Discover Magazine: Cow Parts

In short, cow is almost everywhere, in almost everything, in some form or another– but only recently. Until the latter half of the 20th century, the only major uses for beef by-products were leather and soap and candles. But given an extraordinary spike in beef consumption after World War II, as well as a parallel explosion in industrial diversity, cows were suddenly fractionated right down to the molecular level. Indeed, it's possible to argue that without the post-World War II explosion in industrial diversity, the size of the cattle population in this country could never have grown as large as it has. When people talk about industrial farming, they usually refer to the often deplorable conditions in which livestock is raised these days, usually confined in close quarters, often indoors. But the capacity to turn a cow into fabric softener is a kind of industrial farming as well, a kind we all participate in, whether we know it or not, whether we choose it or not.