In a somewhat bizarre story this past week, sources such as National Geographic and The News Gazette are reporting that a mysterious spill of red skittles across a rural Wisconsin highway was initially intended to be converted into feed for beef cattle.
The story was originally picked up by CNN when a Wisconsin sheriff posted on Facebook that "hundreds of thousands of Skittles" had been found spilled on a highway, and the Dodge County Sheriff's office were contacted to assist with clean-up. Later, he updated the post to say the candy had fallen off a truck on its way to be cattle feed.
Apparently, the odd practice of feeding rejected candy to cattle has been going on for years and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, according to Linda Kurtz, a corporate environmental manager at Mars Inc., Skittles' parent company.
Mars claims it has specific procedures for discarding foods for the purpose of converting them to cattle feed. However, in a strange twist, the company also claims that it doesn't know why the discarded candy in question might have been headed to become cattle feed, as those specific Skittles came from a factory that doesn't sell unused products for feed. Kurtz added that while the company does occasionally sell unused candies and ingredients to processors that incorporate them with other materials to make animal feed, it does not sell directly to farmers.
"We don't know how it ended up as it did, and we are investigating," Kurtz said.
Denise Young, a spokeswoman for the Mars company, stated that there was nothing inherently wrong with the Skittles in question, but that they were supposed to be destroyed because a power outage prevented the signature "S" from being placed on the candies.
Josh Cribbs, a cattle nutritionist and director of commercial development for the American Maine-Anjou Association, stated that certain food byproducts, including candy, are mixed with other ingredients to achieve a particular nutritional profile. Cribbs also said that byproducts used for cattle feed can vary depending on what's available in the region and during particular times of the year. In 2012, a report by Reuters noted that using a corn alternative like candy is a common practice when other corn alternatives are in high demand due to expense and availability.
John Waller, an animal nutrition professor at the University of Tennessee , said in a Live Science article that a livestock diet which includes byproducts from candy is perfectly fine and can even benefit the environment by reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Alternatively, Marilyn Noble of the American Grassfed Association stated in a Marketplace article that “cows were meant to eat grass, not candy."