Why is gelatin made from pork

Pig is in almost everywhere - the comprehensive utilization of the bristle animal

“Piggy” means that you were lucky. But the proverbial phrase could also be understood differently. Every day today we come into contact with components from pork, which are contained in a whole range of products. Because all over the world people have always tried to get as much out of a pig as possible. But what modern industry can produce from the bristle animal today is still astonishing. The meat of pigs is only mentioned in passing in this context.

Toothpaste, bread, cigarettes - pig is in almost everything

People have kept pigs as pets and livestock for a good 9,000 years. The However, extensive exploitation of the animal only began with the onset of industrialization around 1850. During this time, the first large slaughterhouses were built. From now on, behind closed doors, people began to incorporate the so-called slaughter by-products of pigs, cattle, sheep or goats into all kinds of everyday products, even if only in small proportions.

Often, if not always, liquorice, chewing gum, gummy bears, cakes, ice cream, energy bars, etc. contain pork gelatin. Gelatine is also required for drug capsules. It consists of eighty to ninety percent protein and is obtained in a complex process from the skin and bones of pigs, cattle (only up to the BSE crisis), poultry and fish. It is common knowledge.

Far fewer people, however, know that pork gelatine is also used in cartridges, to get the propellant into the cartridge case easily and safely. A little bit of pork is surprisingly found in cigarettes. Instead of “with or without a filter?” You could also ask a smoker: “with or without a pig?” Because the protein hemoglobin, obtained from pig's blood, is used in cigarette filters to filter harmful substances from tobacco.

Our bathroom would be pretty empty if all the products with “pig” were removed. Fatty acids from pork bones are added to soaps and washing powders as hardeners, and in shampoos they create a pearly effect. Substances of pig origin are even found in many cosmetics, and creams and face masks contain “collagen” obtained from pig or bovine tissue. Toothpaste contains fat and glycerine from pork bones, and some bathrooms have toothbrushes with natural bristles that come from pigs. Pig hair also play a role in the baking of bread rolls: in order to make the bread dough more elastic and kneadable, cysteine ​​is added to it today. This sulfur-containing amino acid is obtained from bristles.

The list of products that contain pork ingredients is long. Industry uses slaughter by-products not so much to use as much as possible of an animal that has been killed anyway, but mainly because they are available in large quantities and cheaply in the current economic system.

Here frowned upon, elsewhere a delicacy: pig's head and pig's ears

What almost no one wants to eat in our country is in great demand in China: heads, paws and ears of pigs are considered delicacies there and in other Asian countries, which is why the business with pork parts, which also come from Germany and for them, is booming there Far higher prices are paid in China than in Germany, where the pork parts can almost only be used for the production of pet food. The lucrative business with China can even be expanded: In China, every second pig of the global population is fattened, but the national population is not sufficient to cover the constantly increasing demand there. To make matters worse, floods and swine diseases in China almost regularly cause millions of pigs to be lost.

Pigs play an important role in medicine

Until a few years ago, pig insulin was still used for diabetics because the production of human insulin was simply too expensive. Since pigs are genetically very similar to humans, pig insulin was mainly used, although there was also insulin from sheep and cattle. In the meantime, only genetically engineered insulin is used in medicine. It is obtained from the intestinal bacterium Escherichia coli, to which the human gene for insulin was used.

Heparin, obtained from pig intestines, has also become an indispensable part of everyday clinical practice. It has a blood thinning effect and affects blood clotting. It is a very important drug in thrombosis prophylaxis.

Pigs as organ donors?

Internationally, many research institutes have been working for several decades to enable transplants of animal organs into the human body. The pig is considered to be a very promising candidate for these so-called xenotransplants (Greek xenos = der Strangers). Theoretically - so many scientists - the bristle animal is well suited for this because it is easy to breed, like humans are omnivores and therefore have a similar metabolism, and because their organs are similar in size to humans.

But in practice there are always major problems. Not really surprising, since even organ transplants from person to person often lead to serious setbacks. It is therefore not surprising that a person reacts even more violently to an animal organ.

Scientists have been using genetic engineering for a number of years to get a grip on the particularly violent rejection reactions when transferring organs from other species. They breed pigs with human tissue characteristics whose organs should no longer be recognized by the recipient as alien.

Viruses that have lodged in pigs' genes are another major difficulty. How safe are humans from new diseases when pathogens cross the species barrier from pigs to humans?

Many doctors and biologists warn against using pigs directly as organ donors. They fear the real danger that pig viruses in particular could cause previously unknown diseases in the human body.

The most important argument for the use of pig organs so far is the scarcity of human donors. But if only part of the research funds were spent on a convincing campaign to increase the willingness to donate organs, the number of voluntary organ donors could be increased considerably. So there are alternatives to the industrial use of livestock. Also in medical research.

Susanne Kopte


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© Michael Janowski / PIXELIO; © Alexandra-H / PIXELIO; © Thomas Mahler / PIXELIO; © Zauberstab08 / PIXELIO