Relative price effects

The worst drought in decades has destroyed more than half the U.S. corn crop, pushing prices to record levels and squeezing livestock owners as they struggle to feed their herds.

To cope, one Kentucky cattle farmer has turned to a child-tested way to fatten his 1,400 cows: candy.

“It’s so hard to make any money when corn is eight or nine dollars a bushel,” said Nick Smith, co-owner of United Livestock Commodities in Mayfield, Ky.

The chocolate and other sweet stuff was rejected by retailers. It makes up 5% to 8% of the cattle’s feed ration, Smith said. The rest includes roughage and distillers grain, an ethanol byproduct.

The candy’s high caloric content is fattening up the cows nicely, Smith said.

The full article is here.  For the pointer I thank Dave Bieler.



Makes me glad I only eat grass-fed bison and not beef. The difference in quality and nutritional value is unbelievable. Currently still paying $9/lb for 91% lean ground, 2-day shipped. Up 100% from a few years ago but still worth it.

What is the difference in nutritional value?

How ironic. When corn gets too expensive, feed corn syrup.

Yea, it could be that it's only cheaper because it is subsidized.

This is "rejected" candy. Stuff can be cheap for reasons other than subsidies too.........

Also, the candy was probably from last year and thus used last years corn syrup.

I worry about the cows becoming obese given their diet and sedentary lifestyle. Won't anyone think of the cattle?

"Bovine treadmills, here they come! EE-II-EE-II-OHHH!"

I'm in favor of anything that makes corn syrup more expensive.

The WSJ had a much better article on the same theme circa. 2007.

If gated google "Mr. Smith is just happy his pigs aren't eating him out of house and home" for an ungated direct-link to WSJ

Amusingly it isn't just candy, quite a "balanced diet" they're getting:

Besides trail mix, pigs and cattle are downing cookies, licorice, cheese curls, candy bars, french fries, frosted wheat cereal and peanut-butter cups. Some farmers mix chocolate powder with cereal and feed it to baby pigs. "It's kind of like getting Cocoa Puffs," says David Funderburke, a livestock nutritionist at Cape Fear Consulting in Warsaw, N.C., who helps Mr. Smith and other farmers formulate healthy diets for livestock.

California farmers are feeding farm animals grape-skins from vineyards and lemon-pulp from citrus groves. Cattle ranchers in spud-rich Idaho are buying truckloads of uncooked french fries, Tater Tots and hash browns.

In Pennsylvania, farmers are turning to candy bars and snack foods because of the many food manufacturers nearby. Hershey Co. sells farmers waste cocoa and the trimmings from wafers that go into its Kit Kat bars. At Nissin Foods, maker of Top Ramen and Cup Noodles, farmers drive to a Lancaster, Pa., factory and load up on scraps of the squiggly dried noodles, which pile up in bins beneath the assembly line. Hiroshi Kika, a senior manager at the company, says the farm business is "very minor" but helps the company's effort to "do anything to recycle."

"California farmers are feeding farm animals grape-skins from vineyards and lemon-pulp from citrus groves." The detritus from concentrated frozen orange production, rinds, etc., has long been a component in cattle feed in Florida. I think what is interesting about this situation is that the processed foods, not just the remains from that processing, is what being fed. Obviously the key point is the candy is rejected and so unusable in any other way. I imagine food that has passed its expiration or best before date also is included in that feed mix.

BTW this is not the first time that the leftovers from ethanol production were also a component in cattle and dairy farming. Google swill milk and read about the NYC milk production problems.

" - - - - Destroyed more than half of the corn crop" ?? Not at all.

The actual most recent estimates from the USDA are declines of about 15% -- back to mid-90's levels.


I am struck by the tone of the comments to the original story:

AC818CA says:

Where does one begin on this story? That it is wrong to feed cows candy? That it is wrong to feed our kids candy? That anything that is basically 100% sugar is fattening and bad for you? That what is fed to cows we eat (or drink their milk) seems to be somewhat unregulated?

Well apart from my general unease at about meat, I really have no idea what is right and wrong to feed cows. I certainly don't know better than the farmers concerned. Some primitive part of the human mind beleives that "everything that is not explicitly allowed is forbidden", and is therefore shocked to find anything unrelegulated.

Will the cows produce chocolate milk?

This is nothing new. Back in the early 1990s Phil Saunders had a story (from a newspaper) about PA farmers feeding their cattle Hersheys reject chocolate in his Microeconomics student supplement book that we used then at Indiana University.

Care to follow the cattle feed on downstream? Cows are not the most efficient digesters. A truly frugal farmer will run a few hogs in his cattle feedlot. The hogs happily munch the cow patties, getting fat on the undigested corn and other goodies. Yes, I have seen this, I come from farming stock.

Bacon, anyone?

You've got to be full of shit.

