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10 Animal By-Products and Their Surprising Uses

Posted on 28th February 2018

Humans’ relationship with animals has shaped our evolution and our history. Animals have given us food, clothing, companionship and whole livelihoods. While today most animals that are kept as livestock are bred for meat or dairy purposes, there are a whole host of animal by-products that make their way into everyday life – sometimes in surprising forms!

  1. Tallow

Tallow is rendered animal fat, typically from cows or sheep. Traditionally candles were made from tallow, as was soap. Nowadays, tallow is used in a variety of applications, including as an ingredient in polymer banknotes and cosmetics such as lipsticks, due to its waxy texture and widespread availability.

  1. Gelatine

You’ll likely recognise this as the stuff that helps set jelly and make gummy sweets. Gelatine is made by boiling skins and hooves of animals to produce a gel substance from the collagen found in these sources. It can then be dried, powdered, or set naturally. Gelatine is primarily found in cooking, but it’s also used to bind matchheads, sandpaper, in pill capsules, and in photographic development.

  1. Carmine

Also known as cochineal dye or natural red 4, carmine is derived from the cochineal insect, which when crushed produces a vivid red pigment. Carmine is produced when the powdered insects are purified to extract the bright pigment. It’s very widely used as a food colouring, for lipsticks, and in textile weaving.

  1. Rennet

Rennet has long been used in cheesemaking for separating milk into curds and whey needed to produce cheeses. It is extracted from the fourth stomach of a young calf (usually a by-product from the veal industry). As calf rennet is only suitable for cows-milk cheeses, you can also get kid rennet for goat cheeses and lamb rennet for sheep cheeses.

  1. Casein

Another link to the dairy industry, casein is a protein found in most mammal’s milk. Casein is a major component in cheese, but it’s more surprising uses include as a base for paint, glue, plastics and in dentistry for tooth repair.

  1. Isinglass

Not made from glass, but from the dried swim bladders of fish (usually cod), isinglass is used as a purification ingredient for beer and wine, particularly in the UK. When added, it helps coagulate yeast in beer and remove impurities in wines to produce clearer, better-tasting beverages.

  1. Bone meal

A prominent ingredient in many animal feeds, bone meal is, as you might have guessed, the finely ground and powdered bone of slaughtered animals. As well as being a mineral supplement for animals, it’s also used as a fertilizer for growing crops. Bone meal that is fed to animals has to be very strictly regulated to prevent the spread of Mad Cow Disease.

  1. Lanolin

This waxy, greasy substance is found in the sebaceous (skin) glands of woolly animals, such as sheep. Lanolin benefits sheep by acting as a waterproofing for their wool, but as a commercial product, it’s very popular for personal care creams, lotions and balms thanks to its greasy and moisturising properties. You can also find it in shoe polish, saddle soap, rustproof coatings and industrial lubricants.

  1. Keratin

Humans already have lots of keratin of our own, as this is the protein that makes up your hair, skin and fingernails. It can be derived from animal products like feathers, horns and wool, and is a very popular ingredient in many hair and nail treatments as it responds well to our own natural sources.

  1. Guanine

This pretty pearlescent substance comes from fish scales, and when powdered and added to shampoos, nail polishes, and other personal care products, it gives a metallic sheen. It doesn’t serve much purpose other than as an additive for the appearance of products.


The collection and creation of certain animal by-products can cause big problems in the processing stages when it comes to odours. Parsons are experts at odour abatement for a range of industries, and we’ve set up systems in pork, poultry, cooked animal products and animal by-product plants – all with fantastic feedback from customers.

Find out more, or why not contact our team to see how we can help with your odour abatement?



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