By Sydnee Shive on June 28, 2021

Cows: The Original Upcyclers

Cows Eating

Upcycling: to process used goods or waste material to produce something that is often better than the original. Think repurposing those jeans you never wear into shorts or washing out and reusing an old salsa jar. Cows do the same thing, and they’ve been doing it for a while.

As you probably already know, humans can’t eat things like grass, hay or beet pulp. Cattle take these things and turn them into something we can consume: beef. They can do this because they’re ruminants. Unique animals, ruminants have a stomach consisting of four compartments. Their stomachs help break down the things they consume, like grass or hay, and turn it into energy. Sheep, goats, bison and even giraffes are considered ruminants.

Cows and their ability to upcycle are good for the environment, just like finding a second use for something is better than sending it to the nearest landfill.

Beef is just one example of how cattle upcycle grass and other forage for human consumption. Leather, in addition to medicine, makeup, tires and shampoo are all examples of things humans regularly consume that contain beef byproducts.

Additionally, around 85 percent of grazing lands in the U.S. are unsuited for crop production. If cattle didn’t graze the land, it wouldn’t be used for anything. Cattle give land a purpose, and grazing helps preserve the prairie ecosystem.

In a way, cows are trendsetters. They were thrifty before it was cool, and they were upcycling before it became a movement.