Everything that consumers want to know about hemp-fed meat

Published Jun 27, 2020 01:00 p.m. ET
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We all want to make better lifestyle choices that have the least amount of negative impact on the planet and our health, and a good place to start is with what we eat. Various diets are now the norm, as it is not uncommon to find someone who is against all animal by-products and another that is ok with cheese, but not so much with red meat. We all have different preferences and limits, and not everyone wants to give up meat so freely, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still make other positive choices with what you eat.

Livestock such as cattle, pigs, and chickens are raised under a broad range of different conditions, and this can change depending on where you live, but it is not uncommon to see labels like free-range, or corn fed, and these facts alone are often enough to convince a customer to buy them over a cheaper alternative. We want to know that the animals that are raised for meat will flourish under the ideal conditions, and that means paying attention to what they’re given to eat.

Hemp as a livestock feed

We’ve all heard about the healthier choices that some of our nation's greatest farmers are making in regard to the care of their livestock. The people are speaking out against unjust treatment and poor living conditions, but we rarely hear about what these living creatures are getting fed. Now, some experts are saying that we’ve got it all wrong, as corn is little more than a cheap filler, a common ingredient within livestock feed and that we should be using hemp as a food supplement instead.

Wouldn’t that make them high?

Hemp is a fantastic plant that offers many of the same powerful benefits of cannabis without the high doses of THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient that induces a kind of euphoric experience. Though hemp products do tend to have traces of THC, animals eat it in its inactive form, which means that it isn’t going to get them stoned or cause issues with things like motor functions.

What kinds of livestock can be fed hemp?

Though most studies to date have been on larger livestock like cattle, technically, a variety of animals that are raised for their meat or milk could be pet portions of hemp products. Some farmers add a version of hemp hearts to their livestock feed, and others use the hemp fiber in place of the traditionally used straw. However, the most popular addition to livestock feed is typically hemp seeds, which are filled to the brim with healthy oils.

Hemp plant materials that go into feed for livestock

Literally, every single piece of the hemp plant can be used to feed livestock, though some of it is more suited to smaller species. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that cattle right across both Canada and the US grazed happily on free growing wild help plants that grew naturally in many farmer's fields. It was a normal practice that was economical, but it might have been doing more than that for both the animals and the consumers who ate the meat.

Is this a practice being used in commercial farming?

Right now, this idea is only utilized by small family-run farms and clinical researchers in Canada, and for them to use it, they pretty much have to start from scratch themselves, as there are no hemp products that are currently allowable in livestock feed in this country. The same holds true in the United States, though the passing of the hemp farm bill clearly shows that this is something that could change sooner than you might realize.

Why hemp-fed may be best

There are so many benefits to adding hemp products to your animal feed, many of which we are only beginning to completely understand, but there are some things that we know for sure like:

  • Adding hemp fiber to the diet of a dairy cow will significantly improve the amount of milk that the animal will produce.

  • Hemp fiber aids in the process of digestion and helps to keep farm animals healthy by keeping them regular.

  • Hemp is more nutritious than grass alone.

  • In the Netherlands, they are adding hemp products to livestock feed, and it has dramatically improved the overall health of livestock animals, in particular, cattle.

The downsides of feeding hemp to livestock

Some regions have banned the practice of feeding hemp products to livestock as they feared that traces of THC might make its way into the products that customers were consuming, and though to date, there is no clinical evidence of this, that is exactly the problem with using it. We don’t know very much about the benefits or the potential adverse effects that could result from feeding commercial livestock hemp, and it could be a costly mistake to find out after selling the meat and dairy products to customers.

The future may be hemp-fed

There is certainly a need for more in-depth research before we can say for sure that hemp-fed could be the best possible option out there, but things are looking pretty good as far as its potential. If proven right, this one small change could have a positive impact on the health of livestock, those that eat it, and the environment, as huge fields of hemp, could help to filter out our heavily polluted air.

It may take some time, but many are expecting hemp products to hit the livestock market as early as this year, so we’ll just have to sit back and wait and see what happens before making any rash decisions with our food supply.

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