Ban Poultry Litter from Cattle Feed


Target: Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Goal: Ban factory farms from using “poultry litter” in cow feed and endangering American citizens

Outbreaks of bovine spongiform encepholopathy, or mad cow disease, have been sufficient in the past for the government to take action, because the progressive neurological disorder can be spread to humans and other species. However, it appears that factory farms are once again taking advantage of legislative loopholes to cushion their bottom line — with American consumers’ lives hanging in the balance. It has been illegal since 1997 to feed farmed cattle mammalian proteins, especially cow meat. According to the US Department of Agriculture, “This feed ban is the most important measure to prevent the transmission of the disease to cattle. The feed ban was strengthened in 2008, by additional prohibitions on those tissues that have the highest risk of transmitting BSE. These additions to the feed ban prohibit the use of brain and spinal cord from cattle 30 months of age and older for use in any animal feed.”

All this legislation does is regulate the parts of the cow that can be processed and fed back to other farmed cows. It fails to regulate the meat and trappings from other animals that are legally allowed to be fed cow meat, including pigs, chickens, and turkeys. American factory farms purchase about 2 billion pounds of poultry litter (two-thirds processed chicken feces, meat, and other parts, and one-third uneaten chicken feed) each year to feed their cows, purely because of the low price. This entirely legal practice endangers American consumers because chicken feed often contains cow proteins in one form or another, and contaminated feed is the easiest way for mad cow to spread throughout a food system.

By signing this petition, you are demanding that the FDA fix the feed ban once and for all by enforcing a ban on all cow proteins in cattle feed, including those that come secondhand from poultry litter and other sources. You are urging the FDA to stop endangering American lives with lax regulations on an industry that is all too eager to take advantage of loopholes.


Dear Commissioner Hamburg,

You probably know that feeding cow proteins to cows is illegal, per a 1997 FDA feed ban fortified in 2008 with added restrictions, meant to protect the American people from future outbreaks of mad cow disease, which is most effectively transmitted via contaminated feed. However, it is not illegal to feed farmed cattle “poultry litter,” or a compound of rendered chicken feces and meat mixed with leftover chicken feed, which itself often contains rendered cow proteins. American cattle operations buy up about 2 billion pounds of chicken litter per year for its low price, while consumers like me run the costly risk of contracting mad cow, most people without even knowing it.

As an informed consumer, I am urging you to expand and tighten the FDA’s regulations in order to ban poultry litter and other animal products that may contain cow proteins from cattle feed. I am encouraging you to recognize the danger that this loophole poses to other Americans, and to act immediately on this issue.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: USDA via Wikimedia Commons

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