206039 Filthy Feed: The Risky and Unregulated Practice of Feeding Poultry Litter to Cattle

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 10:50 AM

Larissa McKenna, MPH, MS , Food Animal Concerns Trust, Chicago, IL
Lisa Isenhart, MA , Filthy Feed Campaign, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Chicago, IL
Using animal waste as animal feed intuitively seems wrong. However, in areas of the United States where cattle and large poultry operations coexist, poultry litter (including manure) is routinely fed to cows. Poultry litter can contain disease-causing bacteria, antibiotics, heavy metals, feed ingredients normally prohibited for cattle, and even foreign objects such as dead rodents, rocks, nails and glass. This material is collected from the poultry house floors, processed, and added to cattle feed because of its nutritional value. Feeding poultry litter to cattle creates unacceptable risks to human and animal health. Documented risks include the spread of Mad Cow Disease, the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and the potential for exposure to toxic substances. The risk is further compounded by the absence of consistent regulation or surveillance. When the FDA lifted its ban on feeding litter to cattle in 1980, the agency also relinquished its authority to regulate the practice. Despite a growing public recognition that food safety is of paramount importance, in 2008 the FDA again failed to ban this practice when strengthening rules to prevent the spread of Mad Cow Disease. Our paper demonstrates that the FDA has the authority to reinstate its ban on litter feeding and makes the case as to why the agency should promptly do so. We discuss what constitutes “safe” feed and argue that the agricultural industry should not be allowed to profit from a practice that places such a heavy burden on the health of society.

Learning Objectives:
(1) Explain the regulatory and scientific basis for changing federal policy as it relates to feeding poultry litter to cattle. (2) Evaluate the public health risk associated with the feeding of poultry litter to cattle. (3) Design and disseminate materials to further educate the public health community on this issue.

Keywords: Food Safety, Animal Waste

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have an MPH and MS in Nutrition from Tufts University. I currently am employed as Associate Director at a public health and humane farming organization.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.