Browse content similar to Cow. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
From the clothes we wear
to the cars we drive...
From what we use to look good
to what we use to relax,
our lives are full of products.
And our products are full of animals.
In the past few years, I've learned quite a lot
about how the meat we eat reaches our plates.
But I've always wondered what happens to the bits of the animal
that we don't eat. And it turns out that these leftover parts
are made into things we use every day...
That's a symbolic noise for, like, leather.
..as well as some things we couldn't even imagine.
Oh, my God!
My face is on fire!
I've never ever smelt anything like that.
To find out how, I'm going on an extraordinary journey
to see these raw animal parts transformed
into shiny new products. And I'll be joined by the people who use them
to see what they make of it.
-The sheep need to get slaughtered.
-Will we actually be in the room?
Oh, my God!
HE GROANS AND LAUGHS
That had a testicle on it!
Oh, don't film me being sick!
We'll be going behind the doors of unknown companies and into hidden worlds.
That is such a weird vision - just skin hanging there.
This is when we see what's inside the chest.
-I don't think that's going to go in there!
'And discovering what makes these animal leftovers so indispensable.'
-Why am I looking?
-What am I doing here with these?
Could knowing that so many of our favourite items
contain animals change the way we feel about them forever?
Tonight I'm looking at the cow.
Be it burgers, steaks or bolognese,
we Brits munch our way through two million cows every year.
But what we get from the cow doesn't stop at dinner.
All the bits that we can't eat, from the horns to the hooves,
can be turned into products that we use,
like car-seat covers, tennis racquets,
even posh china plates.
It doesn't even look anything like it.
To find out how, I'm going to be following these meaty leftovers
Nah. This is wrong.
..to shops and showrooms.
It was all horrible. I didn't like it. And now I like it. It's nice.
And I'm going to be joined by my fellow consumers...
..to see how they feel about using animals in this way.
-I feel terrible!
I'm starting my journey of discovery with the cow by-product
that's probably most familiar - leather.
It's a fabric that's all around us, and it's used in everything
from coats and couches to shoes and handbags.
But most of the leather from British cows
ends up being used in the car industry,
so that's the route I'm going to follow,
and discover what it takes to transform a live cow into a luxury car seat.
I'm starting in Derbyshire,
and a place that's all too familiar to me - the abattoir.
But I'm not going alone.
-Meet bar manager Curtis,
his friends Calvin and Jordan, both students.
These boys like to look good when they're out on the town,
and a nice car is an essential part of the image.
You wouldn't like to pull up outside a club
in some old battered-up banger. You'd hide that on the next street,
walk out the club, go round, jump in your rod and get off.
It's about being the alpha male.
If I pull up in front of a club and I've got a BMW X6
-and a 2010 plate...
..then, some women... They're not worth having, they're that material,
but they'll be, "Oh, he's got money."
In a high-end motor, only one fabric will do.
I want a leather interior.
It's got to be tan, like. It can't be cream or black.
You know that one that's not red and it's not cream? Like in between.
You get that leather sound, and you're like, "Oh!"
Got an expensive seat, haven't you?
It's just that noise - that's a symbolic noise for, like, leather.
But have they ever considered where their car seat started its life?
Nobody knows where leather comes from.
Nobody thinks about that kind of thing.
They just want to see that leather in the car. It's a statement,
and it is quite comfy, actually.
No-one thinks where anything comes from at all.
It's on a shelf, so as far as you're concerned,
if you buy summat from Tesco, it's from Tesco.
And how do they feel about what's to come?
Anyone who sees something die or killed,
you're going to have some type of emotional reaction. It may change your opinion.
It may change the way you feel about things.
Farm animals are not animals. They're just a commodity to us.
-They're like... They're a material.
-They're not even an animal.
Their first stop on the journey from cow to car seat
is the abattoir.
'We've come to meet John Mettrick at his family-run butchery business
'in the Peak District. The Mettricks operate what's known as a best-practice abattoir,
'which means animal welfare is a top priority.'
Welcome to our small abattoir here in the Derbyshire hills.
This is Carlos here, the vet. He's looking at the animals at the moment,
to make sure they're fit and healthy for slaughter.
I don't want to get too close. They're in a strange environment.
They've come straight from the farm an hour and half from here,
and although they've been rested overnight,
we don't want to bolt them by strange faces looking in,
because it's very important to keep the animals calm.
What do you think, looking at the animals now, lads?
They don't look too happy. They look like they know what's...
I tend to feel a bit sorry for them. Seeing the process now,
that they actually are living,
and they're going to be dead in half an hour,
it's the beginning of something pretty shocking.
And that makes you feel a bit emotional?
Well, just, like... I'm not looking at it as just a piece of meat.
I'm actually seeing it as a living being.
You have to think that these animals have had a tremendous quality of life.
They haven't been factory farmed.
This period is a very short period,
considering the quality of life they've had before.
-That's why I am comfortable with it.
-Do you feel any emotion
when you're killing the cows, John?
If you enjoy this process, there's something wrong with you.
It's more of a respect for the animal
and for the slaughterer, the way that he handles the animal.
-It's all about that.
-Are you thinking of your car-seat covers?
It doesn't look like leather material.
-It looks like fur on the car.
-You don't think of the process.
You don't think of a potential car seat.
You don't think "That could be a couch at DFS,"
or be in a BMW. You just think it's a cow.
