‘People Food’ For Cows Means Tastier Steaks

"...an unusual toasted cheddar note, and it’s a little sweet.”


By Tracy Mastaler, Western Journalism

August 9, 2017


Parents have to decide about the snacking habits of their kids. Pet owners have to decide about whether to give their animals “people food.”


Now livestock owners have something to think about too.


It turns out that cows enjoy a good party mix as much as humans, and a cow fed a good party mix yields an even better steak.


This snack theory has been proven by the cattle at Herr Angus Farms in West Nottingham, located in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where cows enjoy a mix of potato chips, popcorn, corn chips, peanuts and cheese curls mashed up and added to their hay.


“We call it steer party mix,” says Dennis Byrne, who since 1985 has been the manager at Herr Angus Farms, a division of the snack company Herr Foods Inc., located nearby.


Before the farm was established, Herr’s paid to have snacks that did not meet its quality control standards hauled away. When the farm became operational in 1983, Herr’s began incorporating the leftovers into the cow feed, saving the company fees on waste removal and lowering the cost of sustaining livestock.


The farm was created as a recycling unit for the Herr’s factory after Jim Herr decided that the 500,000 gallons of water used daily for scrubbing potatoes should be reused to irrigate nearby pasture land. Utilizing the less-than-perfect snacks to feed cows became another of the company’s recycling efforts.


While the cattle at Herr Angus Farms are feasting on salty snacks, farmers elsewhere have been treating their cows to a sugar rush.


In January, hundreds of thousands of what appeared to be red Skittles spilled from a truck on a country road in Dodge County, Wisconsin. The candy was apparently being transported to farmers who have been feeding it to their cows for decades.


In 2012, when the price of corn surged and farmers were seeking a more affordable way to feed their cattle, the practice of adding candy and sweets to their diets became more prevalent. Such treats included chocolate bars, gummy worms, ice cream sprinkles, marshmallows, bits of hard candy, powdered hot chocolate mix, crumbled cookies, breakfast cereal, trail mix, dried cranberries and orange peelings mixed with traditional feed.


“(It) is a very good way for producers to reduce feed cost, and to provide less expensive food for consumers,” Ki Fanning, a livestock nutritionist with Great Plains Livestock Consulting, said at the time.


While feeding candy to cattle might help the bottom lines of farmers, feeding them salty snacks has turned out to produce tastier steaks, according to Charles Parker, executive chef at Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia, which serves beef from cattle raised on Herr Angus Farms.


“It’s something really special. The quality is excellent,” Parker said. “We also see this as an opportunity to offer our guests a super local product.”


Parker said that the taste has a “pronounced beefy flavor that is stronger than typical beef, but milder than lamb. I think the pasture contributes that dominant flavor. The party-mix finishing feed lends the more subtle things. For example, it has an unusual toasted cheddar note, and it’s a little sweet.”


Herr’s beef is also sold by South Philadelphia third-generation butcher Domenick J. Crimi at his shop, Cappuccio’s Meats, in the Italian Market.


“For the best cuts — rib-eye, porterhouse — there’s usually a waiting list,” Crimi said...