Not just meat and wool

There’s more to sheep than meat and wool:

Patients in the United States with serious tissue injuries are benefitting from medical products made from the stomach of sheep in New Zealand.

Auckland-based Aroa Biological is manufacturing wound care and surgical products from sheep rumen.

The company founder and CEO Brian Ward says its products are being used to repair difficult to heal wounds like diabetic and venous ulcers and to repair complex hernias.

The company starts with a part of the rumen that resembles chicken skin, chemically cleans it and further processes it to remove anything the body would reject.

The final, dried product resembles embossed paper. It can then be cut to size and inserted into wounds to provide scaffolding that allows tissue to regenerate.

“Cells can move into that net very easily and then they can kind of crawl along through it to lay down new tissue and so what happens over time is the patient’s own tissue completely replaces the scaffolding,” Brian says. 

Aroa’s products have FDA approval and four million of its wound care products have been used in the United States.

Surgeons there are also using Aroa’s hernia repair devices instead of surgical mesh.

“Our diabetic and venous ulcer product has been on the market for some time now and it’s changed people’s lives. I mean we have had people that had been at risk of having limbs amputated (who) had very nasty wounds that they’d had for several years that we have healed, so it’s incredibly satisfying to get those stories back from patients.”

Aroa employs 110 people in New Zealand and a sales team of 30 in the United States.

Brian says he’s in talks to introduce Aroa’s products into the market place in New Zealand.

You can listen to more about this on RNZ’s Country Life here.

This is a wonderful example of taking what was a low value product, used for pet food or tripe, and turning it into a high value product.

One factor which helped is New Zealand’s relative isolation which protects our sheep from diseases.

That’s another reminder of the importance of biosecurity controls at the border.

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