-What's next, John?
-These animals will go through a door
in the side there. We need to go and get kitted up
-to see the next part of the process, so if you'd follow me...
'As the boys and I pull on our wellies, old memories return.'
It's an unforgettable smell.
It's not something you ever look forward to.
Struggling to get these on me.
I really don't know how they're going to react.
All right. We're in the internal lairage.
The animals will come through that door and go along this race,
which is at a slight incline, because cattle always move better
on an incline. And then when we get to this point here,
the animal will go in there, the door will be closed,
and the slaughterer will go up on this gantry,
pick up the captive bolt gun, poke his hand over the top
and shoot the animal in the centre of the forehead.
OK? Now, this here is the captive bolt gun,
which is used for stunning cattle. It doesn't shoot a bullet.
It shoots a piece of metal out - a bolt -
into the animal's head. So you put the charge in the back there.
This would be then put on the animal's forehead,
and the bolt penetrates the skull and renders the animal brain-dead.
All its sensations are gone. Everything's gone.
-It's effectively out.
-It's a cabbage, basically?
-It's gone completely.
-You think you could do it?
-Shoot the cow in the head?
You'd get affected emotionally after you'd done it.
I reckon if you did it... I don't know. It depends.
It takes a certain type of character to be able to kill every day.
Next we make our way through to the slaughter hall,
where each cow's life is ended.
Once he's shot the animal in the centre of head,
the animal will drop. We'll release this handle here,
and the animal will roll out onto the floor in front of us here.
Being on this side, knowing that a cow, in about two minutes or so,
is going to drop out at my feet, brain-dead, is a bit...worrying.
Are you then going to start the butchering process?
That's when the process will start.
My heart is going sick.
That was it.
I just don't like it.
So now he's going to lift the animal up at an angle,
and he'll push it along this gantry here, right,
over the top of the bleed area.
Nah, nah, nah. This is wrong, you know.
He's had those knives in a steriliser.
He's got two knives there. One is for cutting through the fur,
which he's done now, then the second knife cuts the main blood vessels.
He's gone through the carotid artery there,
all the blood vessels leading to the head are now severed.
So that's the jugular vein and the carotid artery cut.
All that kicking is those muscles shutting down,
the chemical reactions.
It never gets any easier to watch, I can tell you that.
'Once the cow's head has been removed and it's bled out,
'the carcase is laid in a cradle where the dressing process begins.'
This knife Brian's got now is called the roughing knife.
He finds the joint, cracks it open.
That's what gets me. Because I can see the red meat inside,
-I'm already starting to think of it as...
Now it's going to become something else, isn't it?
So he's cut along the midline of the beast,
from the neck right down to the tail.
So the hide's gradually coming away, working from the inside out.
'Removing the hide is an incredibly skilled job.
'The slaughterman works from the inside out,
'so the dirty side of the hide never touches the meat.'
You've got a seam there just between the actual hide
and the fat. It's very important that, when he does that,
he hits that seam, because if he cut through the fat,
he'll disturb blood vessels. They'll actually burst,
and he won't be able to see where he's going.
You note he's making long strokes with his knife, as well.
That's quite deliberate, because he's not wanting to score the inside of the hide.
And that scoring, which is the roughness,
will mean that the hide will be worth less money,
so it's long, smooth cuts you can see he's making, yeah?
Looking a bit peaky there.
-Are you all right?
-Yeah. I'm all right.
I'm just not going to try and pretend that this is all right.
Do you know what I mean?
You're so far removed from this process,
unless you're a slaughterman,
because it comes to us nicely in a little packet,
and it tastes nice, and...
..the leather, it feels nice. You don't think of it like this.
'Once the hide is partially removed
'and the animal's chest has been sawn open,
'it's hoisted up on a device known as a beef tree.
'The remainder of the skin is cut away,
'and the separated hide goes to the offal house.
'At this stage the carcase is also eviscerated,
'meaning all of its internal organs are removed.'
'The major organs are kept to be inspected
'for any signs of disease.'
-You know what they are?
Kidneys. These are being put here for the meat inspector.
'The carcase is then split in two, with any risk material removed,
'before the meat is inspected by the vet
'and passed as fit for consumption.'
I'm stood next to organs that are dead, but they're still twitching.
For me, that's, like... That's enough.
'With the cows dispatched, we go to see what happens to the hides.'
-This is the offal house we're going into now.
This is classed as a dirty part of the abattoir,
so we don't need to be kitted up with all our hygienic clothing.
This is the chute which the hide comes through.
Lewis is just pulling it through now.
That's off one of the Belgian blue heifers
that we saw earlier. This is the back end here.
You can see the tail there, and that's the neck end there.
Would any of you like to have a feel of the hide?
-What bit should I feel?
-Wherever you want.
He likes it! Look!
Grab it! How's the other side?
Yeah. It just feels... You know when you grab a dog
-by the scruff of the neck?
-There you go.
When the recession hit, the price of that hide dropped
-to as little as £9.
-For all of that?
Yes. That's when the car industry was in trouble.
They weren't needing the leather interiors.
We were only getting nine quid for it.
'It's been a challenging and thought-provoking morning.'
During the process of programmes that I've made,
I've witnessed that, with different animals,
-about 60 times, and I don't think I want to see it again.
But every time I think about it and go round and round,
I can't think of a better way... If you're going to do this,
if you're going to eat meat, if you're going to use meat
-and animal products...
