Tag Archives: earthlings

Chicken Litter says the sky is falling

The sun did not come up this morning, huge cracks have appeared in the earth's surface, and big rocks are falling out of the sky. Details 25 minutes from now on Action Central News.

Nope. That is not a typo in the subject line. I wish it was.

Today I’d like to introduce a bizarre practice that just boggles the mind. I even wrote a little song for this post (sung to the tune of Enter Sandman by Metallica):

Oh the cow goes moo
And the chicken goes cluck
If you eat either one
You’re gonna be fucked

Intrigued? Then keep reading! 🙂

Seemingly there is no practice too appalling, painful, gross, bloody, gruesome, and barbaric for the good folks response for turning critters into dinners. The industry that puts meat on the American dinner table likes to keep their standards and practices a closely guarded secret and makes maximizing profits an overriding goal.

I recently watched the intense and disturbing movie “Earthlings” and it had a very profound effect on me. (You can read my earlier post about it here: Greetings, to ALL Earthlings.)

Even before I viewed that movie, however, I was already aware of what I like to call Chicken Litter, which is also known as “poultry litter” or “boiler litter.”

The Wikipedia definition of poultry litter is: “a combination of is a material used as bedding in poultry operations to render the floor more manageable. Common litter materials are wood shavings, sawdust, peanut hulls, shredded sugar cane, straw, and other dry, absorbent, low-cost organic materials. Sand is also occasionally used as bedding.”

That sounds reasonable enough. The really interesting part, though, is what happens to that material after it has been used. You’ll never guess.

If you guessed “it gets scooped up and feed to cattle” then you’re way smarter than me! Adds Wikipedia:

After use, the litter consists primarily of poultry manure, but also contains the original litter material, feathers, and spilled feed.

Interesting Factoid #1: Chicken poop is feed to cows.

I mean, really! I’d very much like to meet the fellow who looked at used poultry litter and said to himself, “Golly gee whiz. You know what? I think that shit would make a bitchin’ feed for cattle. We’d save a bundle. Yee haw!”

The FDA estimates 1 to 2 million tons of poultry litter is fed to cattle annually.

Interesting Factoid #2: Chicken feed contains beef. (Source.)

It works a little like this: Beef (and sheep) material (known as “ruminants”) are found in chicken feed. That feed is given to chickens. Some of that feed goes uneaten and ends up in the poultry litter. That litter is scooped up and fed to cattle.

Could there possibly be anything wrong with using beef proteins as a feed for cattle?

In December 2003, in response to a the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”) in a cow in the state of Washington, the FDA announced plans to put in place a poultry litter ban. Because poultry litter can contain recycled cattle proteins as either spilled feed or feed that has passed through the avian gut, the FDA was concerned that feeding litter would be a pathway for spreading mad cow disease.


“It takes a very small quantity of ruminant protein, even just 1 milligram, to cause an infection,” said Steve Roach, public health program director with Food Animal Concerns Trust, a Chicago-based animal welfare group that is part of the coalition.

Interesting Factoid #3: Chicken feed contains arsenic. (Source.)

Whoa! I did not see that one coming. What the hell? Yep, it turns out something known as “roxarsone” with is an arsenic compound.

So why on earth would they add something like that to chicken feed?

The poultry industry has been using the feed additive roxarsone — purportedly to fight parasites and increase growth in chickens — since the Food and Drug Administration approved it in 1944. Turns out that the arsenic additive promotes the growth of blood vessels in chicken, which makes the meat appear pinker and more attractive in its plastic wrap at the grocery store, but does little else. The arsenic additive does the same in human cells, fueling a growth process known as angiogenesis, a critical first step in many human diseases such as cancer.

So we can add arsenic to the list of fun stuff that ends up in the poultry litter that is then fed back to cattle.

What happens to that cattle, by the way? Turns out that we humans will dine on some if it. Yummy!

Inorganic arsenic is a Class A carcinogen that has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and declines in brain function. Recent scientific findings show that most Americans are routinely exposed to between three and 11 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended safety limit.

Interesting Factoid #4: The government puts no restrictions on the use of poultry litter as a feed for cattle.

The history of using poultry littler as a feed for cattle may surprise you.

  • Roxarsone approved as a feed additive by the FDA in 1944.
  • The practice of using poultry litter as cattle feed was unregulated prior to 1967.
  • In 1967 the FDA declares that poultry littler in interstate commerce is “adulterated” effectively banning the practice.
  • 1n 1980 the FDA reversed this policy and passed regulation of litter to the states.
  • In 2004 the FDA was interested in removing most infectious animal proteins from all animal feeds. They took no action however, in part based on comments made by the North American Rendering Industry. (Source: Wikipedia.)
  • 2005 and 2008 rulings made by the FDA did not include the litter ban.

It should be noted that California does partially ban the practice, but their ban only pertains to lactating dairy cows. Other states may also have their own laws restricting the practice. Again, the FDA has opted to make this a state-by-state decision.

Interesting Factoid #5: The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. says science does not justify banning the practice

From the Los Angeles Times:

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., the beef industry’s main trade group, said the ban was not needed and that several FDA reviews had determined that the chance of cattle becoming infected with mad cow disease from eating poultry litter was remote.

