Rainy conditions caused a spill of “hundreds of thousands” of Skittles on a rural Wisconsin road this week, according to CNN. The Skittles were destined for a cattle farm where they were going to be fed to cows. This begs a few questions.
Cows are eating Skittles? What?
Yes, it’s true. The Dodge County (Wisc.) Sheriff’s Office posted a statement on Facebook revealing the plan. WBAY-TV in Green Bay, citing a “former farmer,” reports candy makers often send defective products to cattle farms because they serve as “cheap carbs.”
What was wrong with the Skittles in question?
Their defectiveness reportedly had nothing to do with rancid ingredients or any other issue that would cause alarm to beef-consuming Wisconsinites. (Unless, of course, the idea of consuming beef that has been stuffed full of candy is alarming.) “There’s no little ‘S’ on them,” Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt told WISN-TV in Milwaukee. Schmidt said he knew the spilled candies were Skittles, and not a product of similar appearance such as M&M’s, because “you can definitely smell, it’s a distinct Skittles smell.”
How long have American farms been feeding candy to its cows?
CNN says the country’s bovine population has been getting a steady diet of sweets “for decades,” and the trend has grown in recent years as corn prices have surged. According to a 2012 Reuters report, farmers who mixed candy into their livestock diet cut feed costs feed by 10 to 50 percent. However, satisfying a cow’s sweet tooth isn’t all about budget control. Scott De Bruin, managing partner of Wagyu producer Mayura Station in Australia, recently told Fortune he feeds his cattle top-quality chocolate and gummy bears because “a happy cow is a good cow.” Mayura’s candy-based recipe actually increases feed costs by roughly 25 percent.
Is this healthy for cows, or for the humans who consume beef, milk, and cheese?
John Waller, a professor of animal nutrition at the University of Tennessee, told Live Science in 2012 that a candy-based diet for cattle is fine, and it kills two birds with one stone. “It keeps fat material from going out in the landfill, and it’s a good way to get nutrients in these cattle,” he said. “The alternative would be to put [the candy] in a landfill somewhere.” Joseph Watson, owner of United Livestock Commodities, told WSPD-TV in Paducah, Kentucky that a candy-based feed mixture has “all the right nutrition for them.”
This is an argument America’s children have been posing at dinner tables across the country for years. But there are those concerned carnivores who don’t even like the idea of cows eating grain, so the idea of feeding America’s cattle sugary snacks is even worse. “Cows were meant to eat grass, not candy,” Marilyn Noble of the American Grassfed Association told Marketplace in 2012.
There are “grass-fed” and “grain-fed” distinctions for beef. Should there be a separate distinction for “candy-fed”?
These distinctions are murky and the United States government doesn’t really have concrete definitions, but, uh, probably?
Is there any other use for defective candy?
As it turns out, the massive spill provided a service. The Skittles helped to give traction for drivers on the icy road. They can also act as visual aids for faulty immigration logic and as landing pads for NFL players.
• Thousands of Skittles End up on an Icy Road. But That’s Not the Surprising Part [CNN]
• Skittles Shuts Down Donald Trump Jr.’s Meme Attempt [E]
• Watch Seattle Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch Dive Backwards Into an End Zone of Skittles [E]