A bizarre spill of Skittles highway on a rural Wisconsin highway has placed the candy’s manufacturer in the uncomfortable position of explaining why its products are finding their way into cattle feed.
Though most beef cattle in the US are raised on either grass and corn it seems that some domestic beef has been coming from cows fed a diet of Skittles brand candy. Last Tuesday night, a Wisconsin Sheriff Deputy happened upon an unusual sight – hundreds of thousands of skittles on a rural road in Dodge County. Upon further investigation into the surprising find, it turned out that the candy had been in a large cardboard box on the back of a truck when rain soaked the box, causing it to split open and releasing a deluge of skittles onto the road. However, it was not the spill but the Skittles’ intended destination that has become a cause for controversy as the truck was set to deliver the candy to a nearby cattle ranch where it was meant to be used as cattle feed.
The unexpected mishap ended up uncovering that farmers have been feeding candy to their cows for years as a way to cut corners and save money, at the cost to the quality of the beef as well as both cow and human health. Police, in talking to the cattle ranchers, soon learned that Skittles and other sweets are being commonly used in the area in order to “fatten up” cows as they serve as an inexpensive source of carbohydrates. A former farmer in the area told a local CNN affiliate that candy makers and bakeries often sell their rejected or defective candy products to be used as cattle feed, meaning that the problem is larger than just unscrupulous ranchers.
Thanks to the exposure of the questionable relationship, Skittles manufacturer Mars Inc has now been forced to investigate the incident. Mars Company spokeswoman Denise Young told the Wisconsin State Journal that “we don’t know how it ended up as it did and we are investigating.” She added that the spilled Skittles were supposed to be destroyed after a power outage prevented the characteristic “S” from being stamped onto the candies. Mars has said it plans to contact the sheriff’s office and the farmer who was set to receive the shipment to get to the bottom of the situation.
Perhaps more bizarre than the incident itself were the scores of “experts” who sought to legitimize the practice of feeding candy to cattle. For example, John Waller, an animal science professor at the University of Tennessee, told LiveScience that he thought feeding Skittles was a “viable” diet and a good way “to get nutrients in these cattle.” Ki Fanning, a livestock nutritionist with Great Plains Livestock consulting, told CNN that feeding Skittles and candy to cows “is a very good way for producers to reduce feed cost and to provide less expensive food for consumers.”
Skittle spill leads to realization that cows love the taste of the rainbow. #GoodVuz
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However, such statements neglect to mention the effects of candy consumption on cow health, which clearly impacts the quality of the beef later eaten by human consumers. Skittles are composed of mainly sugar, corn syrup, and hydrogenated oil – all of which can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems. Skittles also employ various dyes and additives that have been linked to health problems in humans. In addition, cows, which are ruminants, are in no way meant to eat a highly processed and sugary candy without unexpected and dangerous consequences to their health or the health of the people who consume them. If nothing else, this latest “discovery” speaks to the dangerous tendency of valuing profit over quality, a habit endemic in US industrial agriculture that threatens both animal, human, and environmental health.
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