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From one pig -- bacon and 184 other things

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How pig parts make the world turn
  • Dutch artist Christien Meindertsma catalogued all the uses to which one pig was put
  • She found it was used in everything from toothpaste to dough improver
  • The pig's heart valves can save a life and its collagen can fill a wrinkle
  • She says the project showed "we have no clue of what is in the products that surround us"

Editor's note: TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to "Ideas worth spreading," which it makes available through talks posted on its website.

(CNN) -- At first, Dutch artist Christien Meindertsma thought she would pick one cow and document all of the uses to which it would ultimately be put.

"But when I thought about it more, I realized that in the Netherlands you see a lot of cows still standing outside in the landscape, but you never see a pig. I thought that was strange, because there are 12 million of them this very small country. "

So she wound up spending three years tracing the products made in part with pieces of a 228-pound (104-kilogram) pig, known only as number 05049.

Watch an interview with Christien Meindertsma

Meindertsma, who spoke at the TED Global conference in Oxford, England, in July, published a book, essentially a product catalog of pig 05049's products -- 185 in all.

The book, "PIG 05049," is now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Museum staff supervisor Paul Galloway says the book illustrates "the level of disconnect, physically and psychologically, consumers have from the production of objects we use on a daily basis."

For an earlier project, Meindertsma catalogued and photographed more than 3,000 items confiscated at airport security in the Netherlands after the 9/11 attacks. The brain in your gut

Among the uses of pig 05049, according to Meindertsma, are certain varieties of the following products:

Video: Products made from a single pig

• Soap, shampoo, conditioner, cosmetics and toothpaste;

• Dough improver, which uses proteins from pig hair;

• Gelatin, which is used in low-fat foods as well as in cheesecake, vanilla pudding, chocolate mousse and tiramisu;

• Beer, wine and fruit juice, which can be filtered by using a gelatin sieve to clear out impurities;

• Bone china and paint, paintbrushes and sandpaper;

• Collagen to remove wrinkles and pig heart valves to replace defective human valves.

"What I learned from doing it is that the product world is more complicated then you can imagine and that we have no clue of what is in the products that surround us," she told CNN. "Even if you are genuinely interested in what is in your products, it is extremely difficult and often impossible to find out." The roots of plant intelligence

"The reason that I find this important is because I think we have a responsibility in what we consume, but it is hard to make a good choice when you have no idea of what is in a product.

"But, even without this knowledge, consumers could have a lot of power to change these systems if they wanted to. Companies just want to make a profit so if the demand changes they will start making other products.

"If consumers would make a choice to buy products that are transparent in what they are and who made them, that could be the standard."