or controversial. After the edible beef is taken, what happens to the heads, hooves, and other unused parts? Buried? Ground up for use as fertilizer? There's a lot of mystery surrounding what happens at a slaughterhouse.

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  1. The discarded carcass is sent to a rendering plant which separates the remains into components that may be used for a number of things.

    -Pet food
    -Animal feed
    -Fuel (meat and bone meal is burned like coal)

    There's a ton of other uses, but I'm no expert in this area.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Humbucker

      And school lunch programs and federal prisons and export...

      1. re: JudiAU

        Ah yes, the essential ingredients for the ammonia meat slurry burger. Yum!

      2. re: Humbucker

        I think the only unused part is the "moo" although somebody is certainly trying to figure a way to profit from that too.

        1. re: BluPlateSpec

          They put the "moo" into little cardboard drums that you turn over to activate.

          1. re: Mnosyne

            Ah ha! So, there are no unused parts of the cow. And so now about Soylent Green......

        2. re: Humbucker

          You about nailed it. Worked for a major packing house in K.C. many years ago. As the steer went through the process, the blood was rendered for blood meal fert., the hide was saved for leather, the skulls were split and the pituitary glands removed for pharmacutical use, and everything else went down the offal chute and was rendered into the stuff in Humbucker's list. Really, there was no waste and everything was very clean. Once we had a grad student that was doing research on lacrimal (tear) glands and we had dozens of skinned steer heads lined up like solders. They stared at you with lifeless, lidless eyes and actually twitched! Wierd.

          1. re: Sony Bob

            That was the same at Tyson, so clean and sanitary even though what was going on. It made me not afraid to eat food made in USA.

            1. re: coll

              Hmm, seeing the way that the chickens at Tyson were raised made me vow never to eat another chicken, unless I knew firsthand that it wasn't factory-farmed. Maybe they treat them better after they are dead, than when they are alive...

              1. re: butterfly

                They only live about six weeks, if that makes it a little better.

        3. Head = cabeza, quite edible and often eaten in tacos. Not the bones obviously, but all the flesh on the skull is tasty stuff. Tongues too, and I've heard that eyeball tacos exist but I have never actually seen one.


          4 Replies
          1. re: nja

            I worked with someone from Hungary who told me he and his family would cook a lambs head as a snack and fight over the eye balls.

            1. re: nja

              Si, Lengua (tongue) and Cabeza (“Head” – jaw meat) tacos.

              And everyone’s fav – Tacos de sesos (brains)

              1. re: nja

                Come down to Chicago's Maxwell street market on Sunday and get your eyeball tacos

                1. re: nja

                  Beef cheeks are some of the most succulent meat on the animal, IMHO, as to both texture and flavor.

                2. If this were China, or a number of other countries, the response would be "What unused parts?"

                  I recently learned from a post on the SF board that the US exports turkey tails to Pacific Islands because they are a delicacy there. Now I'm wondering if the beef producers are getting full value for the bulls', er, "pizzles" which are considered a delicacy (and performance enhancers) in China.

                  Link: http://eatingchinese.org

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    When I visited the Tyson chicken factory in Arkansas, they told us that chicken "paws" (feet) are very valuable in China, where they are considered a delicacy, and that's where they send them. I know the heads and internal organs go into most dog and cat food, and I believe also makeup. Nothing is wasted.

                    1. re: coll

                      have you never had chicken feet for dimsum?

                      i personally consider it worth all the effort if they cook 'em up with the right sauce.

                      Link: http://tongueandcheek.ca

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess

                        My friend from Chile assures me they are unbelievably delicious fried, but I've never had the opportunity.

                        1. re: coll

                          never had them fried, but doused in this red sauce. really all you end up eating is the skin, but i'd imagine that if you deep fried it you could probably get it broken down enough that you could just eat the whole thing.

                          the skin is like any other skin and fat. YUM!

                          Link: http://tongueandcheek.ca

                    2. re: Gary Soup

                      Are "pizzles" the same as what they sell dried as a dog treat? Very popular lately. I was told they were bulls' testicles.

                        1. re: biltong

                          Yeah, that's what I thought they looked like! Thanks

                      1. re: Gary Soup

                        I have an old Turkish cookbook with a recipe for goat's penis. The first step is to slice it into 1/2" rounds. I stopped reading there.

                        1. re: Gary Soup

                          every pet food store sells pizzles as dog chews

                        2. You can buy dried cow hooves (and pig ears) in any pet store -- dogs love to chew 'em.

                          1. One word for you: jello. Yes, that friendly happy colorful food is made of processed hides and hooves and horns. Yum, Yum, Y'all.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Snackish

                              There's nothing intrisically "wrong" or inferior with the non-muscle-meat parts, or even the less-digestible parts -- it's just cultural prejudice (as others have pointed out, other cultures have no such prejudices, and the prejudice against them in American culture is pretty recent).I have nothing against eating those parts, as long as they've been prepared in a manner that makes them tasty.

                              Personally, I think it's a good thing that we aren't wasting anything from animals we slaughter -- I think we owe it to them, in fact.

                            2. Certainly edible, just have to be disguised. My grandparent's pre-WWII generation in the south ate every single part of the pig without fail. My grandmother once said (and of course didn't know why) she was weird about eating a cow from the farm she grew up on, but definitely not that way about pigs...

                              Until recently, for the big farms, a lot used to go back into the feed meal FOR the cows itself, as a matter of fact. Like using grain/corn this is a post-WWII practice that mass cattle production brought about about... And one of the causes of mad-cow disease too.

