Making use of blood
It is no secret that the global meat industry is unimaginably wasteful. The cost to the planet of our escalating meat production is extreme, and the price animals themselves pay throughout their short lives and death is a cruel one.
Meat production is wasteful on a global scale. 36% of all calories in the form of grains and pulses that we grow, and 53% of the protein, are used to feed farm animals. Two thirds of that energy is then lost in the conversion from plant to animal according to IOPscience. Recent research from Our World in Data confirms that you need to use 100 times as much land to produce a gram of protein from cows or sheep as you do if you use that land to grow beans or peas.
Farming animals for meat is also wasteful on a micro level. Even with state of the art mechanical recovery techniques there are still many parts of an animal which are inedible and form no part of the human diet – hooves, bladders, hair, gristle, and all the rest. It has been estimated that the inedible, discarded parts make up about 49% of a cow; 44% of a pig; 37% of a chicken; and 57% of most fish species. When you then consider that all of the plant energy which went into growing the useless parts is also wasted it is clear that we have a lot of work to do.
One of the animal parts we often don’t think about is blood. More than 60 billion animals are slaughtered on behalf of the global meat industry each year. All of them are filled with blood – but where does it go? Simply dumping it into general sewage systems is out of fashion thanks to the obvious health risks this presents. Likewise, pouring it into the sea isn’t a realistic option. Instead, the billions of litres of animal blood which we discard every year must be treated and sanitised at great expense.
We probably need to adopt a new attitude towards meat production in the near future to avoid beating the planet into submission, but the question of how we do that is a tough one. Basse Stittgen, a graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, has recently had a go at putting wasted blood to good use by turning it into a solid material.
Blood is a tricky subject for many people. As Stittgen’s website puts it: “Blood tells a thousand stories and every story is loaded with meaning. They speak of heritage, mysticism, aversion and, in the end, life and death. However, none of these stories refer to blood as a waste material. Can blood also be understood as a simple but important biomaterial generated from a waste of slaughterhouses – one of the biggest industries in the world?”
The blood-material itself is made by drying the blood out into a powder before heating it and pressing it into a desired shape. This is much the same method employed by those who make black pudding, but taken to an extreme. Compounds within the blood act as a natural adhesive when heated and given shape, meaning that it can be pressed into any form we choose.
By doing this, Stittgen makes his point about the symbolism of blood as well as its physicality, highlighting the poetic and metaphorical contrasts offered by something so elemental being created from such an unnatural mechanical process.
Items in the collection include a set of eggcups which stack up into a totem shape to play on the mystical side of blood at the same time as highlighting our consumption of animal products; a record which plays the heartbeat of a pig; and a jewellery box to hold things we consider precious, thereby highlighting the complete lack of value we ascribe to animals.
Whilst this art project was never meant to create a mass market product, the question it raises is an interesting one: Do we throw so much away because we cannot be bothered to find solutions? It certainly seems that we could make more use of the animal blood we discard, and if we can make use of it via a fairly simple manufacturing process then how can we justify the waste?
For a closer look at Blood Objects collection, click here.