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As its name suggests, rat tail collagen is derived from the tails of rats. Collagen is a protein, and it helps to connect body tissues such as skin, bone and tendons. Rat tail collagen can be used for cosmetic, industrial and food uses. It also has significant uses in laboratories because it is almost pure collagen.
After being removed from the animals, the tails are frozen, and the tendons in the tails are extracted. The tendons are then cut into very small pieces. They are then added to a mixture of acetic acid and water before being centrifuged. In this way, the collagen itself is separated from the animal material.
In foods, rat tail collagen is used to make gelatin and gives puddings and marshmallows their distinctive textures. It can also be used as a thickening agent in foods such as yogurt, ice cream, jam and cream cheese. In some low-fat foods, it is used to simulate the feel and texture of a whole-fat food. It also is used to make dietary supplements that are claimed to help a person have better fingernails and skin. There also are collagen-based supplements that are used to promote healthy joints.
In an industrial setting, rat tail collagen is used to coat the inside of laboratory equipment such as culture vessels or slides for growing cells. The thin layer of collagen on the equipment usually is allowed to dry. It also can be used to make a gelatin that can serve as a medium in which to suspend cells. It also has been used to make glue.
In the cosmetic industry, rat tail collagen is used as a gel in body washes and soaps. It also is used in facial creams or skin lotions to reduce wrinkles and improve skin quality. The collagen that is injected to a patient to smooth away wrinkles or to make the lips appear larger and more full typically is derived from cows or pigs, although some human collagen is used as well.
As a PhD in biochemistry, I can assure you that rat tails certainly will not make their way into foods! While chemically denatured collagen is gelatin, I can assure you it is not rats that the gelatin is sourced from.