You Haven’t Heard the Weirdest Thing About Cows Eating Skittles

published Jan 24, 2017
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(Image credit: Krzysztof Puszczyński)

Last Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office in Juneau, Wisconsin, was summoned after hundreds of thousands of red objects were spotted on a rural highway. The objects scattered on County Highway S near Blackbird Road turned out to be strawberry Skittles, which reportedly fell off a flatbed truck in the rain.

And then, things got weird.

Why Everyone Is Talking About Feeding Cows Skittles

Dodge county sheriff, Dale Schmidt, revealed that the fallen Skittles were rejected by the candy company for being defective — a power outage resulted in the candy not being stamped with the trademark “S” on the shells — and were on their way to be fed to cattle. Yes, cattle.

“It is reported that the Skittles were intended to be feed for cattle, as they did not make the cut for packaging at the company,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “In the end these Skittles are actually for the Birds!”

Mars Inc., the parent company of Skittles, has no idea why or where those Skittles were going. A representative told the Associated Press it sells unused candies and ingredients to processors, who use the materials to make animal feed. But the company does not sell directly to farmers, and the Yorkville, Illinois, plant that produced the defective Skittles is not involved in such procedures. As such, these particular Skittles were supposed to be destroyed.

“We don’t know how it ended up as it did and we are investigating,” Mars told the Associated Press.

The Surprising Twist of the Story

Does this story shock you? It shouldn’t. Using candy and sugary treats to fatten up cattle is nothing new. Back in 2012, LiveScience reported of a Kentucky cattleman who opted for low-grade affordable candy instead of corn for his 1,400 cows during the drought. Reuters reported the same year that with corn prices soaring due to scarcity, farmers were looking at starchy sugar feed alternatives — called “co-products” — that can contain anything from cookies and gummy worms to fruit loops and marshmallows.

Feeding cows Skittles has economic benefits. Sellers can discard of wasted items while making a profit and farmers can save anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on feed costs.

For those fixated on the fact that your steak may have had a sugar-rich diet of Skittles and other confections, know that in small quantities its apparently not so bad for the cattle. Josh Cribbs, a cattle nutritionist and director of commercial development for the American Maine-Anjou Association, told the Associated Press all materials gathered — which vary based on region and time of year — are used to create feed with a specific “nutritional profile.”

It turns out that even cows get to taste the rainbow.