Since Barry’s passing, I’ve invested a lot of time into reading books about pet care. My house is in the middle of a remodel, and its not exactly ready for a new addition to the family. Its been about a month since he died, and I think I could use a new friend, but I’m realizing everyday that I have a lot to learn about how to truly take care of a loved pet.
I read Natural Pet Care: How To Improve Your Animal’s Quality of Life by Gary Null, and he painted quite a picture in the first chapter about the pet food industry. He says around the 1940s, the food industry was trying to find a way to dispose of its “wastes” – rejected animals or parts of animals from the meat packing industry. When you see a can or bag of dog food and it says “byproduct”, Null says, “what you are likely to find … are the contaminated or condemned remains of ‘4D’ animals—that means dead, dying, diseased, or disabled livestock.” Most byproducts are made in “rendering plants”, which could also include dead animals from shelters and even veterinary clinics who dispose of dead pets.
I’ll be honest, it seemed a little too extreme. The reference article he uses is an Animal Protection Institute report from 2000 called What’s Really in Pet Food?, and an article from The Toronto Star called “Pet Food or Poison?” from 1998.
I wanted to find a newer resource that talked about this, which I found in the Dogs Naturally July-August 2014 issue. According to the article, there are two kinds of meat in the pet food industry: Mechanically-separated meat and Denatured meat. And I quote:
“So what is mechanically separated meat? And how is it separated? This is a process used both in human food production and pet food production. The left over carcass is ground down to a paste-like product, then put through a high pressure sieve to extract the meat from the bones. Any bone particles should be caught by the sieve. With this process there are tendons, veins, and arteries that are ground up as well.”
The article made a note that nowhere in the AAFCO guidelines is there a reference to where the meat comes from. However, in order to make the food more “appealing”, they add “artificial colors and flavors… and to make it bacteria free, the meat is treated with ammonium peroxide.”
What the hell. This just can’t be right.
Denatured meat, if possible, sounds even worse. This is the kind of meat that Gary Null was referencing when describing meat that is not intended to be eaten by humans. Apparently, there are no rules about pets. Chemicals are used to “denature” these meats, such as crude carbolic acid, cresylic disinfectant, charcoal, and about 25 other things that I definitely don’t want my dog around, let alone in his stomach.
Amy Budd, the author of the article, describes an experience while trying to buy meat from a USDA facility, and was not allowed out of the plant with the meat after the facility realized she wanted to use it for pet food. The meat they had sold her was inedible for any animal, and had to be denatured before feeding it to dogs. Pet food companies are not required to put on the label which kind of meat they use.
Budd also talks about how the food is labeled, saying that “there is no such thing as ‘hormone free’ or ‘antibiotic free’ meat”, that the labels are only allowed to say that there are no added hormones or antibiotics. She ends that article with her “ugly truth”: pet food manufacturers simply don’t care about quality materials, only their profits. But our loved ones are paying the price. You can read Dogs Naturally’s online article about it here.
I fed Barry Pedigree wet food and Rachel Ray’s brand dog kibble. Pedigree’s website says chicken and meat byproducts, and a bunch of stuff I can barely spell. Pedigree has a 1-star rating on this dog food analysis website, and there is a less than glowing review on Pedigree on petfoodtalk.com. I also found an article about Pedigree’s Adult Nutrition recall for “metal fragments” found in their food. That was this last August.
Even though Rachel Ray’s pet food got a marginally better score (3 stars), the review says it has too many fillers, and many dogs have allergies to the corn and ground wheat flour. The primary ingredients in the food. /facepalm
I’ll be talking about corn and soy later, otherwise this might turn into a novel.
Among this list of dog food recalls were Purina, Iams, Eukanuba, Nature’s Recipe, and several other brands that I recognize. They’re sold everywhere! I see them every single time I go to the grocery store. On the other hand, I can’t recognize a single one of these brands, and these are supposed to be the top rated pet foods available.
I’m in shock. I can’t even believe that I was feeding this to my dog! Well, enough’s enough. Settle in everyone, I’ve found a new category for my blog here: Pet food that our dogs deserve.