Humans have used animal hides and skins for clothing, shelters, and containers since prehistoric times. Hides represent a significant portion of the live animal's weight, ranging from 4 to 11%, and are considered to be the most valuable by-products coming from meat animals. Hides from cattle and pigs and pelts from sheep and goats provide many different finished products leather goods, rawhide, athletic equipment, cosmetic products, edible gelatin, glue, and regenerated collagen. To avoid bacterial or enzymatic decomposition, salt is used for curing, then the hides are tanned to form leather.
Gelatin is made from fresh hides or edible bones by a three-step process: noncollagenous material removal, hydrolysis, and drying. Gelatin's uses include: jellied desserts; stabilizing frozen desserts and ice cream; as a protective colloid for ice cream, cream pies, and yogurt; capsule coverings; binding agents for medicated tablets; sterile surgery sponges; protective ointments; as an emulsifier for emulsions and foams; and in cosmetics and silk screen printing.
Collagen from hides and skins is used as an emulsion in meat products, wherein it can be converted into a dough that is extruded into various-diameter edible or inedible sausage casings. These casings are widely used because they are shelf-stable and similar to natural casings.
Pigskin is similar to human skin and is used for dressing burns and skin ulcers. Body hair and inner-ear hair from cattle is used for air filters, artist brushes, carpet pads, upholstery stuffing, felt, and textiles. Wool is a good source of lanolin and provides a durable fabric for various types of clothing and upholstery.
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