Cows are being fed Skittles and other forms of discarded candies to cut costs in a shocking revelation that has been common knowledge for quite some time in some circles.

Although cows have been fed a variety of things — as feed is one of the most expensive costs associated with cattle farming — Skittles have, apparently, become a feed replacement of choice for some rural Wisconsin farmers.


CNN reported on the trend in 2010; Mother Jones reported on the bizarre alternative feed in 2013.

The Counter reported that an entire subculture has emerged surrounding alternative feed for cows in an effort to slash costs and maximize profit margins.

One livestock nutrition expert said: “there’s a lot of stuff which the general public might not think of as feeds which are actually quite common.” 

What are We Feeding The Cows?

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Raw Milk: The Lowdown

Not only does the unnatural diet cut costs, but it also fattens the cow — some farmers are even neglecting to remove the wrappers from the discarded candies.

The Mother Jones article pointed out:

“Ranchers report feeding their beef steers and dairy cows a variety of bulk candy, including gummy worms, marshmallowshard candysprinkles, chocolatecandy corn, and hot chocolate mix. Candy provides sugar that cows would usually get from corn, giving them more energy and making them fatter. When corn prices skyrocketed, the practice became popular: In fall 2012, one candy supplier who sells farmers and ranchers “salvage” chocolate—that’s imperfect and broken chocolates—said the price of the stuff had recently doubled.”

“Thousands of red Skittles on their way to being fed to cows fell off a truck and littered a highway in Wisconsin,” tweeted CNN.

A local report found that defective candies were sent to ranchers as forms of “cheap carbs”. In 2012, Reuters found that farmers could cut costs by up to 50% by switching to these “cheap carbs”.

“There’s no little ‘S’ on them,” a local sheriff told local news when explaining what specific defects that candies had.

“You can definitely smell, it’s a distinct Skittles smell,” the sheriff added.

One Twitter user joked about the news, writing: “They’re dreamer-bulking the cattle, plastic wrappers and all.”

Does it Harm The Cows or Quality of The Product?


Animal Nutrition professor John Waller said: “It keeps fat material from going out in the landfill, and it’s a good way to get nutrients in these cattle. The alternative would be to put [the candy] in a landfill somewhere.”

Another expert signaled that candy-based alternative feed has “all the right nutrition for them.”

On the question of how the animal would pass the wrapper, one expert answered: “I think it would pass through just like excess fiber would.”

In spite of the support of some animal nutrition expert, the revelation has been met with some pushback and ethical concerns.

Reports of cows eating candy have come from across the United States — not just in Wisconsin.

Cows are reportedly fed more than just candy, including feeds with sawdust, chicken droppings, and ground limestone.

Cows eating candy

At Herculean Strength, we strongly advise you to buy local grass-fed beef and avoid mass-produced or processed foods where possible. Check out our article on raw milk for more information.

Cows eating candy in Kentucky

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