cow in field

Horrors: Human remains in animal feed fed to cattle

Sometimes, the stories I hear about what goes on inside the pet food industry, beggar description.

But, the story that follows definitely gets the prize for one of the most disgusting.

A few days ago, when stories emerged about a Wyoming sugar and molasses manufacturing facility that had recalled sugar beet by-products fed to cattle, I didn’t think much of it.

Then, a story popped up that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was buying the cattle that ate the beets. And they were going to slaughter the lot of them (more than 5,000 head of cattle) and condemn the meat.

But, what finally got my interest was a vaguely worded Food and Drug Administration (FDA) press release about a “tragic” accident at the same sugar beet facility in Wyoming.

Without providing any details, other than that some of the beet by-products had subsequently been fed to cattle, the agency said not to worry because the feed was all being removed from the market and the cows that ate the “adulterated” beet by-products would be killed.

But, I wondered, adulterated with what?

All the FDA would say was they had concluded that, “while the animal feed product was compromised, there are no known human or animal health risks.”

That was it.

Being the intrepid pet food investigator that I am with a nose for dirt, my sh*t detector went up. There was more to this story than anyone was willing to publicize.

So, I did a little digging.

It all began when a young woman died at the plant. Apparently, she had fallen into a piece of industrial equipment shudder and it wasn’t until 9 pm that evening that the gruesome discovery was made. First responders worked most of the night and into the early morning extricating her mangled remains from the equipment.

But, get her out they did, eventually.

The next day, after an announcement about the tragic accident at the plant, it was back to work, business as usual. They fired up the machines and continued work as if nothing had happened.

Well, maybe they did feel bad about the accident, but after all time is money and life does go on.

Guess what’s wrong with this picture?

Three guesses and the first two don’t count.


For five days, they continued making all sorts of ingredients for animals as well as sugar and molasses for humans, until someone at the plant decided they should probably tell the FDA about the accident.

Naturally, when the FDA showed up the next day, everything at the plant came to a screeching halt. Soon after, tons of animal feed had to be recalled. Realizing that the adulterated feed had not only already left the plant, but it had been fed to cattle, the USDA volunteered to purchase and cull all the cattle that may have been fed the offending feed that may or may not have contained a little “human matter.”

Imagine, you happen to look up and just as you’re about to chomp down on that juicy burger, you suddenly catch a glimpse of a news story with the headline: ‘DEAD GIRL FED TO CATTLE!’ Worried that consumers would have a cow, the USDA decided to take the extra step to “ensure consumer confidence” by buying the icky cows and taking them out of the market toute suite.

Here is where we reach the end of the sad story: The cattle have been culled, the animal feed recalled. End of story. Whew.

Then I thought, hold on — where will the condemned cattle go after they are culled? A dump? Are their remains incinerated?


It will probably end up where meat of that sort normally goes – straight into making animal feed and pet food. That is where condemned meat goes.

Then I started thinking, what does it really matter? If, as a former president of AAFCO said, Fluffy might very well be in pet food, alongside the cows that might have eaten the remains of a human.

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (11) Write a comment

  1. This is why my family only feeds pasture-raised, raw meat to our dogs and cats. We purchase directly from our rancher who also butchers the meat so we know how it’s fed and raised. Their farm also doesn’t vaccinate so those toxins also aren’t passed on. It’s important that all animals live a quality, natural life – the way God intended. Excellent article; keep on getting the facts out there. Knowledge bring a better quality of life for those wise enough to heed it.


  2. What creeps me out more is that it can’t have been the first unreported industrial accident… and we don’t know what happened to the human grade sugar and molasses products, do we?

    Not the first time I heard of animal protein fed to vegetarian cows. Likely the cause of Mad Cow in the first place…from the assorted researchers and scientists I read posts by.

    I AM astounded at the callousness and thoughtlessness of those who were working the plant – WHY wouldn’t they clean the equipment? Too gruesome a task? Not as ugly at removing the pieces of victim was, I’m sure. Traumatic for all! Maybe they figured no one would notice, and eventually due process would “clean” the machinery “enough”? Ewww.

    There’s some articles circulating the Net about feeding manure to farmed Tilapia … ewwww again! Similarly abusing cattle isn’t much of a jump. No wonder my cats don’t want the commercial beef – they cry at me. If I buy clean, organic, grass-fed beef – they go wild to have some. (I feed raw, from reputable small producer MPC – My Pet Carnivore – who is right with you against the filth of industrialized pet “food”.)


    • Considering it was nearly daylight before they finished picking her out of the machine, I doubt the flies had much of a chance to lay their eggs before they fired up the machinery – only a few hours later that very same day. Although, I’m not certain exactly what time they did start working again or even how fast it takes for fly eggs to mature into maggots, but either way it was just so wrong. I mean, what were they thinking? Time is money? Or life goes on?


  3. Good grief!

    It may be some small consolation that ruminant products (all those slaughtered cattle) cannot be fed back to ruminants, so beef and lamb are as safe as ever (for what it’s worth!). But they *can* be processed into feed for pigs, chickens, and–of course–pets.


    • Wow! Dr. Jean thanks for commenting. I’m honored.

      It is a teensy weensy consolation, but we suspect it happens anyway because they allow the feeding of poultry litter to ruminants – which may or may not contain feed that has bovine protein in it.

      It’s really all so gruesome.

      What I wonder about is when “mountains” of raw material arrive at the renderers and it sits out in the sun for hours in one great heap, while the carcasses continue to decay – do you think it’s possible to adequately separate all the SRMs from a decaying, bloated mountain of flesh (if indeed it is done at all)?

      Or worse, does it even matter if they do, because isn’t BSE also found in bovine blood as well as their spinal fluid and brain tissue? I’m not an expert by any means – what do you think?


  4. What may go into our food, both ours and our companion animals cannot seem to astound me anymore. While measures are in place for our food that fail, what a non caring greed that takes place in the pet food industry still does. I cook and always will for my best friend. But what also really astounds me is the cavilier attitude taken that thousands of cattle had to be killed, by the USDA, but also as described in this blog. I am a fan of your blog and the reports you dispense, but As an animal advocate, the lives of these animals matters. They are sentient beings just like our dogs and cats, and for me they matter as well. This does not come accross here.


    • June, you must know that it matters a great deal to me how animals are cared for – ALL animals. I am a fierce opponent of CAFOs and I firmly support animal welfare controls such as the Animal Welfare Approved program and the Certified Humane program. Personally, I am a vegan because of my ethics in regards to respect for all life and that all life is sacred.

      If you look at any of the articles I have written under the ‘Ethics’ category you will soon realize I am a firm supporter of animal rights.

      My style of writing sometimes employs a great deal of sarcasm to make a point. What comes off as a “cavalier” attitude is actually to make a mockery of the absurd rules regarding the regulation of animal feed and the sickening manner in which livestock are treated as products and not the sentient beings that they are.

      Thanks for letting me know! I value your input.


    On a nicer note, that is a beautiful photo.



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