-If it has to be done that way,
that is probably the perfect way of doing it.
We've seen just one cow stripped of its hide,
but it's only one of thousands removed in abattoirs every day
to be turned into leather.
To find out how this mass of soggy skins is transformed
into classy car interiors, we head north to Glasgow,
home of the Scottish Leather Group,
the nation's largest producer of cow leather.
'First stop is the tannery, where we meet Gareth Scott
'and get kitted out for a tour of the plant.'
The tannery processes two thirds of all the cow hides
produced by British abattoirs.
That's some 10,000 every week.
This is a delivery of hides which came in this morning
out of an abattoir in the south of England.
These have been produced over the past two days.
First we check to see that they've been iced sufficiently,
that the hides are preserved OK.
'The hides are also weighed...'
-What do you reckon? 35 KG?
'..and graded for quality.'
There's a hole in the hide, so this is a grade-three hide
rather than a one or a two.
After inspection, the hides go through a process called liming.
There's a conveyor belt of skin!
That's just what we would call the lime drums.
It takes 24 hours to process, so these will be ready the following day.
When they come out, the hair's off the grain of the hide,
and the fat on the flesh side is swollen ready for the fleshing.
How many hides can this tumble-dryer hold?
In the region of 200 hides.
Imagine getting stuck in that drum!
'24 hours later, the hides emerge hair-free,
'and are hung on a conveyor belt.'
That is just such a weird vision,
just skin hanging there,
moving around slowly.
Horrible, that, innit?
The sounds, as well. You hear that sound,
-HE MAKES GRINDING NOISE
-That sound, it's like a moaning.
-It's like the cow moaning.
-It sounds like the cow going...
It's just the smell. The smell's getting to me.
It's not the fact that it's a cow. It's just the smell. Horrible.
Look at that! That's, like... That's, like, dead skin.
They're just hanging dead skin up there.
It's starting to feel more like leather now.
It's so thick! Look how thick it is.
That's inside the cow. That's where the udder goes to.
Next the hides are put through a fleshing machine
that removes any remaining fat and tissue.
Here you can see the hides that have been fleshed.
-It feels so rubbery.
-It's really rubbery, isn't it?
Once all the excess fat is removed,
the remaining hide is mechanically split in two.
This is them coming through the splitter,
where we take the grain off the hide, which is the hair side,
and you're left with the flesh side of the hide.
While the split can be turned into suede or sausage skins,
the grain half of the hide continues on to become high-quality leather.
But first it must go through a tanning process.
Here chemicals are added to the hides to preserve them,
and 24 hours later, the hides are transformed into leather.
It's just a big drum of chamois leathers now.
Yeah. Each stage takes it further and further away from being a cow.
Now it's not a cow.
When the tanning process is completed,
the leather, now dried and packed, travels to the finishing plant.
Here it's used in a range of custom-made products
from luxury airline seats to high-end car interiors,
including those used by Aston Martin.
'Technical manager Michael Carnachan explains more.'
-Has this come from next door?
-From next door, yes.
So it's the same material you met next door,
only this time it's been through a shaving machine.
How many of these would it take to do the interior of a car?
Just doing the car seats, two to three hides.
OK. That's not as many as I thought.
An Aston Martin will range from six hides to ten hides,
-depending on the...
Next the shaved leather is dried, dyed and sprayed
to fix the chosen colour.
This is it. This is the finished product.
The product's been finished. It'll be lab approved
for customers' use. It's durable,
and it'll basically go in an Aston Martin car seat.
Now that it's like this, I think, "Screw the cow."
I just think, "Look how nice it is!"
Still, you know where it came from. You were there.
But it don't matter now. We've got what we want.
-That's what happens with most people, though.
-They just forget.
-You have to remember,
the cow would never be killed for this piece of leather.
That's what's good about it - that a cow is killed for meat.
This is a by-product that's profitable.
It's a good thing. Better than going in the landfill.
It's a beautiful product. But I care that it is from a cow.
-That adds a value.
-What we've been through,
we've been through, like, tragedy, death, blood, gore -
"Ooh, this is nice!" Do you know what I mean?
-Yeah, but that's what I'm saying.
It was all bad. It was horrible. I didn't like it.
And now I like it. Now it's nice.
-So you forgot about the cow.
-I forgot already.
To make its way onto desirable car doors,
seats and dashboards, the finished leather is pattern-cut
and hand-stitched before being fitted into every freshly minted car
off the production line. And it's here that the cow arrives
at its final destination.
We've now witnessed the entire journey,
from living cow to leather car seat.
Is it going to change anything for you?
I don't think it will change anything.
I'm more appreciative of where things come from,
having respect for the people and the animals
and what they're used for. It'll make me appreciate, when I buy something,
that I understand where it's come from and how it's been made, and probably enjoy it more.
It's not bothered me at all, really. The only thing I've took from this
is a lot of respect for the people in the production line
-and the people who make this happen.
-Understand the cost a bit more, too?
-There's a lot of effort
that's put into producing the leather from its raw state
so you can understand why the price gets hiked up.
Even from the slaughter, a lot of people have this image
of meat just being hacked off a bone, but it's not.
When we were at the abattoir, it was so skilful.
Is there anything that you've seen, that we've all seen together,
that you think is wrong?
