In the drive to keep their costs down and maintain profits, many American grain-fed cattle & dairy farmers turn to a cheaper solution – replacing some of the corn in their cattle feed with byproducts. The feed blend can vary from establishment to establishment, but below you’ll find some of the possible ingredients used in the grain-fed beef industry.
Grain & Vegetable Byproducts
A lot of byproducts used in cattle feed are leftovers (hulls, rejected crops, exhausted pulp, mash, etc) from mills & factories processing crops into specialized ingredients like corn syrup, corn starch, ethanol, beet sugar, oils, flours, rolled oats, barley malt, etc (DiCostanzo, 2003).
These byproducts may seem undesirable, but they still contain some nutritional content. This content varies from byproduct to byproduct, but can provide protein, energy, minerals and/or roughage.
The prices of these byproducts can vary from substantially cheaper than corn to free (as long as farmers pay to have them hauled away).
Beef is muscle – so the more muscle a farmer can get cattle to pack on, the more money they eventually make.
To build muscle, cattle need a steady intake of protein, so some feedlots add protein supplements to their feed.
The contents of protein supplements can vary from feedlot to feedlot, but possible ingredients include beef tallow & feather meal (Roosevelt, 2006), chicken manure, fish protein and pig protein (Pollan, 2002).
DiCostanzo, A. (2003). Use of Byproducts to Meet the Nutritional Needs of the Cowherd. Retrieved December 13, 2011, from University of Minnesota: http://www.extension.umn.edu/beef/components/pdfs/UseOfByproductsToMeetNutritionalNeeds.pdf
Pollan, M. (2002, March 31). Power Steer. Retrieved October 31, 2011, from Michael Pollan.com (previously published in NY Times Magazine): http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/power-steer/
Roosevelt, M. (2006, June 11). The Grass-Fed Revolution. Retrieved October 14, 2011, from Time.com: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1200759-1,00.html