Alarm bells are ringing for the beef industry after the sensational revelation about the prevalent practice of feeding cows with poultry industry waste. Though this is not a new development as such a practice was going on for ages, putting it in focus by consumer groups, gives it a different dimension. During olden days rural farms had dairying, meat animals, poultry birds, pig rearing, fish ponds etc making them self reliant in terms of most of the inputs for running the farm. Only recently such practices are being frowned upon because of its impact on safety of the foods coming out of such farms. Probably the avian flu, swine flu, mad cow disease and others which are constant threats to the organized animal farms are making the industry doubly careful about their operations.
"Farmers feed 1 million to 2 million tons of poultry litter to their cattle annually, according to FDA estimates. Using the litter -- which include feces, spilled chicken feed, feathers and poultry farm detritus -- increases the risk of cows becoming infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. 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. It takes a very small quantity of ruminant protein, even just 1 milligram, to cause an infection,"
Whether the food safety authorities will be convinced about need for putting in place a ban on use of poultry litter as part of the feeding regime for beef animals, which are processed into various consumer products, remains to be seen. Mad cow disease is not known to cause any safety problem, though many cows were destroyed during the peak season of this disease. Such a ban may affect the economics of meat production to some extent because new feed sources may be more expensive than poultry litter. How ever, if it poses real threat in terms of safety, restrictive action is inevitable..