I think the whole process is morally and ethically correct,
because it's the best way to do it for the cow.
It don't go through no pain, and every single bit of the cow is used
-to somebody's advantage.
-Using the meat is fine.
Using the skin is fine. The whole process is fine,
-apart from the way they kill the cow.
-Will you stop eating meat?
-No, I won't.
-There's the moral dilemma.
So I've just contradicted myself. But I'm not worried.
Taking a raw cowhide and turning it into a cool car interior
means one pretty amazing makeover.
But I've discovered an equally surprising transformation
that begins with a cow in a field and ends with a champion at Wimbledon. Anyone for tennis?
Loved by many of the world's best players,
natural gut strings have helped win match points on tennis courts
for more than a century. And yes, they started life with a cow.
To find out more, I'm joined by two top young tennis players
from Brighton University, keen to know about the origin of these special strings.
'I'm Liberty. I'm 19 years old,
'and I'm training to be a PE teacher.'
'I'm Jack, 21 years old. I do sports studies with PE teaching.'
Both have been playing tennis since they were kids.
My killer shot would be the forehand.
'I can generate quite a lot of power.'
My favourite stroke, it's got to be the single-handed backhand
and top spin.
It's not just Jack's racquet skills that he uses
to gain advantage on court.
I wouldn't say I'm a cocky person at all,
but when I play, I try and be cocky
to get under the other person's skin a bit.
He likes to hit an amazing shot and then go like this,
like, round of applause from the crowd.
You're, like... You're playing a match with no-one watching.
It's an individual battle out there.
-If it came to a battle between the two of them?
-He'd destroy me.
-It's the long and short of it.
-Yeah, I would.
He would genuinely destroy me.
Like every tennis player, the racquet they choose is vital to performance.
We like to think with Nadal's racquet we'd play like Nadal,
but it doesn't always work in real life, does it?
Jack has a particularly close relationship with his.
I talk to it sometimes. "Great shot. Come on!"
Or, "You are better than that,"
almost as if the mistake's there, not here.
But what do they know about their racquet strings?
When you look at the list of the strings,
they have names of them, but I've never asked, "Ooh, is that natural?"
People ask, "What racquet do you use?"
or, "What trainers have you got?" Never, "What string do you use?"
So where do they think gut strings come from?
Do you think natural gut are made out of gut?
-What kind of gut? Pig's?
Animal gut? Do you think? I've no idea, to be fair.
To get to the bottom of where gut strings come from,
Liberty and Jack are joining me at an unusual factory in Norfolk.
Nice to meet you. Very pleased that you've got your racquets with you.
-Jack, what's going on there?
-I hit it hard.
-You certainly did!
That needs a restring, love, doesn't it?
What do you think natural tennis strings are made out of?
For someone who's a keen tennis player, I don't really know.
However I've heard a rumour it could be a cat, or cat's gut.
-So we'll see.
-What do you think, Liberty?
-Jack thought maybe pig.
We thought maybe cow. It's got four stomachs.
-Does that bother you, that it might come from an animal?
Not yet. It might once I've seen a bit.
OK. Bring your tennis racquets. Follow me.
'We're here to visit Bow Brand,
'a company that's been producing natural gut strings
'for over a hundred years. Production manager Rosina Russell is about to reveal all.'
-Is this it, then?
-Let's have a look.
-whatever they are, become natural tennis strings?
So what actually is this? What have we got in our hands?
They're beef intestines from the cow.
-From the cow?
-So I was right?
-You was right, Liberty.
-Can we touch them?
-Oh, please do.
-It's like linguini.
-Just get hold of it, yeah?
-Have a go. Look.
-Yeah, there you go.
Yeah. It's just pasta. It's fine. It's just salty pasta.
The factory gets its guts from four different abattoirs.
Each barrel contains an amazing thousand cow guts,
preserved in salt.
Each individual gut is sliced lengthways,
producing between three and five strands
that are 19 millimetres wide.
Depending on the breed, diet and age of the cow,
each gut looks and smells completely different,
as we soon find out.
-Jack, have a smell.
-That is horrendous.
I don't know if I'm going to go now.
This is a different one again.
-That one's not as bad.
-The first one was so much worse.
That's horrible. That goes to the back of the throat.
The idea of this going in my tennis racquet,
-I find that quite funny.
-You might be able to hit it better.
So how many of these, then, would it take to string my tennis racquet?
-About four cows?
-Four cows for your racquet.
Per racquet? Four cows per racquet? COWS MOO
If you think, the amount of times I go through and break a string...
With two racquets, say six, seven, eight times a year,
so you're looking at something between 24 and 32 cows per year.
-And I don't even play that much,
compared to a lot of people.
'First the strands of gut are washed in a mixture of soft water,
'sodium carbonate - washing soda to you and me -
'and liquid soap.'
This is a washout. It's done over a three-day period.
Each batch will come into a separate tank each day,
till we get up to here, when all the salt now has been removed
and it's more like the original intestine.
-Can we touch it?
-Give it a go.
Oh, yeah. It does feel very different.
-Silky, I reckon, like a fish!
-It feels like fish.
It's like the outside of a fish.
The next stage in transforming these slippery guts into tough strings
involves trimming them into 40-foot sections.
In fact, a cow's intestine can range from 120 to 160 feet long,
but 40 foot is just the right length to string your average racquet.
So Sarah's bundling now?
She's laying together the amount of strands.
