A friend of mine recently forwarded me a disturbing article about cows eating candy (see MSN Healthy Living and Reuters). You would think that this is straight out of some science fiction novel. But, no, it’s not. According to a report by Reuters, because corn yields were down and prices were higher, farmers have started to feed dairy cows sugar. As the Reuters article notes, “In the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries. Cattlemen are feeding virtually anything they can get their hands on that will replace the starchy sugar content traditionally delivered to animals through corn.”
While some argue that because cows are ruminants, they can ingest these products without deleterious effect, I disagree. As Marion Nestle, noted Nutrition Professor at NYU, notes in her book What to Eat, “Eating concentrated feed made from corn and soybeans makes cattle grow faster and fatter, but it alters the mix of bacteria in their rumens. This gives them the equivalent of cow indigestion; the animals are not as healthy and need antibiotic treatment more frequently.” (p.177) Indeed, if concentrated feed made from corn and soy makes cows sick, I hate to imagine what happens when cows eat concentrated sugars, especially those laden with other harmful food coloring and other preservatives? Do we indirectly ingest those products too? And, if the cows become sick and need insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels, will that be passed into our food?
I am not inherently against the production of cheap food but I do get concerned when cheap food is produced at the expense of the animals’ and consumers’ health. Personally, I am going to stick to milk and meat from cows that I know are grass-fed.
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