Depending on your perspective, the most recent drought has wrought some pretty interesting stuff. For instance, did you know that now, because corn prices are so high, feed rations for beef and dairy cows have consequently become prohibitively expensive? And, as a result, a lot of U.S. cattlemen have been supplementing their cows' diets with sprinkles (as in, for ice cream), candy, orange peels, and, in some especially macabre instances, chocolate shakes? That's right — for some lucky cows, Halloween has come early this year, which is probably little comfort if your entire life is one torturously violent march towards death and degradation, but candy, after all, is candy.
According to nutritionist Ki Fanning at Great Plains Livestock Consulting in Eagle, Nebraska, cows, the great food medium of the American diet, can turn pretty much anything into a nutritious enough meal so that their milk and flesh taste just as yummy as it does when they eat corn feed. Explains Fanning,
It's kind of funny the first time you see it but it works well. The big advantage to that is you can turn something you normally throw away into something that can be consumed. The amazing thing about a ruminant, a cow, you can take those type of ingredients and turn them into food.
Those "ingredients" have so far included things like marshmallows, gummy worms, fruit loops, cookies, orange peels, and dried cranberries. Cattle stewards have to make sure that their animals' nutritional needs are being met, which is increasingly difficult to do as decimated soy and corn crops drive the prices for those two feed staples higher and higher. Ruminant animals like cattle can eat all kinds of crap that chicken and hogs cannot safely ingest, and the starchy nutrients provided by candy, for example, offer a viable substitute to corn.
Still, sweets only make up a relatively small fraction of feed rations, which are mostly comprised of way less exciting stuff like "potato products" and "cottonseed hulls." Suppliers are also starting to get hip to the cattlemen's groove, so the price of alternative feedstuffs is, unfortunately for the cattle, starting to rise. Every now and then, some of the cows get chocolate, because it's really the least American can do to repair some of the damage done with our relationship to the bovine community.
Image via Sharon Kennedy/Shutterstock.