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What parts of a cow do we eat?

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Quick Answer

The Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation reports that little or no part of a cow is left unused. Around 40 percent of a typical cow is processed into retail beef, and 60 percent is classified as by-products that are utilized in a variety of foods and nonedible items.

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Full Answer

The most tender and flavorful skeletal muscles of the cow become roasts, steaks and racks of ribs. Poor-quality cuts and meat scraps are often combined with fat trimmings to create jerky, burger and sausages. Milk is the best recognized by-product of cattle. The majority of a cow's organs are safe to eat, including liver, heart, kidneys, brains, tripe, pancreas, tongue and testicles. Edible beef by-products include beef stock and gelatin, and hooves and intestines are often used in the manufacture of sausage casings.

The Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation explains that even the nonedible by-products of cattle play important roles in people's daily lives. Bones and horns are ground to become animal and pet feed and luxury items such as bone china. Hides are transformed into a variety of leather products that range from vehicle interiors to designer shoes. Leftover fat scraps are rendered for use in beauty products, candles, paints, plastics and detergents. Even the hair sees use as paintbrush bristles, insulation and glues.

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