Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Price For High Prices I: Changes In Livestock Feed

Recall my post from a few weeks ago, Living High Off The Hog?, where livestock farmers in Pennsylvania ...
"... started giving their pigs and cows chocolate - and banana chips and cashews and yogurt-covered raisins, any of which were cheaper than run-of the-mill corn and beans. One farmer even supplied his cattle a special "party mix" of popcorn, pretzels, cheese curls and crisps. This, he told reporters, saved 10% on feed costs."
It looks like livestock farmers in Europe may add animal remains to their party mix: 1
"The European Union is preparing plans to allow pig remains to be used to feed poultry. The practice - banned in Europe after the BSE* crisis 10 years ago - would save farmers millions of pounds as prices of cereal feed for chickens soar, say officials in Brussels."
- Outrage At European Moves To Feed Animal Remains To Chickens, The Guardian, May 4, 2008.

* BSE: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also known as mad-cow disease. Thought to develop by feeding animal remains to cows.

"We would only support it if we were fully satisfied that appropriate and effective testing had taken place to control the use of such proteins in poultry feed."
- UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

"The by-products of slaughter are a very valuable source of protein. We should not be wasting it."
- Philip Comer, former adviser to the UK Food Standards Agency

Meanwhile, Europe currently has a ban on importing American chickens because ...
" the American practice of washing chickens in a chlorine solution threatens public health and the environment."
- EU, US Pledge To Fight Trade Barriers, Protectionism, The International Herald Tribune, May 13, 2008
I wonder if that's the real reason, or if the reason has more to do with reducing competition for domestic product. Speaking of protectionism, America won't buy chicken from China right now "pending equivalence re-verification." If ever there was a buzzword.

But that may change. The USDA is ...
"... working on a proposal to allow chickens raised, slaughtered, and cooked in China to be sold here, and under current regulations, store labels do not have to indicate the meat's origin."
- Chicken from China? Questionable Farming Practices Fuel Skepticism Of US Plan To Import Poultry, Boston Globe, May 9, 2007.

Okay, so whose chicken is the best? America's chlorine-cleaned one? The EU's high-protein-fed one? Or China's good value?

It would be nice if we could just let a chicken run around, peck grubs, live a full life, party hearty, and feed a local population, maybe, once in a while. But I suppose that's too idealistic when there are so many mouths to feed.
1 The idea for this post came from the Grumpy Vegan. His take on it:
"Of course, what it all boils down is cost. This proposal wouldn't be even considered if it were not cost effective. The irony, of course, is that meat isn't cost effective. That's why this crazy ideas surface. It's a plaster over a wound that won't stop bleeding."
Photo of Hungry Chicks by Christine Redgate, from BBC's Nature Calendar. Not chickens, but some hungry little fliers.

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