What do pepperoni, concrete, bullets and heart valves have in common? Thanks to the research of Christien Meindertsma and her published work called “Pig 05049” I learned they are all made out of your ordinary every day pig parts. In fact, she found 185 non-pork products that pigs are involved in. If you’re like me I had no idea there could be so many pig parts in so many things.

Now granted, working for the Iowa Farm Bureau and visiting with pork farmers across the state I knew there were many uses. I was always surprised to find that in the pizza realm alone pigs are responsible for pepperoni, sausage, and ham. But Meindertsma’s research goes far beyond pizza and other meat products and traces uses in items like ammunition. I mean really, bullets, I would’ve never guessed that.

I came across a presentation that Meindertsma gave to the website TED recently while I was surfing the internet. To me the presentation drove home the importance of pork farmers here in the state and the hard work they do to feed the world and provide for the world even when they face criticism.

For Meindertsma the importance of pigs to the Netherland’s economy made it a no brainer to track down all the different economical, health and social benefits pigs bring to us. To do that she tracked one pig as it was transferred from the farm to the packing plant and then to all of the products it helped make.

Here’s a small list of some of the other products pigs literally have a part in: sandpaper, paint brushes, paint, beer, collagen, fine bone china, cheese cake, train brakes, bread dough, soap and body lotion. Their parts are also used to make many of the low fat health products we eat on a daily basis.

Learning about this research and visiting with pork farmers across the state I can’t help but take great pride in Iowa’s standing as the country’s largest pork producing state. I’ve visited hog barns across the state and talked with farmers to gain an understanding for the passion that they have in raising these animals. Research like this shows me that the farmers caring for these animals and the products they become are much more important to Iowa’s economy and the national economy than I could ever imagine. The roads we drive on, the plastics we use every day and the ammunition we use to protect our borders and citizens are all made from the pigs that are being raised just outside of the towns we live in.

Meindertsma commented to people attending a TED talk in the United Kingdom that she too was surprised to find so many uses and she had two primary observations about her findings.

“First, It’s odd that we don’t treat these animals like absolute kings and queens and the second is that we don’t have a clue what all these products that surround us are made of,” Meindertsma said with a smile. She went on to say that it was important to know what the raw materials that surround us are made up of so we can take better care of the livestock, the crops and the people that produce the products.

Written by Joe Murphy
Joe is a photographer and writer for Iowa Farm Bureau.