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What The Heck are They Putting in Beef These Days!?

Chicken Manure!!!

Cattle are being fed composted chicken manure/ It is disgusting, but true.  The USDA's own documents about it are below.

Back to the main Food Safety page

bulletTell me about it
bulletWhat does this all mean?
bulletWhat to do about?
bulletNeed more proof?

The Information - tell me about it!

That's right.  Chicken droppings, manure, crap, poop, whatever you want to call it, ranchers claim it has lots of protein, so why not feed it cattle?  Besides the sheer stupidity of feeding one animal's excrement to  another before YOU eat it, it involves two dangers: food-borne illness and bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, 1997, with news-stands carrying warnings about "Danger in the Food Supply" (see CNN and US News & World Report, Nov 24 1997), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made an announcement. The FDA told farmers: It's OK to feed cows and calves fodder containing chicken droppings. "Recycled animal waste, such as processed chicken manure and litter," said a representative of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), "has been used as a feed ingredient for almost 40 years. This animal waste contains . . . protein, fiber, and minerals and has been deliberately mixed into animal feed for these nutrients."

Who does this? According to the CVM, "Normally, this animal waste is used by small farmers and owners of beef and dairy herds as a winter supplement for mother cows and weaned calves." Is it safe? While the practice "seems unpleasant," it is "safe as long as it meets certain specifications .... "

The specifications are include composting the manure.  In theory, the composting raises the temperature (anyone seen the steam rising from a fresh pile of grass clippings in the summer?) until it kills the salmonella and other harmful bacteria.  ... In theory...  Oh, yeah... IF the farmer takes the time to do it right.. and doesn't load it out early because he's pressed for time or money.  Oh, THAT would never happen! ... 

Anyone making this feed is supposed to test it and keep records and post warnings (e.g. THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS DRUG RESIDUES. DO NOT USE WITHIN 15 DAYS OF SLAUGHTER). Enforcement is left to state authorities. What the overall cycle amounts to is this: raise calves on old-style chicken manure (while promising it's free of the newfangled additives and contaminants that the chickens are fed and pass through them).

What comes around, goes around. What's in the chicken feed? In their water, maybe SaraFlox, an antibiotic. SaraFlox is a Fluoroquinolone. The FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine approved Saraflox in 1995 for keeping broiler chickens and growing turkeys from dying of E-coli infection picked up from their own manure.

SaraFlox in itself presents a risk. In 1996, the FDA said off-label use was causing resistance to this class of antibiotics (FLQs) in humans. Does this matter? Yes. Scientists are concerned about "global increase" in resistance "exceeding the rate of discovery and development of new antimicrobial drugs." By 1996, in animals treated with these antibiotics, two strains of resistant bacteria were emerging - Salmonella and Campylobacter. In August 1997, the FDA banned off-label use of FLQs.  This is part of what underlies media reports on food-borne illness.

What does this all mean?

Well, if you remember what happened in Britain with the mad cow disease from ranchers feed their cattle feed mixed with the ground up brains and spinal cords of slaughtered cattle... then it does not take a genius to figure out that this practice will lead to some form of disease.  You don't have to be a religious fanatic to figure out that cows weren't made to eat chicken manure!

What to do about?  

Increase awareness; talk to people about it - although you might avoid discussing it over dinner!  When the word gets out and the media pick up the story again, perhaps we can get some form of legislation through Congress or a regulation from the FDA that simply says "Producers of all products within the chain of human food production must make public all ingredients feed to food animals - in any known quantity at any time in the animals life."  And you can bet that if the media report which beef are raised on chicken manure - their sales would plummet.  

And maybe, they'd do just what you or I would do if we were raising our own beef, pork or chicken: feed them simple natural healthy things, like grains and grasses.  Heck, I'd pay 20 cents a pound more for that, wouldn't you?

Need more proof?

We're sorry if this seems unbelievable, but EHSO is not some rumor-mongering, tree-hugging nutcase group.  This is real and true.  And here's where you can find more proof:

Read the FDA's statement on the subject

Related News Stories from reputable sources

And if you still doubt it, look up the government policy on the subject found at (FDA Compliance Policy Guide, Sec. 685.100, Recycled Animal Waste -- CPG 7126.34.)  


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