Thursday, October 18, 2012

Candy as Cattle Feed

Feeding cattle corn is bad enough, but candy? This past summer’s drought has many farmers resorting to candy as cattle feed.

It’s making headlines, but it’s nothing new:  cows are being given candy as feed. The recent drought may be exacerbating the “candy diet for cows” trend, but it’s been going on for a while—even though cows should be eating their natural diet of grasses and greens.

In fact, even the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) highlights the fact that forage from grasses, legumes and other greens help cows meet their nutritional needs. The problem, however, is that what is termed forage, according to the ARS, can leave a lot of potentially unhealthy latitude—including candy and more. Some examples include: candy waste from gummy candies and chocolate; bakery waste such as stale donuts, cakes and breads; soybean meal, beet pulp, cottonseeds, brewers grains, citrus pulp, and corn gluten.

The truth is that conventional cows eat more than 100 pounds of this hodge-podge feed per day, often in a meal called Total Mixed Ration.  Now, cows may be getting more candy than ever in their diet than ever due to the drought’s effect on corn.

Click here to read just one of many articles out on the topic.

That’s not all conventional cattle eat, though—and what we eat through them. Cattle on a corn diet have higher levels of carbon and nitrogen isotopes—nitrogen levels, in fact, that suggest that some cows consumed their own waste, most likely due to extreme confinement. Then there’s chicken waste as cattle feed. The FDA says that conventional farmers feed their cattle between 1 and 2 million tons of chicken feces annually.

Those are only a few of the items cows are eating. The bottom line, however, is that cows need to eat their natural diet of green plants and healthy forage, not corn, their own waste, antibiotics, hormones or any other chemicals.

Beyond Organic cattle eat only what comes out of the ground, including grasses, legumes, forbs and herbs—good, healthy forage. Good forage provides:
  • up to 75 percent of the protein needed by lactating dairy cows, but corn silage provides only about 25 percent. 
  • fiber, which increases the amount of nutrients that cows absorb from food.
  • energy, while buffering acids in the cow’s digestive process.
  • what cows are designed to eat.

The truth is that when cows are given their natural diet, their products have higher beta carotene and other antioxidant vitamins; vitamin E (4 times as much compared to corn-fed cows) conjugated linoleic acid or CLA (3 to 5 times as much compared to corn-fed cows), omega-3 fatty acids (2 to 4 times as much compared to corn-fed cows).

Then there’s the fact that cows given their natural diet produce beef lower in calories. In fact,  if you eat a standard amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean green fed beef may save you 17,733 calories a year—which adds up to losing about six pounds a year.

Cows given their natural diet also produce beef lower in total fat—about one-third compared to grain-fed beef.

The benefits of cows given their natural diet are clear.

But candy as cattle feed? Never.