In search of ponies: Cattle better off eating candy

The next time little Johnny turns his nose up at the meatloaf before him; you can try enticing him by letting him in on a little secret — it's actually sugar beef, infused with gummy bears and cookies.

And you won't be lying.

Recently, news reports have surfaced that, in an effort to defray record high grain costs, some in the cattle industry have turned to alternative feed supplements to maintain their herds.

Don't tell the Trix rabbit, but, cattle growers in some areas of the country are re-purposing sugary human foods that would otherwise be tossed out — candy, cookies and sweetened cereals — and are using them to supplement feed strained by drought, rising costs and dwindling supply.

The cows, often fed sweetened feeds anyway, surely aren't complaining, and it is a solution that is working during otherwise trying times.

Interestingly enough, however, some consumers seem upset by news of the practice and from coast-to-coast, reader reactions are consistently negative.

Curious, in a strictly non-scientific poll, I posed the question to numerous people and was surprised when people scrunched up their noses, shook their heads and said, "No, that's bad for the cows."

Most cited candy as unhealthy and over-processed and some even worried the cows could develop health issues like diabetes.

So while the average American consumes almost 25 pounds of candy each year, it seems they don't want their food to eat it.

Another comment that seems to follow the issue is, "Let them eat grass!"

Ironic that about 300 years ago, a similar statement was made in the inverse, suggesting that rather than complain they had no bread to eat, people should eat pastry.

Given the plight faced by roughly 38,000 wild mustangs roaming drought stricken grasslands, it seems a little like a non-option to turn out the 97.8 million head of cattle the USDA reported in the U.S. as of July.

Perhaps ideally all cows would have a patch of green to call their own, but it's all about supply and demand, and because consumers expect their burgers and cheese when they drive-thru, the herds are already here.

And they need to eat — tough times or not.

Cows are different than people and as ruminant animals, whose stomachs use fermentation and sugars in digestion, they can process things humans and other animals can't.

In 2002, animal sciences researcher Mary Beth Hall acknowledged more studies are needed on purified sugar additives in cattle feed. However, Hall said they can be beneficial when the base feed is low-sugar, and can also lead to increased milk production.

Also calling for more research, another feed expert, Dr. P. George Kunju John of India, even suggests humans might be better off letting cows process all sugar instead of eating it directly.

… Now wait a minute, no research required — Mooove away from the candy!

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: or on the web at:

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