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Ranch Sells Beef for Dinner, Bones for Surgery

Posted by ecoshift on January 17, 2008

Ranch Sells Beef for Dinner, Bones for Surgery
By Alexis Madrigal Email 01.16.08 | 8:00 PM

Foot bones from Prather Ranch cows are cleaned, then turned into a variety of implants for humans, including these screws for knee surgeries.Image: Regeneration Technologies
Foot bones from Prather Ranch cows are cleaned, then turned into a variety of implants for humans, including these screws for knee surgeries.

Prather Ranch’s dry-aged, organic New York steaks will set you back $20 per pound at its upscale stall in San Francisco’s Ferry Building farmers market. But even at that price, foodies aren’t the company’s best market.

The most valuable parts of its cows are the inedible parts: pituitary glands, bones, heart muscles and hides. Medical companies covet them for making surgical glue, bone screws, collagen and artificial skin.

“In most years, these things are more valuable than the meat,” said Jim Rickert, a fifth-generation farmer. “We also think out of an ethical-moral thing. The animal deserves us using it completely.”

The impetus for producing medical-grade cattle, however, was economic. California is an expensive state for anyone, and it’s a particularly challenging place for cattle ranchers. But Rickert and his wife have deep local roots. So rather than move to a cheaper state, the Rickerts built a diversified business that would remain sustainable through fluctuations in the price of meat. And it turns out that the rules for raising cows appropriate for medical use dovetail nicely with organics and a sustainable farming model.

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One Response to “Ranch Sells Beef for Dinner, Bones for Surgery”

  1. Kym said

    That’s intriguing! I never even knew that cows’ bones were used for such things.

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