let's talk farm animals

The Ick Factor

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

A Toronto hospital is asking for donations of human placenta to repair and reconstruct damaged eyes.  I’m sure most non-doctors would consider this disgusting and give it high marks for the Ick Factor. Superficial communications can often create the Ick Factor and the Ick Factor often influences our opinions. Agriculture and food production can be subject to the Ick Factor too.

Although technically true, the reality is that it is a manufactured derivative of the placenta that is used. Proven safe and effective for over a century; one donator told media: “I would much rather donate my healthy placenta to a good cause that helps others than just send it for incineration.” Learning these details, most non-doctors would likely change their impressions.

Agriculture and food practices can also create the same reactions. I was on a distribution list sent by my sister in-law warning of the use of prepared carrots because they are cleaned using icky chlorine. I was quick to point out to the list that it is food grade chlorine, not the stuff we put into pools or use in our laundry. One recipient even thanked me for the clarification.

It is pretty widely reported that cattle are fed fibreboard and sheep are fed paper. And as with human placenta transplants, both are technically true, but not exactly accurate.

Fibre is made of cellulose. All plant materials contain some level of cellulose. And fibre in the diet is vital for ruminant (multi-stomach) animals such as cattle and sheep. Canadian feed regulations permit the use of “purified, mechanically disintergrated cellulose” that is processed from “wood, linen, cotton, and other plant materials.” These approved sources of processed fibre may be added to animal rations because they contain the same type of cellulose and structure as more traditional dry matter such as straw and corn stalks.  Of course feed manufacturers must prove that all of their ingredients, regardless of the source, test safe for use.

Fibre board and paper are wood products.  And when clean sources are refined they make a suitable and safe supplement to the dietary needs of animals.  The image of livestock eating chopped up construction materials and shredded books simply isn’t reality. It’s the same as saying we swallow rocks or oyster shells every time we take a calcium pill. And just as with saving sight, the reuse of wasted human products even when they come from icky sources, is the ethical and responsible thing to do.

Until the Next Blog


Posted by FFC on January 31st, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Beef cattle,Food,Misconceptions,Urban Myths
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