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Wednesday, 27 October, 1999, 09:48 GMT
Waste 'was fed to UK cattle'
Cows A more appetising meal for British cattle?

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

What feeds the animals and birds that feed us ? The answer is a bewildering range of things, and if we are what we eat, then some of us might, in the recent past, have thought twice before lifting fork to mouth.

The United Kingdom Agricultural Supply Trade Association (UKASTA) provides a list of "commonly used ingredients" supplied by one of the major animal feed companies.

Many of the ingredients look innocuous, or even appetising. Mango, for example, and molasses, and peas and sweet potato - they could all sit comfortably on a modish nouvelle cuisine plate.

Some of the other bits and pieces sound less appealing - cocoa husks, wheat straw and copra might leave an odd taste in the mouth.

All told, though, there is nothing there to excite the revulsion that greeted the news that French cattle feed contains human and animal waste.

'No record' of use of human waste

UKASTA says it can find no record of human waste ever having been used for animal feed in the UK, and it is "not aware" of any use of animal waste "in commercial compound feed production".

But it says it cannot speak for every manufacturer, and it thinks it possible that some may still use poultry waste.

In the 1960s, it says, there were more widespread experiments in making feed containing poultry litter, material which contained straw and chicken excrement.

Poultry waste remains a legally-permitted feed ingredient today, and it is believed to have been extensively used until about 10 years ago.

And it was not until 1996 that UK feed manufacturers stopped using feathers and animal blood, under pressure from the supermarkets.

"They were not considered user-friendly", the UKASTA spokesman said. "It is still legal to use blood - it's just that no-one actually does."

Fears about public perception

But a farming source has told BBC News Online that human and animal wastes, both liquid and solid, were used in UK feed until about 25 years ago.

The source said the wastes were a source of urea, which helped bacteria in the animal's gut to make the most beneficial use of the food it had eaten.

He said the process had involved cooking and sterilising the wastes, and should therefore have posed no risk to health, provided the temperatures were high enough and the sterilisation sufficiently thorough.

"The UK abandoned the practice because of fears of what the public perception would be if people realised what the animals had eaten".

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See also:
26 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Hague urges French meat ban
16 Aug 99 |  Europe
Probe into French sewage scare

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