This morning, when I read that American cows are being fed such nutritious fare as gummi worms, cookies, Fruit Loops and ice cream sprinkles, I could barely pick my jaw up off the floor. Yes, you read that right: due to a corn shortage, farmers have resorted to feeding cattle whatever cheap food they can get their hands on. Apparently, sugar-laden options are the cattle diet du jour.
So, why are cows eating candy? Due to the worst drought in about 50 years, prices of corn are incredibly high. Brokers are gathering discarded food and selling them at low prices to dairy farms and feed lots. That leaves cows, our milk-and-meat sources, with a diet that a hyper six year old kid would kill for. Ki Fanning, a nutritionist with Great Plans Livestock Consulting, said:
“Everybody is looking for alternatives. It’s kind of funny the first time you see it but it works well. The big advantage to that is you can turn something you normally throw away into something that can be consumed. The amazing thing about a ruminant, a cow, you can take those type of ingredients and turn them into food.”
Ok, I get it. Farmers are struggling and they need to feed their cows something. But do you really want the meat you’re eating to have been fed “something you normally throw away?” I sure don’t. This isn’t like feeding livestock old apple cores or stuff you’d compost: this is processed, factory-made food, being fed to animals.
On one hand, I’d like to give the meat industry the benefit of the doubt: farmers and ranchers know what they’re doing….right? I feel confident that people who make their livelihood raising cattle know a lot more about how to do it than me, a health blogger writing this article in her pajamas. Still, something about this practice seems totally fishy to me. Cows eating straight-up sugar? Cows eating totally nutritionally-devoid calories? I mean, corn is one thing (bad in its own way), but in my mind this is a problem of a different, darker nature. And it directly affects our meat quality.
As Anthony Gucciardi at Natural Society points out, this means that cows are now being fed a diet very high in high fructose corn syrup, a substance linked to everything from decreased brain function, and autism to poor nutrient absorption. And HCFS also contains GMOs, something cows already received from the less-than-ideal corn and soy they’d been eating before the shortage (Let’s not forget that corn and soy aren’t even part of a cow’s natural diet; cows evolved to eat grass). So now ,they’re doubly toxic, and passing those toxins on to the humans who eat their flesh
Another concern for cows eating candy? Lots of candy contains gelatin. You know, the stuff made from the skins and hides of cows and horses. So not only are cows eating totally empty calories, they’re also cannibalizing themselves? How is this worth it, even to keep costs down?
This practice, no matter how cost-effective, isn’t healthy for cows or humans. I couldn’t agree more with Anthony Gucciardi, who explained how this feeding practice:
demonstrate(s) the severe lack of care regarding the actual health of you and your family, the animals being fed these cheap processed foods, and the integrity of the environment. It also clearly shows that many such individuals are purely looking to increase profits, utilizing ‘anything’ that keeps costs down regardless of the price.
I knew the industrial meat industry was screwed-up, but the fact that today’s cows are dining on marshmallows and peanuts just makes my commitment to organic meat even stronger. If you ever needed a reason to spring for the grass-fed beef at your local organic foods store (or give up meat altogether!), this scary new development in our food chain is certainly that reason.