The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Saturday, January 31, 2004  

It's Enough to Make You Turn Vegetarian

An editorial about mad cow disease in today's Philadelphia Inquirer caught my eye if only for this one sentence:

[W]ith little public fanfare, the Food and Drug Administration last week announced smart, new rules: Cattle blood and blood products are now banned from cattle feed; chicken waste cannot be fed to cattle; cattle brains cannot be used in human dietary supplements.

These are new rules? We've been eating beef that has been fed "chicken waste"? How long has this been going on? Was this common knowledge? Why didn't anyone tell us?

"Little public fanfare"? No kidding. If I were running an agency tasked with ensuring public health and these were new rules governing the nation's food supply, I'd do my damnedest to slip them in under cover of darkness.

Readers may be surprised to learn that I once lived on a dairy farm in upstate New York. I was too young then to be pulled into most chores, but I watched and saw a lot, and our cows never ate chicken waste. (Did they?)

As best I can recall, the cows ate grass, hay, silage, and molasses. Not chicken crap. (Right?) (By the way, if you've never seen a cow eat molasses out of a pail you are holding in your eight-year-old hands, you've missed a small, but rather amusing, part of life.)

Denying the cows poultry kaka apparently was an oversight of inefficiency on my father's part, since we were also raising chickens. The chickens' waste could have been transferred from one barn to the other, thus reducing the costs associated with feeding the cows, but it wasn't. (Was it?)

Either that, or, more likely, my father, in not feeding the cows chicken droppings, of which, I assure you, there was an ample supply, was just using common sense. Or maybe, way back in 1970-1971, my father was a pioneering organic farmer and I never knew it. Until I hear more from the family, that's the story I'm going with.

But getting back to the editorial . . . With unintentional, I think, humor, the Inquirer continues:

For those who have not followed the outbreak of mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the new rules may make little sense.

What? You mean as in, "That makes no sense! I want to eat beef raised on chicken waste! The FDA is out of control! Washington regulators are ruining farming!"?

I've really got to start researching my food.

[Post-publication addendum: I have been informed, by the best and most appropriate and reliable source, that our cows were not fed chicken waste, nor poop of any kind, and only the feed that I previously mentioned. So it really was organic farming, intentional or otherwise, some thirty years ago.]

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