- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

NOTTINGHAM, Pa. The cattle at the Herr family farm have good reason to seem eager at the trough. No mundane meal of corn and hay here: This feed is spiced with a snack-food lover's smorgasbord of potato chips, cheese curls and pretzels.
Blessed bovine elsewhere in Pennsylvania munch on chocolate balls and frosted wheat squares.
While cattle have been eating human food byproducts for years, more farmers this winter are filling the trough with snack-food goodies, a money-saving solution to high corn prices caused by the summer's drought.
Because feeding livestock discarded human food saves money and helps the environment, Bessie will be munching on potato chips more often in the future, industry analysts say.
"It's a win-win situation," said Harold Harpster, a professor of animal science at Pennsylvania State University. "It takes this food product out of the landfills and puts it into use feeding these livestock."
In Hawaii, some cattle get the leftovers from a pineapple processing plant. Kansas cattle feast on sunflower seed hulls. In Nebraska and California, they eat sugar beet pulp.
In Pennsylvania, cattle food is sometimes even more like people food. The Hershey's plant provides chocolate, a Kellogg's plant provides cereal and the Herr's snack-food plant provides chips.
The discarded foods are fine nutritionally, farmers are quick to point out. Potatoes are the main ingredient for chips, wheat for pretzels. The reasons they are discarded vary: The chips are overcooked, the cereal too old. The cattle snacks often are swept off the factory floor.
Jim Herr bought his cattle farm 18 years ago primarily as a place to discard leftovers from his family's snack-food plant. The thousands of gallons of water used to wash potatoes now hydrate the hay crop.
The daily diet for his 650 cattle is supplemented heavily by the nearby snack-food plant. The cattle eat 15 pounds of potato peelings, 15 pounds of corn, 8 pounds of hay and 4 pounds of "steer party mix" chips, popcorn, pretzels and cheese curls. It's all mixed together in a blender the size of a large van.
That mixture is analyzed nutritionally by a lab several times a year. Farm manager Dennis Byrne says he can tell how much his cattle like it by how fast they get to the trough.
"There's a lot of science to how the cattle are going to be fed, but there's also an art. You have to create a blend the cattle will go after," Mr. Byrne said.
Feeding livestock human food is most common in the East, where more food-processing plants are located, Mr. Harpster said. He expects the practice to widen as food processors face increasing environmental pressures and farmers face increasing economic challenges.
Shelia Stannard, a spokeswoman for the American Angus Association, agrees. "I'd say it's going to continue the upward trend," she said. "The cattle might as well eat something that we're not going to eat."

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