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.

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