February 27, 2011
7 Scary Things You Didn't Know about Your Pet's Food
Pet food advertising: We think of an elegant Persian cat eating out of a crystal bowl or a doggie best friend choosing a delicious variety of stew for dinner. The pet food industry gives the impression that they only use the finest ingredients -- ingredients good enough for us to eat -- for our beloved Fluffy or Fido.
But that's not the case for most pet foods. We innocently buy the stuff thinking we're feeding our cats and dogs something that's good for them. But if you think it's disgusting when your dog eats his poop or your cat starts snacking on the pile it just vomited up, it turns out the most disgusting thing your pet is eating could be what you're putting in its bowl.
Your cat or dog is a carnivore, so the main ingredient in your pet's food is meat, right? Wrong. The main ingredient in the major pet foods you buy at the grocery stores is corn. Even the ultra-expensive Science Diet has ground whole grain corn as its number one ingredient in its dog food. (So much for "formulated for overall health and wellness.") Corn and wheat, also known as dirt cheap fillers with no real nutritional value, are major ingredients commonly found in pet foods, especially dry pet food. They're also some of the most common food allergies in dogs and cats. So not only does it not do your pet any good, corn and wheat might actually make your pet sick. It was contaminated wheat gluten from China that caused kidney failure in all those cats and dogs. If you feed your pet food with lots of corn and wheat, you're turning your pet carnivore into a semi-vegetarian. When your pet vomits it up, that's just Mother Nature getting her revenge for you going against her.
Beef tallow is the hard fat from around cattle kidneys that's been rendered. That's opposed to the rendered fat from pigs which is lard (something people actually cook with and you can buy in the grocery store). But you're not going to find beef tallow on the food aisle at your nearest supermarket. Even back in the pioneer days people didn't consider tallow edible. You know what the pioneers did with beef tallow? They melted it down and made candles out of it. So if you've ever thought of your pet as the light of your life, it just might be.
5. Mystery "Meat" By-products
If the ingredient list says "meat" by-products rather than naming a specific kind of meat (beef, lamb, etc.) there's a reason they're not telling you what kind of "meat" it is. That's because it can be any kind of meat, as long as it's a mammal. It could be horse or rat. It could even be road kill. Possum stew with a side of 'coon -- sounds like something Granny would serve on "The Beverly Hillbillies." And you thought the mystery meat your school cafeteria served was bad.
4. Sick Meat
Yes, your pet food could contain sick meat from cattle that's 4 D (Diseased, Dead, Drugged or Downed prior to slaughter). The meat from any animal that's been condemned for human consumption can end up in pet food. That includes cancerous organs and infected, pus filled body parts. That's enough to make you sick just thinking about it. And we're not even the ones who have to eat it.
3. Animal Digest
If you've ever looked at the list of ingredients on pet food and seen "Animal Digest" you must have wondered what on earth "animal digest" is. It's not "Reader's Digest" about the four footed. Even when you read the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) definition, you're still going to be wondering what it is. The "enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and un-decomposed animal tissue"? What the hell is that supposed to mean? You may not want to know.
Notice it's called "animal" digest, not "meat" digest. "Animal" tissue could be any animal. As for what "tissue" means, "tissue" is anything except the hair, horn, teeth, hooves and feathers. Anything else can go right into a big tank where it's cooked into the world's most revolting soup. As Campbell says "It's mmm-mmm good!" Good for the pet food companies' profits. Not so good for your pets.
So what exactly are "by-products"? Even when it's taken from healthy animals that you would want in your pet's food like cattle and chicken, let's say it's not the good parts. "By-products" are like the challenge on "Top Chef" where the chefs had to butcher a fish, then all the good parts were taken away and the chefs had to make a dish out of the head, tail, fins and bones. Because that's exactly what happens with by-products: all of the meat's taken away and everything that's left is "by-products" including the head, the feet, blood, lungs, guts --- everything that is except the feathers, hair, horn, teeth and hooves -- let's be grateful for small favors, in this case, very small favors.
When they say it's a "Dog eat dog world" they're not kidding when it comes to the pet food industry. Euthanized cats and dogs from animal shelters are picked up by rendering plants and can be converted back into guess what? That's right. Pet food. Talk about the circle of life. Now that's the ultimate in recycling.
After reading that list, it's no wonder that there's a lawsuit, Animal Owners Seek Class Action Status in Suit Over Pet Food Additives. And if you'd like to know how your pet food stacks up, check out petfoodratings.net.
Trilby Kitty stars in "Seven Scary Things You Didn't Know about Your Pet's Food"
NOTE: Although presented in a humorous way, to the best of my knowledge everything on this list is accurate.
EDIT: 7-23-2011 Although no pet food company will acknowledge a link between dead dogs and cats and pet food, I came across an independent reference to it in an unexpected spot. I was reading Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach which mentions this on pages 246-7:
"I learned that, owing to California Clean Air Act regulations, humane societies had switched from cremating euthanized pets to what one official called "the rendering situation." I called up a rendering plant to learn into what the dogs were being rendered. "We grind 'em up and turn 'em into bone meal," the plant manager had said. Bone meal is a common ingredient in fertilizers and animal feed --- including many commercial dog foods."
I did a quick search and turned up bone meal as an ingredient in the following cat and dog foods:
Kit 'n Kaboodle
Kibbles 'n Bits
Purina Dog Chow
Find out about my cat, Trilby Kitty, "In the Mind of a Sleeping Cat" or "The Devotion of a Cat." Or read about what "Old Yeller" and "The Abyss" have in common. If you're looking for a humorous take on a dark subject check out "The (Not So) Great Zombie Apocalypse" and "4 Classicc Novels That Are Way More Depressing Than You Think They Are Based on the Movies."