Mother Jones ran a piece this month, “5 Surprising Things We Feed Cows.” Sawdust, chicken shit, candy, crab guts, ground limestone. Two things to note that are wrong with this piece. First, it’s not “we” – it’s the industrial system propped up by subsidies and government dictates favorable to unsustainable, unhealthy, industrial farming practices. The second mistake is leaving out the fact that cows get fed dead cows that have been ground up. Michael Pollan wrote about this in the New York Times way back in 2002.
Of course the identical industrial logic — protein is protein — led to the feeding of rendered cow parts back to cows, a practice the F.D.A. banned in 1997 after scientists realized it was spreading mad-cow disease.
…Until mad-cow disease, remarkably few people in the cattle business, let alone the general public, comprehended the strange semicircular food chain that industrial agriculture had devised for cattle (and, in turn, for us). When I mentioned to Rich Blair that I’d been surprised to learn that cows were eating cows, he said, ”To tell the truth, it was kind of a shock to me too.”
Joel Salatin has also spoken about this often, except everything that he attempts to do outside of the industrial system, as a small grower, is illegal. The demand for grass-fed beef is increasing exponentially, and the market response is an upswing in suppliers who are stewards of the land.