Pet Food Ingredients

Is Your Pet Eating Trash Fish?

A Boise Idaho weekly newspaper – the Boise Weekly – has published a telling story of a “poorly kept secret.” “Thailand’s fishing industry – a key supplier to the US – is entangled in barbaric slavery.” Most specific, per the story, is “trash fish” – a commodity reliant on forced labor and sold to pet food/animal food industry.

From the Boise Weekly story:

Wave after wave of damning investigations — previously by GlobalPost, most recently by The Guardian — have helped reveal an underground trade in which men are press-ganged into toiling on the seas for zero pay.

Smuggled from poor villages in Myanmar or Cambodia, with promises of jobs on land, men and teen boys are instead forced onto Thai-owned boats plying distant waters. Quitting is forbidden. Disobedience is punished with beatings, dismemberment and worse.

Many of these migrants — and the Thai boatmen who lord over them — have told GlobalPost that murder on Thai trawlers is practically routine. As one Thai crewman explained: “I saw an entire foreign crew shot dead… The boss didn’t want to pay up so he lined them up on the side of the boat and shot them one by one.”

This practice’s horrors have become so well known that — after years of giving Thailand a pass — the US may announce sanctions against the Southeast Asian nation this week.

But there is one commodity churned out by this industry that’s notoriously reliant on forced labor. It’s called “trash fish” — and it’s as unpleasant as it sounds.
Trash fish doesn’t refer to a single species. It’s a catch-all term for two types of wild-caught seafood: species that are unpalatable (to human tongues, at least) and species that would grow into big, tasty fish if nets had not snared them so young.

Trash fish are only valuable once they’re ground to a mush used to produce livestock feed, pet chow, fish oil and cheap processed food.

Dog and cat food: Ground-up trash fish are a common ingredient in pet food. No investigation has linked a particular pet chow factory to forced labor but “it’s wholly reasonable to expect that trash fish may be entering supply chains producing cat food and dog food,” Trent said.

Last year, $171 million worth of dog and cat food entered the US from Thailand, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. When it comes to dog and cat food in “sealed in airtight containers” — which typically means wet pet food — Thailand is America’s top foreign supplier.

To learn if the fish ingredient in your pet’s food is sourced from Thailand and perhaps a product of slave labor, call your pet food manufacturer. It is the responsibility of each pet food manufacturer to make certain they are purchasing ingredients from not only safe suppliers, but suppliers that do not utilize slave labor and do not incorporate ‘trash fish’ in their recipes.


Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
Association for Truth in Pet Food

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June 23, 2014

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11 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Is Your Pet Eating Trash Fish?”

  1. Wolf says:

    does anyone out there have any info on whether Weruva uses such practices?

  2. Peg says:

    I was wondering about Earthborn Holistic and Tiki as well.

    I think I might forward the link with the story to the manufacturers and see if there’s a reply or response.

    Is that okay to do, Susan?

    • Susan Thixton says:

      Certainly – forward to anyone.

    • Jess says:

      I doubt a company as responsible and ethical as Weruva would use a product like this in their foods. They use human grade ingredients, and at one point the owners ate their own canned pet food for a week to prove it was safe. Their food is both processed in human grade facilities and also sourced from only human grade sources. If I am wrong please someone correct me, but this is information I heard from the owners mouth directly.

  3. Dianne says:

    Will there be no end to these stories? I am so glad you are bringing them to our attention. So will big pet food lobby to water down any sanctions?

  4. billy says:

    No… silly. Pet Food Companies would never use inferior grade garbage in pet food while charging the consumer for premium product….never. I’m sure they are all using wild caught, sushi grade products even though seafood costs are extraordinary high right now, and most people in the us can only afford to feed themselves chinese farmed tilapia and thai shrimp.

    But I”m sure our dogs and cats are eating wild caught salmon, and “whole tuna loins like they claim.

    If you think pets are eating actual white chicken breast meat, actual salmon fillets, and high quality produce- they’ve already won. It doesn’t take someone breaking a story to realize they are pulling the wool over your eyes. Use some common sense.

    • Peter says:

      Uh… yes… nicely put.

      What is it consumers expect, when the label simply says “fish” as an ingredient… right before ‘meat/poultry by-products”?

  5. Ruth Thomson says:

    Susan, once again you are informing us of valuable information about the food our furry children eat. So many thanks!!! Your service is so appreciated by this mom of Miss Kitty, our beloved rescue pit bull of 7 years. Ruthie

  6. Amy Renz says:

    Susan, as always, your coverage is spot on! Thank you for this. And Billy, we may be the only one out there, but I absolutely 100% assure you hands down, everyday of the week, twice on Sundays, hand on the “good book” and stake my life on it, we use nothing but 100% FDA-approved Wild Alaskan Salmon fillets (MSC certified – i.e. sustainable – no less) and 100% USA all-white meat USDA Grade A boneless skinless chicken breast in our jerky. I’m the CEO of Goodness Gracious and I pledge to disclose the quality and origin of our ingredients.

  7. Julie says:

    I doubt if any pet food company would even actually know if their “fish” was coming from merchants who behave like monsters. I find it hard to believe that even pet food companies are aware of such things given that they buy from the cheapest supplier who buys from a supplier who buys from yet another supplier before it actually lands in our pet’s bowl. But thank you for bringing it to light I was not aware that this specific atrocity happens, another thing I can’t do anything about that will keep me awake at night.

  8. SS says:

    Fisheries & wildlife biologist checking in here. “Trash fish” is a pretty terrible term which reflects more on the industry than the fish themselves. It means fish which aren’t profitable–or weren’t, if they’re being reused rather than tossed back (usually already dead)–while making implications which frankly aren’t supportable.

    Tilapia is an example of what used to be considered “trash” and is now easily found alongside more familiar species. There was never anything wrong with it other than that it wasn’t what people were accustomed to. “Trash fish” are a symptom of a wasteful industry, not of meat quality. And given the state of natural fisheries these days I’m much more concerned about *sustainable* fish stocks than I am about easily marketable ones.

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