                              1. The beef most Americans eat is steer, not cow.Cow can be had for a very cheap price, it's not the same thing. If that's what a restaurant used, I'd be wary about all of their food.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: coll

                                  There's a little glitch in the English language, and what you said reflects this. As far as I know, there is no word to denote a very common animal...though each sex of the animal (including impotent males) has a word of its own, and so do different breeds, as does its meat, which is delicious. A Hong Kong paper interviewed a restauranteur about this meat: "Ask cheerful Chung Chun Yu what parts of [this animal] can be eaten and he replies with delight:
                                  "Everything!" The plural of this animal does have a word, surprisingly. Cattle.

                                  1. re: coll

                                    >>The beef most Americans eat is steer, not cow.Cow can be had for a very cheap price, it's not the same thing. If that's what a restaurant used, I'd be wary about all of their food.<<

                                    At the slaughterhouse that I worked at in Detroit, we were non-discriminatory. Cows as well as bulls were made into ground beef and other cuts of beef.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      While we do in fact typiclaly eat steer, which is a castrated male, the term cow refers to either sex of the species, so a steer is a cow.

                                      1. re: Two Forks

                                        I was told that "cow" meat (at least govt spec)was an old, dried up dairy cow. It used to sell for around $1/lb. I always thought there were cows, bulls and steers, all different. I'm not saying I'm an expert though.

                                        1. re: coll

                                          You may not be an expert, but you are correct.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            Among cattlemen a cow is a female who has had a calf vs. a heifer which has never been bred or had a calf.

                                            1. re: Barbara76137

                                              But when they slaughter them, it usually means no more calves are in the offing, no? Glad I'm not a cow!

                                              1. re: coll

                                                Not necessarily, pregnant cows can be sent to the slaughterhouse. The fetal calves are also 'used', as their serum is collected and ultimately used to culture cells for scientific research.

                                                I've been on the floors of a couple of different slaughterhouses to collect tissue for research. There are definitely cows/heifers and steers, but usually not too many bulls.

                                        2. re: coll

                                          It's the same thing. A steer is a bull that's been castrated. They're all cows. Just different breeds.

                                          1. re: Dashboardcowboy

                                            A cow is female, bulls and steers are males.....if I'm wrong, feel free to let me know. I recall it being a big deal when I was selling meat to certain budget conscious customers.

                                        3. Great bowls of Menudo. Also Lengua and Cabeza tacos. Now see what you did? I am hungry again. Think I will go have a bowl of Menudo

                                            1. I used to drive a delivery van for a boutique dog food company and would have to go to the slaughterhouse to pick up "meat" that they would grind up for their frozen dog food (kind of like sausage).

                                              We would pick up mostly lungs in open 55 gal. drums that they would save for us all week - I think we paid somewhere around 20 - 40 cents a pound. We would also get a little liver,tripe, and kidneys while we were there as well. We would also add "non-kosher" chicken that we would get from a kosher chicken plant.

                                              At the slaughter house I once saw drums of eyeballs and asked what would happen to those and they were being saved for some gov't research project.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: rl

                                                In the wild, I heard wolves go after these inner parts first during a kill, suggesting that they find these more desirable to eat than the muscle meat. So maybe we shouldn't think that we're giving dogs undesirable seconds that they would not want in the wild, but rather, that they're getting choice goods, which they would want first dibs on anyway!

                                              2. McD's hamburgers. Or any other cheap ground meat or luncheon meats. That's why it is advised not to have any ground meat of unknown origin, unless it's a ground sirloin from a reputable source - to avoid Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (human mad cow), as the brain or spinal cord matter could be found in commercial (prepared in slaughter houses) ground beef.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: welle

                                                  Cannot go unchallenged. Personally familiar with strict McD requirements for ground meat and they do not buy "unused cow parts".
                                                  Best answer to this question was first response from Humbucker and the followups.

                                                  1. re: Tom

                                                    I'd trust McDonald's hamburgers before I'd trust the ground meat in school lunches - McD's has enough clout to demand things from suppliers, while government contractors can end up having to take the lowest bidder, even when the quality isn't great.

                                                2. (1) Hot dogs. Especially the "dirty water" kind sold from outdoor carts.

                                                  (2) Sausage. The extreme process described in the passage from "The Jungle" we all read in college is presumably obsolete, but just because todays sausage doesn't contain ground-up rats and cockroaches, there's no reason to believe it doesn't contain unused cow parts.

                                                  (3) Spaghetti sauce labelled "flavored with meat."

                                                  1. There is a phrase "liver and lights" which is an English term. As a metaphor it means "guts" (as in "stabbed in the liver and lights") but the word "lights" means lungs.

                                                    Apparently lungs are used in European offal cuisine.
                                                    However I have heard that lungs are not available for human consumption in the US. I think the reason is that they can be vactors for disease (the large surface area can harbor disease organisms). That's consistent with an earlier response about collecting lungs for pet food.
                                                    Has anyone had a lung dish, in the US or abroad?

                                                    If you go to a Chinese butcher you will see "pork bung" (rectum)for sale, also beef penis.

                                                    Link: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&am...

                                                    1. hooves are made to the fruit snackes and the bones are jello

                                                      1. I recently purchased a chewy for my dog. It is about 6" long and looks like a leather spring. When I gave it to her she took it and then dropped it in the hallway. She was barking vigorously and when I went to see what the fuss was about I found that she had dropped it and was barking vigorously at it in the "downward dog" position.

                                                        I was in Petsmart a couple of days ago and found that they had them too but at a higher cost than in the grocery (Kroger) store. They are made from bull's pizzles.