Sorry, my hair may be in your soy sauce or pizza

I didn’t put my locks there on purpose. It just sort of happened, maybe.

Post shave
Post shave

A short piece in the latest Colors magazine got passed our way. The theme of the mag, which has been around since 1991, is “Going to Market.”

One of those to market stories is from the Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirumala. And what heads to market is the shorn hair of the devotees who, like I did, go through the tonsuring room. And then?

Once the hair hits the floor, however, it enters the world of business. The strands are collected by attendants, packed into large steel bins, washed, and sorted according to length and quality. Twice a year, the stored hair is auctioned off and exported, mainly to the USA, UK and China, where it is used to make hair extensions and wigs. Long, untreated Indian hair is in high demand; the temple’s longest hair sells for RS20,000 (US$375) a kilogram.

According to the magazine, via a new online sales process, in 2011 the temple sold 561 tons of hair for a hair under $37 million. (Rim shot!)

So who is buying up the hair? Folks in the U.S., U.K. and China, mainly. Much of it goes for hair extensions or wigs. (That’s what I heard.)

But hair has other uses. According to Colors, clothing made from hair is hot. Better than fur, I guess.

That’s not where it ends, though. Soy sauce is another product that can be made from hair, specifically the protein in hair. It can be more easily gathered than soy beans.

And there’s L-cysteine, an amino acid used as a dough conditioner, Colors reports. Duck feathers and, yes, human hair are sources. Straight Chinese hair apparently is the easiest to process.


Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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