Either that, or the pigs are.

But hey, being able to swallow a little shit may be good for us.

Quoting from SWINE PRODUCTION (4th ed.) by Krider and Carroll (McGraw-Hill, 1971), p. 10:

"The outstanding example of the swine enterprise supplementing other enterprises is the contribution swine make to cattle feeding. Hogs are considered essential to profits in fattening beef cattle on heavy corn rations because of their ability to salvage the corn that passes through the cattle undigested. Depending on the age of the cattle and the method of feeding them, hogs following cattle that are getting a full feed of unground corn will recover enough of it to make 0.75 pound to 1.5 pounds of pork for each bushel of corn the cattle consume. This gain is made on corn that would be a complete loss -- except for its fertilizing value -- were hogs not used in this manner. As a by-product of even a small feeding enterprise, say of 25 head of cattle fed to Good to Prime finish, hogs may therefore produce on salvaged feed alone in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of pork -- a net saving of considerable importance."

Yeah, my comment was, in a sense, 'faecetious'.

Is loathing of excretions a uniquely human phenomenon? I've even seen dogs poke around each others droppings.

Most animals don't have a very good sense of sanitation.

I have heard that since cats are remarkably inefficient at processing their food, cat shit has enough protein to feed dogs. However, dogs generally prefer not to make cat shit the mainstay of their diet, and a stray or feral dog who is doing so is probably pretty weak and sickly.

I don't see how this is much different than feeding them corn. Cows are not really meant to eat corn (or candy), and both will eventually kill the cow but since they are going to be killed beforehand it isn't much of an issue.

Of course the issue is that the beef you eat is really fatty. I suspect that fatty meat combined with a hamburger fetish has contributed in a not insignificant way to American obesity. Maybe farmers shouldn't be fattening their cows?

Animal fat doesn't make you fat. Carbohydrates make you fat.

Carbohydrates don't make you fat. Lack of exercise makes you fat.

On my Polish, Lithuanian, and Italian diet, I eat enough carbs for a family of four. I'm in my early 50s, am 5'9" and weigh 157.

Carb counting is nonsense. Protein and carbs have the same energy content. I find the "research" about digestion of carbs to be nothing more than propaganda for a fad diet.

So you're slight and weak with practically no fast-twitch muscle fiber. That's what a carb-loaded diet gets you.

Calories make you fat

Or haven't you heard of the Twinky diet?

Not all calories are equal.

France and Japan: developed nations where most calories come from refined carbs. Very low obesity, very high life expectancy.

I'm much more concerned about feeding cattle the collagen casings left over from the production of skinless hotdogs. The little bits of meat left in the ends of the casings after the hotdogs are removed "closes the loop", allowing cattle to become infected by prions from the beef in the hotdogs.

I stopped eating U.S. beef after realizing what a cesspool the industry is, and the efforts made by the USDA to conceal the size of the BSE problem. When the testing program began finding cattle with BSE, they massively curtailed the testing program. When Creekstone Farms tried to test all their cattle for BSE (as is done in Japan), USDA successfully litigated to prevent them from testing.

You must be terribly risk-averse. What's a realistic estimate of your chance of contracting BSE from US beef? From a risk-parity standpoint what sort of cesspool does that make the US Highways Department?

I don't have an accurate estimate because the data isn't available. I'd say the U.S. Highways Department would be a similar cesspool if after the last bridge collapse they stopped collecting statistics on bridge collapses and made it illegal for private parties to compile such data. And, of course, if the bridge-building industry had one of most powerful lobbies in DC. That would tell me they're trying to conceal something about bridge collapses, and it's not overloaded trucks.

What is a more accurate predictor of your chance of contracting BSE: prevalence of testing or reported cases of BSE?

Yes, the claim about half the crop being destroyed sounds wrong.

Is it wrong to wonder how 100% chocolate-fed beef would taste?

While discussing this article today, we reached Homer Simpson "Mmmmm. Chocolate-fed beef" in under 20 seconds.

On the plus side, chocolate milk will be much cheaper. It's for the kids!

So, child slaves in the ivory coast harvest cocoa, which is then made into chocolate, but somebody decides it isn't pretty enough to sell to godiva, so it gets fed to cattle. some of the cattle won't be pretty enough to sell to mcdonalds, so they'll become dog food. the burger sits on the shelf at mcdonalds for 20 minutes,and if nobody buys it by then it gets thrown away. if it does get sold about 10-20% of the time it gets thrown away uneaten by the buyer. overall, 40% of the food in america gets thrown away. i'd like to see more in the way of secondary foods - chocolate that isn't up to godiva standards, bags of noodle trimmings, old cows that are otherwise headed to be dog food, properly labelled and sold at a discount. i'm freegan myself.

If corn demands more and its price is also high then business people unable to invest on another food items so supply can't reach demand .

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