Every once in a while, a news story pops up about a cargo truck tipping over and spilling mass quantities of some bizarre commodity or another on the side of the highway. Viewed from one angle, it’s a sad commentary on the inherent wastefulness of our consumer society. From another, the idea of 40,000 pounds of encased meat products being scattered across a Wisconsin roadway is hilarious.
The idea of cows chowing down on troughs full of Skittles is also both depressing and hilarious, which brings us to the reason we’re talking about all this in the first place. Last week, a truckload of red Skittles fell off of a truck and onto a rural highway in Dodge County—also in Wisconsin—on a rainy January night, leaving the road sticky and covered in melting red dots. As Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt told local ABC affiliate WISN: “There’s no little ‘S’ on them, but you can definitely smell, it’s a distinct Skittles smell.”
That ‘S’ bit turned out to be important, as it turned out that the Skittles were being sent off to serve as cattle feed because they were “defective”—i.e., had no little white ‘S’ printed on them because a power outage prevented that particular batch of candy from going all the way down the assembly line. Now Mars, the company that makes Skittles, says it’s investigating how the candy ended up being earmarked for cows in the first place.
That’s a bit disingenuous, though, because a Mars spokesperson tells the AP that the company “sells unused candies and ingredients to processors that incorporate them with other materials to make animal feed.” So it knows that this sort of thing goes on. However, the particular factory from whence these poor, unbranded Skittles came was not supposed to be selling unused products for feed; in other words, “don’t look at us, we just make the things.”
Regardless, cows eating leftover candy is nothing new. Back in 2012, CNN ran a story about farmers in Kentucky feeding their cattle “chocolate bars, gummy worms, ice cream sprinkles, marshmallows, bits of hard candy, and even powdered hot chocolate mix” due to the rising cost of corn. Humans make candy, feed it to cows, cows get fat, humans eat cows, humans get fat. It’s the circle of corn syrup.