For a tennis string we would lay 15 strands together,
then they're all tied together on one loop,
and the strandage is anything from a three strand
to a 42 strand. Tennis are normally 15,
and the rest are made into harp strings.
Next the bundled strands are hung up and stretched out.
Why is this, as a natural substance, better than a synthetic string?
With a synthetic string, once it's in the racquet
and it hits the ball, the string will stretch
and it will stay stretched. Gut has a natural memory,
so it will always try to go back to its original,
so therefore it will absorb the shock a lot more.
And it will stop the shock going down the arm.
-So it's better for the player?
-Yes. There's less chance of getting tennis elbow.
The guts are made of a fibrous protein called collagen,
which allows them to stretch and contract to pass food through the digestive system.
This also gives the tennis strings their strength and resilience.
This is our chemical-process tank.
The strings are in here for two days,
and they go through a series of nine treatments.
The last one is a cohesion,
which helps all those strands stick together when they've been spun.
-You've got approximately 600 cows in this tank.
-That's unbelievable, innit?
'The next stage is spinning, which joins all the individual strands
'into one solid mass.'
-OK, that's that.
-Look how tight they are.
-They're very hard to separate.
-You can't... Can you do it?
It still seems quite thick, to get down to a tennis string.
'To shrink the strings to tennis-racquet size,
'they must be dried. This process takes place
'in a deliberately humid room.'
The strings will remain in here for one week,
and it takes so long because we are drying them from the inside out.
If we dry them too quickly, they will just crack.
Also during the drying process, we have to put a spin back in them.
'If left unattended, the strings will try to unravel as they dry.'
David's putting another spin in to say,
"No, you'll stay how we want you to."
-The strings are always fighting?
-It all takes how long?
-It takes six weeks.
-Six weeks? Really?
Finally the strings are smoothed and polished
before being varnished to make them waterproof.
This is our finished product, from the barrel to the packet,
-and ready to go on the shelf.
We've seen how a handful of cow guts become the string for one racquet.
But has it changed anything?
Just cast your mind back.
That, a few months ago, was inside a living animal.
The amount of times, as well, when I'm playing,
I'll be clicking my strings, looking at my strings,
looking to play better, really, and that's just like clicking a gut.
-That's a cow.
-It's not just one cow, though.
-Yeah. We said three cows.
-Between three and five.
-So there's five cows...
-Per racquet, yeah.
-..on my string.
Feels very different, doesn't it, from the gut we were handling,
the slimy, wet, salty...
We were reluctant to pick it up and put it through all these machines,
and now we're just fiddling. We can't leave them alone any more.
I'll definitely have more respect for my strings,
knowing the effort and time that goes into making these.
And the manual labour, all the people doing it.
That was so surprising, wasn't it? I've seen quite a few processes,
and things made, but I don't think anything has just...
gone through so much, and so many pairs of hands!
And the real love in there, isn't there?
It's such a nice atmosphere. Newfound respect.
Yeah. Natural gut strings.
Not made out of cats - made out of cows.
A gut-string racquet might help Jack and Liberty play,
but the tennis court is not the only place that a cow by-product
can help improve our image.
It turns out that cow horns play an important part in the fashion industry
by helping us keep our coats fastened and our trousers up.
When I'm clothes-shopping, I look at the details -
the material, the colour, the cut - and I always look at the buttons.
You get brass buttons, wooden buttons, shell and horn buttons.
And that's what they make here.
Abbeyhorn of Lakeland has been making horn products like buttons for over 250 years,
and is the only manufacturer of its kind in Britain.
But though horn buttons may have been around for centuries,
they're still bringing a touch of class to clothes design today.
They crop up on coats, trousers and shoes across the high street,
as well as being popular with high-end designers
and bespoke tailors. I'm meeting factory manager Chris Mason,
who's offered to share a few trade secrets.
-Morning! How are you?
-Not bad, thank you.
-Blimey! That's a big pile of horns.
-Yes, and there's more behind you.
How many have you got in here?
The last shipment, we had about 20,000 pairs,
-so quite a lot of horn, yes.
From all over the world, or from this country?
Nigeria. We get all our horn from Nigeria.
-Right. Why Nigeria?
-Because over here we de-horn the cattle
when they're young, because they go in buildings over the winter,
and they damage their hides with horns.
These huge horns are a by-product of the Nigerian meat industry,
removed when the cattle are slaughtered.
Traditionally buttons used to be made of things like horn and bone.
That was how it worked in the old days.
I didn't realise there was still a trade for them these days.
A lot of the top fashion designers, Savile Row, who make suits,
use a lot of buttons and toggles in their designs nowadays.
'To find out just how a Nigerian cow horn
'ends up as a bespoke British button,
'Chris takes me to see the first stage of the process - sawing.'
This is Graham. Graham does the sawing up.
-So you're in charge of the lethal machinery?
-And what happens first?
-I'll chop a small toggle off the end.
MOTOR ROARS AND SAW WHINES
-Is that good?
So, this is what's universally known as a toggle.
It's a toggle button, what you'd see on a duffle coat.
It's quite a good size, that one! Now, of course, one horn,
one toggle button, so one animal - only two.
-Two toggles off one animal.
-So if you'd got a duffle coat
with six on it, you've got three animals, essentially.
-Pretty much, yes.
-And that's it.
