Creepy Cow 6377917f05116

Getting High is the Cows’ Revenge

Nov. 17, 2022
Hemp used as cattle feed results in milk containing THC.

We already get cows drunk. Should we be getting them high too?

When my sister and her then-boyfriend ran a sort of gentleman’s farm in Virginia, her neighbors introduced her to all kinds of ungentlemanly facts about real farming. One of them told her about cows fed with sileage that ferments into alcohol while it’s sitting in the silo: “Oh yeah, them cows are drunk all the time.”

Now comes a study out of Germany looking at the effects of feeding cows with hemp that contains THC, the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. It turns out that those effects are what you’d expect. A group of cows fed hemp with relatively high THC showed changes in behavior including “pronounced tongue play, increased yawning, salivation, nasal secretion formation, prolapse and reddening of the nictitating membrane, and somnolent appearance. Some animals from [that] group displayed careful, occasionally unsteady gait, unusually long standing and abnormal posture.” No word on whether they craved Doritos.

In the absence of Dr. Doolittle, whether cows prefer getting high to getting drunk will be a question without an answer. I’m more concerned with another aspect of hemp as cattle feed: The cows’ revenge. Sort of.

With dairy cows, what comes out, as a Canadian writer has noted, has very much to do with what goes in. The German study found that that principle applies to cannabis. “Substantial levels” of THC, of up to 14 times the acute reference dose (threshold for potential health risk), were found in the milk of cows fed with high-THC hemp.

So does that mean if we get the cows high, they’ll get us high in return?

That could be fairly seen as a public health threat. But there are some who would respond: Don’t threaten me with a good time, Bessie.

About the Author

Pan Demetrakakes | Senior Editor

Pan has written about the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years. His areas of coverage have included formulations, processing, packaging, marketing and retailing. Pan worked for Food Processing Magazine for six years in the 1990s, where he was operations editor (his current role), touring dozens of food plants of every description. He has also worked for Packaging and Food & Beverage Packaging magazines, the latter as chief editor, during which he won three ASBPE awards. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a BA in communications.

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