February 6, 2017
US Skittles 'feed' incident: Using waste candies to feed cattle not a new practice
In January this year, an accident in Wisconsin, US, uncovered the alleged delivery of Skittles candies to a cattle farm where the food product will used as animal feed; a controversy ensued but the practice is nothing new, according to fact-checking website Snopes.
Corn shortage has forced farmers to start feeding cattle with candies, a CNN report stated in 2012. The practice has gained popularity among farmers in light of inflation of corn prices, government-backed demand for ethanol and a recent drought in the country. "Thrifty and resourceful farmers are tapping into the obscure market for cast-off food ingredients. Cut-rate byproducts of dubious value for human consumption seem to make fine fodder for cows. While corn goes for about US$315 a tonne, ice-cream sprinkles can be had for as little as US$160 a tonne," the report went.
With higher corn prices, farmers are left with two options: sell off their livestock or find cheaper alternatives of feed. One interviewed farmer in Indiana said that he feeds 400 cows with "bits of candy, hot chocolate mix, crumbled cookies, breakfast cereal, trail mix, dried cranberries, orange peelings and ice cream sprinkles, which are blended into more traditional forms of feed, like hay". An apparent benefit from this unique diet, the farmer claimed, is increased milk production of each cow by three pounds daily due to sugar in ice cream sprinkles.
"I think it's a viable (diet)," John Waller, a professor of animal nutrition at the University of Tennessee told Live Science. "It keeps fat material from going out in the landfill, and it's a good way to get nutrients in these cattle. The alternative would be to put (the candy) in a landfill somewhere." Waller explains that the microbes in cattle rumens can aid digestion of food that "other animals can't utilise" and therefore could accommodate a wide range of feed diet. Tennessee cattle farmers have already employ waste candies in animal diet years earlier, he added; in fact, beef producers are known to source "hard-to-get-rid-of" food byproducts for animal feed.
Candy maker Mars does not sell unused candies and ingredients directly to farmers, said Linda Kurtz, the corporate environmental manager of the company. Instead, these are sold to processers which use them with other materials to produce animal feed.