For the most part, cattle in America are seen not as animals or living, breathing entities, but as commodities—products to be bought and sold for consumption. So, in many cases, the mistreatment of these commodities doesn’t get a second thought. Large-scale producers are interested in raising the most profitable product for the lowest cost, and this means feeding them some pretty strange stuff.
Here are 6 things farmers are feeding the cows of today – and you will be shocked.
1. Antibiotics – This one is not a surprise, as the use of antibiotics in cattle feed is well-known and a frequent point of controversy. Just how much? A few years ago, the FDA tried to quantify how much drugs we feed cattle and came up with 29 million pounds of antibiotics in 2009. A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists put the figure at 24.6 million back in 2001, but they were only looking at non-therapeutic antibiotics. In total, they believe the true figure is closer to 50 million pounds of antibiotics each year.
2. Roly, Poly Fish Heads – Fish and seafood byproducts like crab, shrimp, and fish guts are considered a “good” source of cheap protein and are ground up into a meal that can be mixed with other feeds. This isn’t a new idea, but it isn’t widespread either, used most often by farmers and ranchers on the coasts, according to Mother Jones.
3. Chicken Feces – Nothing like recycling waste from other parts of the farm! In a recent OnEarth story, Brad Jacobson revealed cattle farmers are increasingly feeding their livestock chicken poop. This questionable meal might contain features, bacteria, antibiotics, and heavy metals, and may even promote the spread of disease like mad cow.
4. Ground Rock – Limestone, a rock, makes for great calcium and seems to promote growth, according to some research. One study suggested cows that eat limestone have more “desirable carcasses”, whatever that means. We should probably stick to grass.
5. Sawdust – A feed ingredient that may be catching on due to its inexpensive nature, sawdust is technically plant material and after being soaked in nitric acid, it becomes digestible. So cows now eat it.
6. Candy – In an effort to slash costs and increase profits, livestock corporations have now begun feeding their cattle super cheap processed foods like cookies, gummy worms, chocolate, fruit loops and a whole list of candies. Wrappers and all, some farmers are finding cheap candy can provide a great source of sugar for cattle, which provides energy and makes them fatter. The practice of feeding candy to cattle began when corn prices skyrocketed. And rather than mess with unwrapping each piece for Bessie, wrappers are left on to save time. “I think it would pass through just like excess fiber would,” said one nutrition expert from Tennessee.
The diet of the average American isn’t that great, but the diet of the average American cow is far worse. Their health is an afterthought in this age of production and consumption.