Thursday, March 27, 2008

DDGS and E. Coli

With the increasing amount of ethanol being produced, DDGS (dried distillers grains and solubles), seemed to be a great way for the ethanol plant to make a little extra money on the side and for livestock farmers to possibly offset some of the negative pricing pressures that corn-based ethanol places on their input costs. I know of a lot of farmers in this area interested in using DDGS blended into livestock feed as a cheap additive. But a Kansas State University report a few months ago brought up the possibility of a connection between the DDGS and e. coli occurrence in cattle. First of all, if the meat is prepared correctly there is absolutely no connection between possible e. coli abundance and food poisoning. Second, e. coli and other bacteria are commonly found within the animal digestive track and several are necessary for the animal's nutrition.
What's interesting is that no other research team had seen a similar connection between DDGS use and increased e. coli abundance. Today, the exact same group from K-State University announced the completion of a follow-up study which found that there is absolutely no connection between DDGS and e. coli. Don't ask me how someone screwed this one up in the first place but hopefully someone lost their job over it. The fact of the matter is that in this period where there is a highly charged debate over alternative fuels, (and rightly so), the public reaction to these studies can be enormous and the clean-up becomes a daunting task. This is why knee-jerk reactions to these studies are unwise at best. Hopefully this finding will allow farmers who are in a position to purchase DDGS without fear of e. coli proliferation and the pros and cons of ethanol can continue to be vetted correctly in the realm of science.

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