Do You Know Where Your Child’s School Supplies Come From?

The Nonfood Uses of Plants and Animals 

The fact that animals play such a vital role in our everyday lives may not come as a surprise to many. Not only are they raised as a source of food–they also help aid those who are suffering from physical and emotional disabilities, work alongside our armed forces, act as a form of transportation, pollinate and fertilize plants, as well as provide companionship. More often than not, we assume the contents of most products we use on a daily basis to be man made. In reality, most products contain one or more animal body part as an ingredient. Companies continue to discover innovative ways to make sure no part of the animal is wasted. With school in full force, this is the perfect time to take a quick peek at the by-products a typical elementary student might encounter throughout the school day.

While en route to start their day at school, most students either walk, ride their bike, or are dropped off in a car or school bus. Chances they will come in contact with an asphalt-paved road during their commute are rather high. Asphalt contains a binding agent from beef fat found in cow hide. If students do happen to be dropped off from a car or bus, they are probably unaware that the leather seats they are sitting on were made from a cow’s hide too.

Three additional beef by-products can also be found as students make their way to school. Hydraulic break fluid is made from animal fat, the body of the vehicle is held together with the help of beef protein, and the vehicle tires contain stearic acid (found in cattle), which makes rubber hold its shape under continuous surface friction. All before eight in the morning, these young students will already have been exposed to the agricultural industry at least five times.

As students absorb today’s lessons, they may be asked to use a crayon. This box full of countless colors is actually a product of soybeans. Soy ingredients are helping manufacturers reduce their dependency on petrochemicals as soy is nontoxic and much safer for children. Most crayons are made from paraffin wax that comes from the soybean plant. It grows naturally on the leaves and stems of the plant and is left behind when death and decomposing occur. Statistics show that one acre of soybeans can make a total of 82,368 crayons.

This next school supply is essential for almost every project or craft. Glue, a product created with the help of a protein called collagen (found in cows and pigs) is an item easily found in every student’s desk. It is estimated that about 40 pounds of glue are used each year for every person in America. The animal remains that are used as raw material for glue may include ears, tails, bones, tendons, and scraps of hide.

As the clock slowly ticks toward the end of the day, students are often given a few minutes to run around the playground and enjoy some fresh air. A little friendly competition might take over among students during a quick game of football. In the early stages of the game, a pig’s bladder was inflated and used as the ball. In comparison, today’s football is made out of an inflated rubber bladder and enclosed in a leather cowhide.

When the last bell of the day chimes and students begin their voyage back home, we take a moment to reflect on all the nonfood uses of plants and animals these elementary students came in contact with. The number of goods we use on a daily basis that contain a plant or animal ingredient is astronomical. In any case, these are just a few of the examples of the many ways we have learned to make the most of the natural properties found in the plants and animals we eat–products that might otherwise go to waste. The agricultural industry serves essential human needs every day, playing a vital but sometimes less visible role in maintaining and improving the quality of human life.

By: Kylie Peterson

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