Are humans endangered if cattle dine on chicken manure?
August 23, 1997
Web posted at: 1:52 p.m. EDT (1752 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As federal food safety inspectors search
for the source of E. coli bacteria that contaminated ground
beef from a Nebraska processing plant, a serious new threat
to the U.S. beef supply is being overlooked, according to an
upcoming article in U.S. News and World Report.
Increasingly, American cattle farmers feed their herds
chicken manure, which health officials warn could contain
dangerous bacteria that ends up in ground meat eaten by
humans, the magazine reports in its September 1 issue. The
waste that is mixed with livestock feed is a less expensive
alternative to using grains and hay.
The practice is increasingly being used by cattle farmers in
regions where there are large poultry operations -- and thus
a ready supply of cheap manure -- such as California, the
South and the mid-Atlantic states.
The U.S. News article cites as an example Dardanelle,
Arkansas, farmer Lamar Carter, who recently bought 745 tons
of manure from local chicken houses to feed his 800 head of
"My cows are as fat as butterballs," Carter said. "If I
didn't have chicken litter, I'd have to sell half my herd.
Other feed's too expensive."
Heating manure to 160 degrees kills bacteria
Chicken manure often contains campylobacteria and salmonella
bacteria, which can make humans sick. Intestinal parasites,
veterinary drug residues and heavy toxic metals such as
arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury are also often present in
the waste, the article says.
The article points to a scientific study, soon to be
published in the journal Preventive Medicine, that warns
about the potential dangers of recycling chicken waste by
feeding it to cattle.
"Feeding manure that has not been properly processed is
supercharging the cattle feces with pathogens likely to cause
disease in consumers," Dr. Neal Barnard, author of the study,
warns in the U.S. News article.
While it may sound distasteful, this can be safe if the
manure is heated to 160 degrees to kill the bacteria. But,
the study says many farmers don't take that precaution.
There are no accurate statistics on how common the practice
of feeding chicken manure to cattle is, the magazine report
says, but with a recent ban on the use of slaughterhouse
byproducts -- imposed because of the "mad cow" disease scare
-- there is a shortage of cattle feed filler.
Until the ban, about 75 percent of the 90 million cattle in
the United States were fed slaughterhouse wastes that
included blood, bones and viscera.
Millions of euthanized cats and dogs, collected from
veterinarians and animal shelters, have long been rendered
into livestock feed each year, the article says.