Is the Brain a Terrible Thing to Waste?

If the brain really is a terrible thing to waste, then we must be terrible.  There are lots of wasted brains from our farm.  If you have the craving for a breakfast of scrambled brains, we’re sorry to say you can’t buy them from us.  If you’ve just gotta have ’em, you can get a four pack of canned brains in gravy from Amazon.  Note the tasteful parsley garnish on the side.  Presentation is everything, even if you are serving brains.  Especially if you are serving brains.

“Everything but the squeal” is a well worn description of the efficient use of byproducts in swine butchering.  We recently found this informative TED talk describing the multitude of uses found for pork byproducts.

Only industrial scale slaughterhouses have the volume to process or sell byproducts for many of the items described in the TED presentation.  Slaughterhouses that are small enough to work with individual farmers don’t have enough scale, for example, to set up a brain removal station, not that we would necessarily want them to do that either.

Photo of the brain removal station at the Spam factory, courtesy of the epidemiological investigation into “polyradiculoneuropthy” symptoms among workers overexposed to vaporized brain matter.

Small slaughterhouses don’t waste butchering byproducts, but they don’t have the ability or time to break things down to the degree described in the TED talk.  Hides are sold to hide buyers.  Bones, guts, heads, feet, and cartilage end up in barrels that are collected and shipped to regional rendering plants.  (By the way, you really don’t want to be stuck in a traffic jam behind a rendering truck.  They make trash trucks smell sweet by comparison.)

In many ways, small scale slaughterhouses face the same set of challenges small scale farmers do:  seasonally fluctuating supply, high cost per unit, unwieldy regulatory burdens, etc.  They can never approach the efficiency of the larger operations, but they provide a niche service and thus they have their place.  And unlike the big guys, most slaughterhouses in NY are family owned, with two or three generations all making a living together.  They are expensive and inefficient, but they are a key component in a human-scale system that includes farmers, processors, and consumers.

But if any of the slaughterhouses we work with start offering brains, we’ll let you know.

2 thoughts on “Is the Brain a Terrible Thing to Waste?”

  1. Hahahahaha!!!

    Crying, I’m laughing so hard over this.


    When we cooked our pig head, the brain fell out. No one ate it, but there were many, many dares!

    In hysterics,

    India* sent from my iPhone


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