“Science does not justify the ban, and the FDA has looked at this now many times,” said Elizabeth Parker, chief veterinarian for the trade group.

If I had any graphic skills at all I’d attempt to show you artwork depicting what I’m calling the Where’s The Beef Cycle. I imagine it would look a lot like the Precipitation Cycle we all learned about in elementary school.

Beef proteins and arsenic go into chicken feed – Chicken feed goes into chicken poop and poultry litter – Poultry litter is fed back to beef.


Props go to George Carlin for the image caption.

Greetings, to ALL Earthlings

Some Earthlings share a water hole

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights.  That is the way of a whole human being.”
–Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s cat, Tabby, was the first of several White House cats. Source.

Here’s a bit more about Lincoln and his love of animals:

Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth President, loved cats and could play with them for hours. When asked if her husband had a hobby, Mary Todd Lincoln replied, “cats.” President Lincoln visited General Grant at City Point, Virginia in March of 1865. The civil war was drawing to a close and the enormous task of reuniting the country lay ahead, yet the President made time to care for three orphaned kittens. Abraham Lincoln noticed three stray kittens in the telegraph hut. Picking them up and placing them in his lap, he asked about their mother. When the President learned that the kittens’ mother was dead, he made sure the kittens would be fed and a good home found for them.

President Lincoln’s compassion extended to turkeys, too. Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation on October 3, 1863, setting aside the last Thursday of November, “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” A turkey was sent to the White House for Thanksgiving dinner in 1863, and Tad, Lincoln’s son, named him Tom. Tad befriended the turkey and pleaded with his father to grant “Tom” a stay of execution. Abraham Lincoln took time out from a cabinet meeting to issue “an order of reprieve,” sparing the turkey’s life.

Mr. Lincoln’s compassion extended to dogs, too. Fido was a mixed breed with floppy ears and a yellowish coat. When fireworks and cannons announced Abraham Lincoln’s victory in the Presidential election of 1860, poor Fido was terrified. The Lincolns were worried that the long train trip to Washington,DC, combined with loud noises, would terrify Fido. John and Frank Roll, two neighborhood boys, promised to take good care of Fido. Mr. Lincoln made them promise to let Fido inside the house whenever he scratched at the front door, never scold Fido for entering the house with muddy paws, and feed him if he came to the dinner table. The Lincolns gave the Rolls their sofa so Fido would feel at home! Did you know “Fido” is Latin? Fido is from “Fidelitas” which translates as “faithful.”

Nanny and Nanko were White House goats. Tad and Willie liked to hitch the goats to carts or kitchen chairs and have the goats pull them through the White House. Both Nanny and Nanko liked to chew things. Nanny got in trouble for chewing up the flowers at the Old Soldier’s Home. Nanko got in trouble for chewing the bulbs planted by White House Gardener, John Watt.

The Lincolns also had rabbits and cats. Mr. Lincoln named his horse Old Bob. Old Bob was the rider-less horse with a pair of boots turned backward in the stirrups in Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession.

Source: NPS.gov

While researching Joaquin Phoenix for a blog post I discovered that he had narrated a film called “Earthlings” back in 2007.

Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, EARTHLINGS chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.

This powerful movie currently has a rating of 8.4 out of 10 starts over at IMDb.

And, I just found out yesterday, this movie is being made available for free at the web site earthlings.com. If you care about how animals are treated on this planet it is a movie I highly recommend.

DISCLAIMER: The film is extremely graphic and contains a lot of footage depicting the killing of animals. This is an important film but may be too upsetting for some viewers.

If you are willing to take a look, visit the earthlings.com, click “Watch Now” near the top-right corner, then scroll down to the bottom and click the thumbnail image labeled “Full video.”

Rap sheet: Whatever happened to Joaquin Phoenix?

[picapp src=”0/4/b/5/PicImg_The_Cinema_Society_5e28.jpg?adImageId=5706965&imageId=3946034″ width=”234″ height=”333″ /]

I wonder from time to time: Whatever happened to Joaquin Phoenix?

He’s back in the public eye ear, sort of, as the narrator of an important new movie called Earthlings about society’s treatment of animals.

But what else is he up to? Last I heard of him he was falling off the stage as rapper and appeared like an escaped mental patient on the David Letterman show. Sure, that stuff is cool, but what has he done for me lately? (You’ll have to imagine the plaintive whine behind this sentence until my new audio blog is good to go.)

According to IMDB Joaquin is working on his next documentary that has something to do with his transition from actor to rapper. Alas, not even the name of the project is known yet. IMDB simply refers to it as “Untitled Joaquin Phoenix Documentary” and says the film is in post-production and is scheduled for release in 2010. Maybe then we’ll get some damn answers.

Part of the mystery includes a web site where Casey Affleck, director of the documentary, asks the public to submit their video footage of Joaquin.

My guess is that the crazy by Joaquin was all a guerrilla-style promotional stunt for his new movie. Guess we’ll find out soon enough. Until then, keep it real, Wacky Joaquin. (That’s not a rap name, is it?)