Cattle operators are offering a smorgasbord of sugary treats to cope with the rising cost of corn. The market for alternative food blends is skyrocketing, according to this recent Reuters news article . In the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries. Cattlemen are feeding virtually anything they can get their hands on that will replace the starchy sugar content traditionally delivered to the animals through corn.Are cows meant to eat breakfast cereals? Or high fructose corn syrup confections? What about corn itself? Cows are ruminants. Their four stomachs are naturally pH neutral. A corn-based (or gummy-worm-based) diet creates an acidic environment that invariably leads to a host of health problems including bloat, diarrhea, ulcers, liver disease, and overall weakened immune system. To combat these illnesses, cattle are given antibiotics. And lots of them. Eighty percent of antibiotics used in this country are used for animal feed.
Cows raised on grass, however, are far less likely to encounter health problems. According to an article by author Michael PollanAlthough the modern cattle industry all but ignores it, the reciprocal relationship between cows and grass is one of nature’s underappreciated wonders. For the grasses, the cow maintains their habitat by preventing trees and shrubs from gaining a foothold; the animal also spreads grass seed, planting it with its hoofs and fertilizing it. In exchange for these services, the grasses offer the ruminants a plentiful, exclusive meal. For cows, sheep and other grazers have the unique ability to convert grass—which single-stomached creatures like us can’t digest—into high-quality protein. They can do this because they possess a rumen, a 45-gallon fermentation tank in which a resident population of bacteria turns grass into metabolically useful organic acids and protein.Grass or gummy worms? Grass, please.