Everything but the Oink

By: Ali Steuer, Mentoring Student

Just this past week as a part of fulfilling my duties as a Nebraska Pork Producers mentor, I job shadowed the head of procurement, Ron Steuk, at Farmland Foods©.  Corey Rains, an associate in the hog buying office first took me on a tour of the entire Smithfield plant.  “We use everything but the oink,” is one of the first things Corey told me.  A by-product in the swine industry is a non-food product made from hogs. From this tour I can now tell you that they are not lying when they say that phrase.  From the brain to the blood to the scraps that fall on the floor, every part of the pig is used.

At Smithfield, an underground auger system is in place throughout the entire plant.  This system catches pieces of meat that fall on the ground during processing, or the scraps they aren’t able to use and carries them to a rendering system within the plant.  They then process the “leftovers” and sell it.  Years ago, processing plants would simply get rid of the scraps because they were thought to have no use; today, they are a valued product.  Further, all the edible parts of the pig that you would never dream about eating, the brain, feet, tail, liver, etc. are delicacies in other countries.  While we were in the part of the plant strictly set aside for exports to Japan, Corey mentioned that if the pig had two tails it still wouldn’t be enough.  For Smithfield, they can’t export enough pig tails!  Lastly, the thing I found most interesting was the extraction of the pituitary gland.  This again is exported overseas and sells for high dollars, some $300 an ounce Corey thought.

The list of other products which are made from hogs is long. From the fatty acids we get weed killers, rubber, floor wax, crayons, make-up, plastics, chalk and antifreeze.  The blood is used to make glue, protein for animal feed, and in leather making. The glands and organs supply insulin for diabetics and ventricles for special heart surgery. The skin of the pig is used for gloves, shoes, and garments. The hair of the animal is used in artists’ brushes, as insulation and in upholstery. The bones are crushed into bone meal which adds minerals to animal feed, and is used in water filters and in glass making.  There are multiple benefits humans get from hogs other than just consumption.  If you have a heart valve from a hog, you know exactly what I am talking about; pigs are saving lives!

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