From The "Who Knew?" File: Cattle Commonly Fed Chicken Poop

arsenic old lace image

Old Lace & Arsenic. The Movie. Image credit:Amazon,dvd.

If you eat "burger," there is more to be concerned with than just fat intake, e-Coli, and carbon footprint. In a new addition to the "Who Knew" file at TreeHugger, we just learned that the cows which contributed to your pattie may have been fed chicken poop.

Add to that, the fact that chicken poop may be "laced" with arsenic. (Hence the illustration.) You wonder if I'm a crazed liberal environmentalist wacko for writing this, correct? The better question is What Evil Genius Fed Arsenic To The Chickens?.

Although it is true that McDonalds and several major chicken brands have recently required their suppliers to drop the arsenic supplements from chicken feed, arsenic is still purposefully fed to chickens in the USA.

LA Times reports on the practice of feeding cows chicken poop: but from the angle of added Mad Cow Disease risk. That particular risk would be pretty low on my Chicken Little, Sky-Is-Falling list. (You see, I'm not as crazed as you think.)Feeding arsenic to chickens, and arsenic-containing chicken poop to cows, sounds much more worrisome.

Hold the deregulatory, libertarian rant, please.
I don't want to hear about the need to 'keep government out of business' unless business first shows recognition of basic risk management. The toxicity of arsenic is well known. There is no uncertainty in the science. Every body has either read the script or seen the movie or gone to the play (as pictured). Purposefully introducing arsenic to the food chain was ridiculous 30 years ago. Leaving it in now is outrageous.

Water quality considerations.
Whether the arsenic ends up mostly in chicken poop only, or in chickens and from them passed to cow poop, the end result is to disperse arsenic from the barn to the land, from which arsenic will eventually make it's way into surface and groundwater. Where from, we may in turn be exposed - even if we are vegetarian.

Background and plot summary.
Arsenic is a byproduct of the smelting of copper and lead, from which it is captured as a dust, to prevent stack emissions. Were captured arsenic oxide not then salable as a smelting "co-product," to make arsenic food supplements and such, it would be classified as a hazardous waste and have to be disposed of at added expense. But it's not.

Air pollution controls on smelters produce arsenic dust, which is made into chicken feed supplement. Chickens poop out most of the arsenic, which in turn is fed in turn to cows, which are subsequently fed to humans. We don't know how much of the arsenic is bio-accumulated by cows. Presumably, what does not stay in the cow ends up on the land, via poop, from which it is eventually able to migrate into water.

From the LA Times story:-

Farmers feed 1 million to 2 million tons of poultry litter to their cattle annually, according to FDA estimates.

Using the litter -- which includes feces, spilled chicken feed, feathers and poultry farm detritus -- increases the risk of cows becoming infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union.

That's because the spilled chicken feed and the feces contain tissue from ruminants -- cows and sheep, among other mammals. The disease is transmitted through feeding ruminant remains to cattle.

I don't even want to know how ruminant tissue got in there with the chickens.

More bed time chicken poop stories.
Arsenic in Chicken: Another Reason to Go Organic or Vegetarian ...
North Carolina Law Requires Electric Utility Plant Combustion Of Chicken Poop
The Schmaltz-Mobile Is Coming, One Chicken-Mile At A Time