Monday, August 20, 2012

Food: What Does Your Food Eat?

Have you heard this story yet?  It's a news story about a cattle grower in Kentucky who went searching for feed alternatives due to the high price of corn.

The associated text is copied here: (source

Cows eating candy during the drought

Updated: Thursday, 16 Aug 2012, 6:53 AM CDT
Published : Thursday, 16 Aug 2012, 6:53 AM CDT
MAYFIELD, Ky. (CNN/WPSD) - Ranchers have struggled with skyrocketing corn prices, because the drought has made feeding their livestock very expensive. But one rancher has turned to a very sweet solution.
At Mayfield's United Livestock Commodities, owner Joseph Watson is tweaking the recipe for success.
"Just to be able to survive, we have to look for other sources of nutrition," he said.
His 1,400 cattle are no longer feeding off corn. The prices, Watson says, are too high to keep corn in stock. So earlier this year, he began to buy second-hand candy.
"It has a higher ratio of fat than actually feeding straight corn," Watson explained. "It's hard to believe it will work but we've already seen the results of it now."
Watson mixes the candy with an ethanol by-product and a mineral nutrient. He says the cows have not shown any health problems from eating the candy, and they are gaining weight as they should.
"This ration is balanced to have not too much fat in it," he said.
The packaged candy comes from various companies at a discounted rate because it is not fit for store shelves.
"Salvage is a problem for a lot of these companies and they're proud to have a place to go with it," said Watson.

The grower is sourcing candy from "various companies at a discounted rate because it is not fit for store shelves."

He "mixes the candy with an ethanol by-product and a mineral nutrient.  He says the cows have not shown any health problems from eating the candy, and they are gaining weight as they should."

This story is about how industrious the farmer is.  There does not seem to be any alarm, which really bothered me at first.  However, I suppose it's the reporter's job to not impart opinion.  But I'm a blogger, so I can share my opinion...
  • If the candy is not fit for humans to eat, why is it ok to feed it to the animals that humans will eat?  Cows are designed to eat forage, not refined sugar.
  • Of course the cows are gaining weight.  When we humans eat refined sugar we tend to gain weight too.
So I wonder these...
  • What is the nutritive value of beef subsisting on a diet of candy, ethanol by-product and Mineral Nutrient compared to beef subsisting on a diet of hay and forage?
  • What is the difference in flavor and fat content?
  • How well will the cows be able to carry to term and then nurse their calves?
  • Will we be treating our beef supply for Bovine Diabetes in a few generations?
  • What are the human health implications for eating beef that subsisted on candy?
Did we learn nothing from Mad Cow Disease?  Cows are designed for eating forage.

Of course, I'm not a cattle grower and I do greatly appreciate that the cost of feed has increased significantly.  Our hay prices are up nearly 100% over 2 years ago.

I also do not know if this is general practice or if this is the only farmer feeding candy to his livestock.


Claire Davenport said...

Wow! I'm caught between admiration for a guy who went out to find a substitute and horror. Like you say, did we learn nothing from the BSE crisis?

I also can't help wondering, if this guy has a barn full of processed sugar, how does he keep the ants at bay?

oak haven alpacas said...

I had not heard about this, interesting and alarming. I would think it would effect the nutritional value of the cows meat.

My niece did a science experiment in high school with chickens. They had several chickens and they fed each a different diet (this was a few years ago and i don't remember which each diet was, but one was their common diet, one more healthy one junk food and so forth). Then they ate the chickens (she's a science minded girl ;) and this is a country town). She said the chickens did not taste any different despite vastly different diets. Now how that affects the nutritional value of the meat, that wasn't tested.


Voie de Vie said...

While I am mightily interested in the effects on the cows of feeding them this candy cocktail (and like you, especially about how it might impact gestation and other reproductive cycles), I am not quite so alarmed concerning the life span of the candy. The reporter didn't delve into what is meant by "not fit for human consumption." I expect candy companies have candy that is past the sell-by date sitting around. That doesn't *necessarily* mean it's not fit for human consumption, just not optimal or recommended pursuant to food safety guidelines which are, by necessity, very conservatively written.

Kathryn Ray said...

@VdV - you are always so wise. The "not fit for human consumption" were my words. The article said something about not being appropriate for shelves.

@Cara - I would expect the meat to taste different... since I know that milk and cheese both taste different depending on what the dairy cows eat. Very interesting about your nieces science experiment.

Kathryn Ray said...

@Claire - that's a very good question. :-)

Its_Lily said...

This is absurd. I knew there was a reason I started buying meat from farms I've visited. And yet, the masses are oblivious are only concerned with how cheap they can get their groceries. *sigh*

Voie de Vie said...

A P.S. - As if on cue, NPR has a great story about food auctions and those lovely sell-by dates! Go here:

Just think about 7 year old vinegar. :)

Kathryn Ray said...

Great story. I've heard of these places, but have never been.

I have some vinegar on my counter that's at least 5 years old and still very tasty. ;-)