Cows eat a lot of food.
But even though I’ve posted this week about how much land is needed to grow the crops they eat, their diet isn’t limited to plant-based feed.
One of the meat and dairy industries’ dirty little secrets is that they save money by converting animal waste into animal feed! Chicken poo is perhaps the most controversial of these wastes — so farmers try to keep this part of their diet hush-hush.
The University of Missouri Extension discusses pros and cons of using chicken manure as cattle feed. A major problem is with how the public might react to the practice. In Feeding Poultry Litter to Beef Cattle, they write:
“Keep in mind that feeding poultry litter to beef cattle… carries with it certain stigmas that may cause beef consumers to become alarmed.”
And the Alabama A&M/Auburn University Extension’ Feeding Broiler Litter to Beef Cattle repeats this not-so-surprising concern:
“There is an apparent reluctance on the part of the public, as well as of some beef producers, to accept broiler litter as a cattle feed.”
Nature designed cows to eat grasses and forage, not garbage and feces. I once saw a line of cows sticking their heads through a fence to munch the grass on the other side.
They know what they like – and I doubt chicken stool makes the list of favorite bovine foods. Not that their food preferences matter to our society’s end consumers!
Even more alarming is just how much of their diet can come from chicken dung.
The “Suggested Rations” section from Feeding Broiler Litter states that a if 1,000 pound cow gets 5 pounds of hay a day, the rest of its ration can consist of an additional 20 to 25 pounds of a mix of broiler discharge and cracked corn.
The mix can include up to 80 percent broiler droppings. This means chicken scat can account for up to two- thirds of its diet!
There’s also a (not-so) sweet side to this story. As a second Alabama publication reports, “… the cull candy at a candy factory may be placed in a bin until it is full then loaded onto a truck for use as cattle feed.”
While restricted to 10 to 20 percent of the cows’ diet, “… a considerable amount of candy” unfit for human consumption ends upon feedlots. Perhaps the thinking is that a spoonful of sugar makes the excrement go down?
When will anyone stop and ask, “Is it really in humanity’s best interest to feed animals such an odd, not to mention unsanitary, assortment of trash?”
Doing so maybe cheaper and more environmentally friendly than exhausting our land to grow grain, hay and corn for cows. But it’s also extraordinarily unnatural to feed them chicken poop!
My question? If this is the length we’re willing to go so beef stays on the menu, where is our shame?