Next Graham's going to slice the solid part,
just like a carrot, so he's got slices of buttons.
-That is skilled work.
-That is skilled work.
Years of training.
'Next, the hollow portion is cut into sections
'ready to be heated and flattened.'
-You can make buttons out of that?
-That's what we'll do next.
Blimey, it's very old-school in here, isn't it?
Yeah, very traditional in here.
He's going to heat the horn so it's flexible, like toasting a marshmallow.
-And this is going to flatten?
-It's going to become flexible.
-So pop it in there...
Back down like that.
That's not too bad for a first-timer.
And now we're going to cut buttons out.
-With this strange-looking contraption?
'The flattened horn is placed beneath a press,
'which uses a cutting tool, plus a bit of brute force,
'to punch out crudely shaped buttons.
'Next the buttons are thinned down and have holes drilled in them.'
-Brilliant. Very centred.
'The buttons are then sanded for a regular shape and a smooth finish.'
-Happy with it?
-I think so.
It's got kind of a rustic quality to it.
'Finally each button is hand-polished.'
This is where the colour's going to come out on it.
I think that's as polishy as that one's going to get.
I've got a few little marks in there.
-Is that me, or is that the actual...
That's me. Oh, no!
They're very beautiful, though, aren't they?
They just feel so lovely.
And to think that less than an hour ago,
this beautiful shiny object was a big old hairy horn!
It's quite something, isn't it?
'I might think they're lovely,
'but I'm keen to find out what north London shoppers think
'when I reveal where their toggles and stylish buttons come from.'
-Doing a nice bit of shopping?
I'm going to show you a very lovely tray of buttons.
Have a little feel of those for me.
-You've seen those before?
You've got something very similar on your coat there.
What do you think they're made out of?
-This one, maybe a bit of stone.
-Yeah, yeah. Polished stone?
-Teeth? That's interesting.
Ivory. That would be dramatic and controversial. Ivory!
-Shall I show you what they're made out of?
-Will it jump out?
-It won't jump out, I promise you. Are you ready?
Oh, my God!
It's a horn. It's a horn from a cow.
-I feel terrible.
-Do you feel bad?
-Did an animal die for it?
-The animal would have died anyway.
-An animal that would have been consumed by humans, a cow.
People who are vegetarians wouldn't know that, would they?
They probably wouldn't, no.
-Complete use of the animal?
-Even for a vegetarian,
-are you happy with that?
-Yes. It's a by-product.
-The animal has been consumed.
It's amazing to think that, centuries after we first used cow horns to make buttons,
they're still all over our high street. And there's another cow part
we've used for years to make something even more essential to the British way of life.
We've all heard of the proverbial bull in a china shop,
but how many people know that there's a cow in their china teacup?
Recently the rise of granny chic has seen retro teashops
and their posh crockery restored to fashion.
These desirable china plates and cups
are also a must-have for most young couples picking their wedding gifts.
There's no better place to find out about bone china than Stoke, the pottery capital of the UK.
I'm about to meet a bride and groom to be
who've got bone china on their wedding list
but have no idea what it's made of.
I've got a little clue for them in here.
Charlene, 24, and Ben, 26, have just got engaged.
They're busy planning every detail of their dream wedding,
especially the gift list.
They've already found the perfect dinner service,
but they're in the dark about its animal origins.
Morning, morning! Hello, Charlene. Hello, Ben.
I'm going to pop that down just there.
That's something for you in a moment. Congratulations!
-Thank you very much.
-Very exciting. When's the big day?
-The 1st of September.
-Was the proposal romantic?
It was amazing. I didn't know he had it in him, to be quite truthful.
-Did he keep it secret?
-He did. I had absolutely no idea.
Tell me about your wedding list. Have you gone for special things,
things that you haven't got yet?
It's been every night, looking at what we want,
making a list of everything, so it's been good.
-What have you got on the list?
-We've got a cutlery set,
glasses, beautiful glasses, beautiful dinner set, tea set...
I'm very curious about your dinner set.
Describe it to me. What does it look like?
-It's white with a silver trim on it.
-Yeah. It's got a trim on it.
-So it's the proper posh stuff?
-The very expensive stuff.
-Ah, lovely! Any idea at all how it's made?
-Never would have thought about it.
-I'm going to give you your gift.
It's quite heavy, I tell you that, this box.
Right. Let me pop that down there. There we go.
In here is what your dinner set is made out of.
Fine bone china!
The clue is in the title. That's what it's made of.
-Oh, my God!
That is a lovely selection of cow bones.
That makes sense, actually, now.
-It just... You would never...
-Oh, my God.
-How do you feel about that?
-It's quite shocking, isn't it?
That is absolutely mad. You just never, ever, ever would think
that something like that starts here.
-I was looking forward to that gift, actually!
I look like a real bitch now, don't I?
-I'm wondering how they do it.
-Well, wonder no more,
because today we're going to the factory,
and we'll watch it being made. So you'll see how these become your dinner set.
To begin our journey, we head to a local firm called Jesse Shirley,
who turn cow bones into bone ash, a key ingredient in bone china.
'Manager Mike Shirley will be our guide.'
-Good to see you.
-Right. Show us your bones!
The bones they use don't come from British cows or the local butcher.
Instead they travel to Stoke all the way from Egypt,
where they're produced as by-products of a glue-making process.
