Yesterday, I posted about how feeding cattle distillers grains — the leftover from the corn-based ethanol process — seems to raise the incidence of E. coli 0157.

I was a bit vague on precisely how much of the stuff was making it into the livestock-feed supply. Thanks to the indefatigable Ray Wallace, I now know. The answer is: a boatload, and growing.

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Ray pointed me to an account of a letter sent by the National Corn Growers Association to the USDA. In it, NCGA Chairman Ken McCauley argues that the USDA should continue its practice of barely regulating the distillers grains market. McCauley boasts that:

More than 12 million metric tons of distillers grains were produced and sold in 2006/07, up from 8.4 million metric tons in 2005/06. Distillers grains production is expected to top 17 million metric tons in 2007/08.

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Wow. That means that in the current year, distillers grains use is more than twice what it was just two years ago. Maybe we should think a little harder before dumping 17 million metric tons of this stuff into the feed supply?