2009 has really not been the year of the pig. Despite the best efforts of the USDA and the EU’s Health Commissioner, the first pandemic of the twenty-first century is commonly known as swine flu – a negative association that hasn’t helped pork sales at all.
IMAGE: Pigs on a farm, via
Still, at least one pig (#05049, to be precise) has found its champion, in the form of Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma. Her project, PIG 05049, investigates the incredible afterlife of the animal of the same name. While Pig 05049 was alive, its future was clear-cut: it was slaughtered a few years ago. But Pig 05049’s fate, post-death, is surprising, enlightening, and filled with marvelous variety.
Meindertsma has researched the fate of every last porcine molecule, collecting and documenting a total of 187 different products that include some part of Pig 05049. Her collection – one of each item, packaged like cuts of meat in individual polystyrene trays – is currently on display at Rotterdam’s Kunsthal. Meindertsma then photographed each item to create a gorgeous book, also called PIG 05049, which has all but sold out its second print run already.
IMAGES: PIG 05049, on display at Rotterdam’s Kunsthal.
As the exhibition and book demontrate, Pig 05049’s earthly remains went on to become beer, medicine, cardiac valves, train brake discs, and bubblegum, as well as the more predictable pork tenderloin, ham, and bacon.
Pig 05049’s snout became a deep fried dog treat, while its bristles yielded the amino acid L-cysteine, used to soften industrially produced bread. Gathered together, Pig 05049’s end products weigh 103.7 kilograms, of which only 54 kilos are meat.
“The most surprising thing is the ammunition,” says Christien Meindertsma, in this video about the project. “There is one bullet in the book, which is made by a very large ammunition producer in the United States. They use part of the pig for distributing the gunpowder into the bullet.”
IMAGES: PIG 05049 in book form. The yellow thing on the book’s spine is a replica pig ear tag.
PIG 05049 recently won a prestigious INDEX: Award, which honors “design projects that improve life internationally.” Meindertsma is not interested in simply provoking disgust at the idea that fortified yogurts use calcium from pig bones or that haemoglobin from pig’s blood is used to manufacture cigarette filters.
Instead, PIG 05049‘s goals are much simpler, and much more interesting: to make the connection between natural resources and consumer products visible again – and in so doing, enable us to consider whether we are putting those precious and limited resources to their best use. After all, as Meindertsma says on the INDEX: Awards webpage:
[To learn more about PIG 04059, read this post at Design Observer, or this interview at We Make Money Not Art. Visit Christien Meindertsma's website for more interesting projects, including this cardigan made from the wool of a single sheep.]
There are very many steps between the raw material and the end product in modern commercial production. And because there are so many steps in between, the knowledge gets lost. For instance, the pig farmers also don’t know all the end-products that are made from their pigs because they just don’t know where it goes.
In taking good care of the Earth, basically, the first step is knowing where our things come from.