At Lion Glue in Cairo, the cattle bones arrive by the truckload
from the local abattoirs. They're separated from any hooves or horns
before being crushed into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Bones contain fat, a protein called collagen,
and a mineral called calcium phosphate
that gives the bone its strength and structure.
First the fat is stripped out with a solvent
in a process called de-greasing.
The de-greased bones then enter a kind of pressure cooker
which melts away the collagen, leaving a sticky liquid
which can be used as glue. The remaining bone pieces
are dried in the sun for up to three weeks
before being bagged up and sent to Jesse Shirley.
-This is the bone that we receive.
-Clearly very different...
-Doesn't look anything like it.
-And you buy them in big bags like that?
Bone in England is incinerated now because of the BSE problem,
and really the follow-on to that, the glue industry here has died.
Let's have a little feel of that. Have a feel, guys.
So, incredibly light and brittle now.
-More like chalk, isn't it?
-It is like chalk, yeah.
'To produce bone ash, the bone chips are burned
'at 1,050 degrees Centigrade, in a huge tubular kiln
'called a calciner.'
The bone then travels down the kiln,
and by the time it gets to the burner at the far end,
it is a calcined bone. All the organics have gone out of it,
and it's really calcium phosphate.
Why is bone such a good material to use for china?
Well, a bone gives you three properties.
It gives you high strength in the bone-china products,
it's very white, so it gives you the whiteness that you require
in top-quality products, and it gives you a translucency,
translucency being you can see your hand at the other side of a plate.
'Next the bone ash is mixed with water
'and ground down to a gloopy, paste-like substance known as slip.'
-Is it OK if we have a feel?
-Yes, of course.
-It's really fine, isn't it?
-It's finer than talc.
-It feels almost like silk.
Think about the old chops that were at the breakfast table.
And now... That's hard to believe, isn't it?
These are cow bones that you use. Can you use any bone?
Horse bone allegedly is not meant to be good,
because it's a brown colour. But sheep bone, yes,
pig bone, no problems.
The slip is filtered to increase purity,
and then dried to produce what's known in the trade as bone noodles.
So this turns into our china cups,
-our plates, our dinner services...
A bone china cup has 50 percent of this product in it.
-How much per ton is that worth?
-You start off with a product
that is collected at £100 a ton.
By the time it's been through all the processes,
it's up to about £550, that.
Where do you send this? Where does it go to?
This goes to most of the bone-china manufacturers around the world.
We're operating at something like 80 to 90 percent export.
-80 to 90 percent?
Stoke-on-Trent doesn't make a lot of bone china now.
Today most bone china is produced in places like Indonesia,
China and Germany.
Many traditional British firms now manufacture overseas,
so if your crockery doesn't say "made in England" on it, chances are it wasn't.
Jesse Shirley also mix their bone noodles with clay
and a glass-forming substance to create a ready-made product
that can be turned directly into plates and cups.
'To see how this is done, we follow a batch down the road
'to Hudson & Middleton. Here to show us around
'is another Mike - Mike Deaville, the company's owner.'
You're one of the last pottery manufacturers left in the UK.
Yes, one of about three now producing made-in-England products.
So is this the stuff you get from Jesse Shirley?
This is exactly what we get. This is how it's prepared
and comes in to us. We send this into the clay shops
so that we can start making products.
We liquidise part of this so that we can make other products.
I can't see how that turns into a plate.
'Unfortunately, Ben, you're not going to find that out today,
'as the company are making cups, but we will get to see how that's done.
'First the liquidised clay is poured into plaster-of-Paris moulds
'which are dried and partially set before being turned out.'
OK, so this is what's actually come off the machines.
-Be careful. It's quite delicate at this stage.
-And these are the cups?
-That's the body of the cup.
This throw now needs to be smoothed out on top,
all the seams of the moulds taken away, and obviously a handle put on.
So it's really hands-on.
Everything's hands-on. This product goes through so many hands
and fingers, it's not true. This'll reflect in the price at the end of the day.
Now it's time for our hands to get busy,
trying to attach a few handles. It's a high-pressure job.
-I'm really nervous!
-Are you very nervous?
This girl easily puts a thousand on a day.
-Press him on.
OK, I don't want to mess this up. So straight... Oh!
That would happen to me, wouldn't it?
Thankfully most cups are in Sandra's safe hands,
who tidies them up in preparation to be fired in the company's kiln.
Wowzer! That is a big pizza oven!
It certainly is!
How many items have you got in there?
Probably about 3,000, 4,000 pieces on there.
'The kiln heats the china to over 1,000 degrees Centigrade
'for about 17 hours. This helps to fix any glaze or paintwork,
'and will be repeated from three to five times
'depending on how decorative the item is.'
-Who are your customers?
-We supply John Lewis.
We have a lot to do with the National Trust, the Royal Collection...
'Talking of the Royal Collection, there's another young couple
'that Hudson & Middleton have something to do with,
'even if Mike's being a little coy about it.'
-You might recognise the initials on there.
-Let's have a little look.
-W and C...
-Could be a wedding.
-Oh, it could be! It is indeed.
-So that's a celebration...
-Celebration in itself.
It's funny to think that cow bones all the way from Egypt
end up helping us commemorate the most British of weddings.
There's just one final touch to make the cups complete,
and Charlene tests her hand-painting skills.
-If you successfully decorate it, you can have it.
-Oh, lovely! Thanks!
Oh, my God!
