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Oct 27, 2009

Poultry Litter Fed To Cows?

I am worried about this emphasis on bio-technology in recent years in our country.

It is as if the centuries of farming experience by our fore-fathers should all be discarded. Our fore-fathers look at farming as producing nutrition for human consumption. Not maximising production.

I am sure, it is the fresh-faced, soft-spoken 'food' scientists who came up with 'smart' solutions like feeding cows and sheep with cow organs and discards and ended with mad-cow disease. Would our fore-fathers ever dream of doing such a thing?

And also it must be 'food' scientists who came up with hydrogenated vegetable oils to replace animal fats and ended up giving a few generations here spoonfuls of trans-fats every day (we use margarine for bread, for chicken rice, for cookies, cakes, etc.).

It may come as a surprise but many of these food scientists are not trained in human nutrition.

The first person who told me about omega 6 and its inflammatory effect at the cellular level was a veterinary science graduate. He spoke about it from the perspective of poultry health and that since broilers have such short lives, cancers etc will not show up.

But surprisingly, he did not make the connection between poultry health and humans who eat the chicken! He did not see the link between chickens with high levels of omega 6 and humans who eat those chickens year after year.

Scientists are like corporate guys – they have very narrow objectives. They must show results. The 'smart' ones coming out with 'smart' solutions will see career advancements and bonuses.

So, they sit and think and think and come up with feeding chicken litter to cows, and with 'scientific' results to prove it is 'scientifically proven'. The corporate types will most probably use the study to justify implementing such a scheme.

Or to push down plastic brushes into the throats of cow to improve digestion (the cows with plastic scrubbers gain 16% more. The corporate farmers will be jumping for joy here!)

Or to feed the cows stale chewing gum in their plastic wrappers (can reduce corn-alfafa meal by 30%) .

Bio-technology is fine. Science is fine. But you must have a guy with loads of common-sense who is keenly aware of possible long-term side effects to make the final decisions. Not the scientists.

For example, will the use of plastic scrubbers cause the cow to produce certain hormones or enzymes which may affect human health if consumed over extended periods of time? All angles from the human long term perspective should be addressed before allowing these 'smart' solutions to be implemented.

Better yet, spend that money on R&D to improve pasture management.  For example at our farm, we can produce enough grass for 200 goats from one acre of land.  The current standard is 15 goats per acre here.  Just not enough money is going into improving basic traditional farming.  It is just not glamorous and unfortunately does not have the immediate impact on GDP like a few hundred million poured into some 'modern' farming centre.

What Can You Do?

1. Buy from small farmers.  Buy local.

2. Reduce or avoid processed foods.

3. Know your farmer (especially corporate farmers).  He cannot farm in secret.  He must allow visitors, if not yourself then other consumers like you.

4. Know the farming methods used by your farmer.