Claiming health risks, the Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) is launching its “Filthy Feed Campaign” against the use of poultry litter in livestock feed. According to a FACT release, the campaign is a national initiative to educate consumers about this unhealthy and inhumane practice, and to leverage public interest to bring about policy change at the FDA. The first phase of the Campaign kicked off on Aug. 14 when FACT formally petitioned the FDA to prohibit the practice.

"It wasn't long ago that contaminated pet food poisoned hundreds of cats and dogs," remarked Richard Wood, FACT's Executive Director. “We’ve learned the hard way that cheap feed doesn’t always equal good feed. Cows deserve better than toxic leftovers.” For more on the organization’s campaign, click here. For an article about feeding poultry litter from Virginia Tech animal scientist Joseph P. Fontenot, click here.

Editor’s comments

In some areas, poultry litter has been used in cattle feed for decades as a high-protein by-product supplement, primarily for cows and stocker cattle. Scientific testing has shown that the product does not adversely affect animal health, carcass quality, meat quality or food safety. In BSE-driven proposed feed rules in 2003, FDA announced plans to ban poultry litter from cattle feed. The reasoning was that poultry litter could contain ruminant proteins, banned from cattle feeds but not from poultry feeds, and thus could spread BSE. When the final rules were published in 2004, however, FDA focused on removing specific risk materials from all animal feeds, allowing continued feeding of poultry litter under the assumption that any measurable risk of BSE was removed earlier in the chain.

It is unlikely that FDA will ban poultry litter as the FACT group requests, because there is no known safety risk. Nevertheless, in this writer’s opinion, beef producers should voluntarily eliminate poultry litter from the production system. Consumer perceptions drive beef demand. Science might justify feeding it, but consumers don’t read scientific journals. I can’t imagine any of them wanting beef from cattle fed chicken s***. Poultry litter might be a cost-effective feed for a few producers, but negative attention generated by this “Filthy Feed Campaign” can cause economic harm to every U.S. beef producer.

John Maday, Drovers managing editor