Stop there. Let's have a look at your handiwork.
-Pop your name on the bottom,
so we know that it was you that did it.
There we go!
And that's your wedding gift taken care of!
'I think seeing a cow bone transformed into fine bone china
'is pretty amazing, but I wonder what our lovebirds will make of it?'
-So, do you like your mugs?
-I love them.
You're going to have a whole new respect for fine bone china now?
Absolutely. Definitely, now we know the process
-from start to end.
-Just a bag of bones,
to this bone china. It makes sense now.
Is it OK that there's part of an animal in this product?
It's not something that I thought about before,
but in actual fact I think it does make you feel a bit better
about the fact that, obviously, we kill animals to eat,
and then we're using their bones for things like this,
so you're using as much of that animal as possible.
So in actual fact I think it's a good thing.
I think when we pick our cutlery and china and things like that,
we'd look at it a lot differently now,
at the amount of process and work that goes into them.
I like the fact that something so ugly and a little bit gross
can be turned into such a delicate, beautiful product.
It's just a shame the industry's dying in this country.
Seeing the transformation from leftover bone to china clay
will certainly be on my mind next time I sit down with a nice cuppa.
And it only goes to show what a versatile animal the cow is.
So far I've discovered a use for almost every part of its anatomy,
from its hide to its horns to its guts.
Pretty much the only bit I haven't seen turned into a product
is the cow's hooves. Surely there's nothing they could be used for!
Well, it turns out there is.
I've heard that cow's hooves play an important part in keeping us safe
when we jet off on our holidays, but I don't know how.
So the hooves and I are off to Southampton Airport to find out more.
I'm thinking aviation industry, maybe the fuel
or the aeroplanes, something to do with the parts.
I don't know.
# Fly me away
# On an aeroplane
# High in the sky #
'On arrival, I'm directed to the airport's fire-and-rescue service
'to meet firefighter Simon McRae.'
-Hello. You must be Simon.
-Pleased to meet you.
-How are you?
-Very well, thank you.
-What are we doing with these?
Best thing to do is to show you. First we need to get kitted up.
What do you think? Am I going to need those?
-Yeah. Bring them along with you.
'I'm still not sure how my hooves fit in,
'but I'm going to have to join the team's training session before I find out,
-'and it looks like fun.'
Oh, my God!
The power of this!
It's so forceful! The kickback...
from the hose is amazing!
My face is on fire!
You've got to eat your spinach to do this, haven't you?
If you want to turn it back again so it goes to wide spray... Yeah.
And then you can turn the handle to close. Push it closed.
There we go.
-All the way forward.
Well done. Water off!
-How was that?
Where... Where, where do the hooves come into this?
-I think it's something to do with the kit.
-What is it?
-It's the foam.
I thought it was what we were wearing, maybe our kit,
-it was protective, something...
-You've got leather boots on.
Amazingly, cow hooves are a vital component in firefighting foam.
Away from the heat of the flames, Simon explains more.
How do you get firefighting foam out of those?
From the calves' hooves, a protein is extracted
which is turned into a concentrate, which we have here,
and it's the concentrate, which we mix with water and air,
which produces the foam. Have a sniff.
What happens is, the foam smothers the fuel.
A film forms over it which stops the flames reigniting.
The protein extracted from cow hooves
helps to bond the foam into a durable blanket.
This stops it breaking up on impact with a fire,
and makes it very effective at smothering flames.
And is this used across the board for firefighting?
Primarily in aviation firefighting it's used.
It's different to the stuff you may get in a household fire extinguisher.
-And that's because aviation fuel...
-Burns a lot hotter, yes.
Is there a synthetic alternative?
There is. It's not as effective, we find, for aviation fuels.
How do you feel about the fact that there are bits of dead animal
-putting out your fires?
-I hadn't really thought about it.
It's a good barrier between myself and the fire,
so as long as it's keeping me safe when I'm using it,
-I don't have a problem.
-But now every time you smell it,
-you'll think of me asking you that question.
-And those calves' hooves.
'What do the other firefighters make of this strange animal ingredient?'
-You're not vegetarian, are you?
What do you think of the fact that there are animal bits in all this?
It's the best protein that we've found that works,
so, at the end of the day, human lives are at risk.
I was convinced that the hooves would have been part of this,
part of the protective gear.
But now I actually can't think of a more heroic use
for an animal by-product - saving lives.
It's not a car seat. It's not a vanity product.
It's not leather trousers or shoes. It's saving lives.
From firefighting foam to fancy car interiors,
I've found a whole host of clever ways
to recycle the parts of the cow that we don't eat.
What's really struck me is the astonishing difference
between how these leftovers look at the start of each process and what they look like at the end.
Witnessing these transformations has been a real eye-opener,
as has discovering how much skill and, in some cases, passion
goes into producing them. It goes to show,
with a bit of hard work and ingenuity,
you can turn a cow into just about anything.
Next time on Kill It, Cut It, Use It, the sheep.
-That's like ear wax.
-The centre from the sheep head.
-Why? I just don't get it!
I've never smelt anything like that.
-It doesn't look much like a foot at the moment.
# Damn, blast, look at my past
# I'm ripping up my feet over broken glass
# Oh, wow, look at me now
# I'm building up my problems to the size of a cow
# Oh, oh, oh, oh
# The size of a cow
# Oh, oh, oh, oh #
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]