Over the course of his life, Peter Cooper built a very diverse resume. A former presidential candidate and designer of the first steam locomotive, Cooper also held the first patent for the manufacture of gelatin.

What, exactly, is gelatin? You may find the answer less than appetizing. Gelatin is a processed protein called collagen. This protein can be found in many animals, including humans.

Collagen is what makes skin, ligaments and tendons stretchy and flexible. It is also found in other parts of the body such as bones and fingernails.

Hungry yet?

The gelatin we eat in Jell-O typically comes from collagen extracted from the ground bones, hooves and connective tissues of animals such as pigs or cows. For this reason, vegans, who eat no animal products, do not eat Jell-O, or any product containing gelatin.

You may be surprised to discover how many foods include gelatin on their ingredient list. These foods include jellies, soups, marshmallows and even gummy bears!

Though it may not sound entirely appetizing, eating gelatin actually has health benefits. Gelatin capsules and powders are sometimes used by people with joint pain. It is also good for improving the condition of skin, hair, fingernails and bones.

So how do bones and hooves turn into Jell-O? With a little bit of mad science!

Grinding up the bones and hooves weakens the collagen protein bonds. When you dump gelatin powder into boiling water, the weakened bonds are broken.

As the mixture cools in the fridge, some of the bonds do not reconnect. The gaps fill with water, giving Jell-O that signature not-quite-solid wobble and wiggle.

 

53 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi, Erin! Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis today!

      Learning where gelatin really comes from can be somewhat of an unappetizing discovery, we know. But, it tastes so good when it’s used to make some of our favorite treats like Jell-O, gummy bears, and marshmallows! Eating gelatin can be very good for your hair, skin, bones and fingernails, too! :-)

    • Hi, Taylor! There are LOTS of delicious food items that are made with gelatin. Plus gelatin can help make your hair and fingernails strong and healthy! Thanks so much for leaving us this comment today! :-)

    • Thanks for leaving us this comment to let us know you stopped by Wonderopolis today, ja2lahlahland! We hope you learned some new things during your visit! :-)

  1. This is so cool. It shows kids how to make jello, and what makes it even better is it’s two little kids talking to kids. This is an amazing video. You guys at wonderopolis have a very creative mind and an out side the box mind. ♥☺☻♥

    • Thanks for leaving us such a nice comment, Olivia! We appreciate you sharing what you liked about the video for this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  2. If only we were floppy like jello it would be SOOOOO cool. I think it’s cool that we could become jello, but its still weird and gross!

    P.S. Make one about GUMMY BEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love gummy bears!!! :) <3

  3. Almost all of them. My dad’s and my fave video is the muppets jug band! It is stupendous (is that how you spell it?). When my dad was little, he would leave his gum on the bed post. :) <3

    • Thanks so much for sharing about your favorite video and about your dad sticking his gum to his bedpost when he was a kid, Frances! By the way…you did a GREAT job on spelling “stupendous!” :-)

  4. I love the video of making jello. Wonderopolis rocks and so do you. Can you please make one about coral reefs and sea animals and we think that your videos are SOOOOOOOO COOL. We love your website and you are AMAZING and AWESOME. YOU ARE #1.

    love jordyn and carlie

    • Hey there Narwhal, we are glad you learned about jello with us today! We know that gelatin might not be the most appetizing thing to think about, but there are a lot of health benefits in the product. In this case, humans aren’t part of the gelatin used in jello, but we have it in our own bones. We hope you keep up the GREAT WONDERing today! :)

    • Hey there Star, thanks for sharing your comment today! We are glad you’re WONDERing about jello with us– it’s jiggly and can come in crazy colors! We are so happy you’re here– have a SUPER day! :)

    • Hey there Wonder Friend Love, thanks for joining the Wonder fun today! We like your smiley face about jello– we’re sending a smile your way! :)

  5. I love to eat gummy stuff! I always make my mom buy me jello and I now really want some gummy worms/bears. When I went on a trip we went to a candy store and I mainly just got gummy candy. I need to break the habit because I am getting braces and I can not eat gummy things.

    • YUM, you’re making us hungry, Ashley B! :) We’re glad you enjoyed our wiggly Wonder about Jell-O! We think you’re right on track about your gummy candy diet– your braces, teeth and orthodontist probably won’t like gummy candy! We bet you can give it up while you have your braces on… then you can enjoy it even more when you’re teeth are nice and straight! Have a WONDERful day! :)

    • Hey there, Monkey Man! We bet you’d enjoy reading this Wonder about Jell-O! It’s interesting to learn something new… maybe you’d like to share what you learned from it! We hope you have a SUPER day, full of WONDERing! :)

    • We’re sorry to hear that jello doesn’t sound too delicious after reading about the ingredients, Morgan! We know that some foods we like don’t always include the most desirable ingredients, but we’re proud of you for learning something new about something you eat. We call that being informed before you consume! :)

    • Hi there, Amy! We’re thrilled to hear that our Wonder made you smile! We sure hope you’ll visit us again soon– there is a new Wonder each day to enjoy! Have a marvelous Monday! :-)

    • You’ve got us smiling, Soph! We are happy you learned all about jiggling Jell-O with us! Have a wiggling, giggling kind of day! :)

  6. This article was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Jack! We’re so happy you enjoyed our jiggling Wonder today! Have a SUPER day, Jack! See you soon! :)

    • We think it’s great to know what’s in our food, Brita! We’re happy to know that you learned something new today! :)

    • WOW, that’s super cool, Wonder Friend Cool5! We are glad to learn all about your gummy bear making experience– how did they turn out? Thanks for sharing today! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment today, Emily! We’ll have to check out the song sometime soon! Have a SUPER day! :)

    • Hey there, Michelle! We know that some tastebuds do not like the taste (or idea) of jell-o! And that’s okay! Thanks for being a brave Wonder Friend and learning all about how jell-o jiggles! We hope to Wonder with you soon! :)

  7. I learned that you do not have to eat jello on a plate.

    I was surprised by how they used cantaloupe as a bowl.

    I would like to know if you can do this watermelon and pumpkins and stuff.

    I wonder if you could use apples and put jello in it.

    • Nice work, Samuel! Perhaps you and your family can create a WONDERful jello treat together! We think it’s super cool when you create bowls and other dishes out of fruits and vegetables! How creative! :)

  8. That”s really cool and I never considered the fact that jello-o could be made out of animal bones and hooves. I love jell-o and gummy bears!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is gelatin?
  • Is gelatin good for you?
  • How do you make rainbow Jell-O?

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Ever wonder what a rainbow would taste like? If you’ve got a little time, patience and a whole bunch of Jell-O flavors – now you can find out!

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