More to the Science Diet vs. Blue Buffalo Story
Science Diet Pet Food has taken issue to Blue Buffalo Pet Food’s advertising; the riff between these two pet food companies has been turned over to the Federal Trade Commission for further investigation. When you consider information provided by AAFCO, the Science Diet complaint makes no sense at all; however the AAFCO information does confirm how crazy the pet food industry really is.
The riff between pet food giant Science Diet and relative new comer Blue Buffalo has been flying under the radar of major media. Science Diet Pet Food filed an advertising ‘challenge’ with the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division. The ‘challenge’ is based on Blue Buffalo’s advertising claim their pet foods contain no by-products. Science Diet challenged this claim stating ingredients such as liver can be defined by pet food regulations as a by-product; Science Diet also complained about Blue Buffalo’s superiority claim (to read the initial story, click here).
The riff between these two pet food companies seems basically frivolous, however, upon further investigation there are some very good lessons to be learned from it. For starters, this issue teaches us to ask more questions about the pet food ingredient chicken meal.
AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) defines a poultry meal as: “the dry rendered product from a combination of clean flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts of whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet, and entrails. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”
Chicken meal (or any poultry meal) provides a higher protein percentage by weight versus a chicken (or any poultry) ingredient. Any meat (chicken, turkey, beef, and so on) contains a high amount of moisture; anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of the weight of the ingredient is nothing more than water. Since pet food ingredients are listed in order of pre-cooking weight, heaviest to lightest, the moisture weight in the meat itself can make the ingredient ‘chicken’ be listed as a first ingredient on the pet food label, yet this moisture does not provide any added nutrition. The pet food ingredient chicken meal on the other hand, with the moisture removed, would provide more protein in the food than a chicken ingredient containing added moisture. When the ingredient chicken meal (or any poultry meal) is listed high on the pet food ingredient list, it is believed to provide more actual meat protein to the pet.
However, as the AAFCO definition of a chicken meal points out (the foundation for one of the claims of the Science Diet complaint against Blue Buffalo), chicken meal and all poultry meals can include bits and pieces of poultry that can also be classified as by-products such as chicken liver, heart, lungs, and other internal organs. Also, the AAFCO definition states ‘it shall be suitable for use in animal food’, which means that 4-D poultry (dead, diseased, disabled, and dying) that are rejected for use in human food can be used in the pet food ingredient chicken meal (these 4-D animals can also be included in ‘chicken’ or other poultry ingredients). Although chicken meal provides a dense source of animal protein, there is no assurance of the quality of the protein source and there is no assurance if the chicken meal would include animal parts that are considered by AAFCO to be by-products.
AAFCO is even confused over what animal parts are considered by-products. When questioned about the Science Diet and Blue Buffalo riff, Teresa Crenshaw, Vice Chair of AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee, provided me the following information…
“Some state feed control officials believe that all pet food ingredients are “by-products” since the ingredients are usually diverted from those used for human food. I think that’s a bit excessive. Some ingredients in pet foods do come directly from those used for human food; however, some companies argue that ingredients that may fit the definition of “by-products” are really the ingredients of first choice and are not secondary ingredients. For example, fish meal is dried fish with or without the oil extracted. The fish may be diverted from the human food chain, or the fish may go directly from the fishing boat to the pet food manufacturer. Would fish meal be a by-product? I suppose it could be a by-product, but it could also be argued that it is not. AAFCO has not identified every ingredient that could be a by-product, and I think that would be an impossible task since we all have varied opinions. Ingredients such as “meat by-products” and “poultry by-products” are easy to identify as by-products, but it may not be so easy to identify other by-product ingredients.”
If AAFCO is confused on what exactly a by-product is or isn’t, how in the world can a pet owner determine the quality of a pet food?
Ask your pet food manufacturer more questions. If your pet’s food contains the ingredient chicken meal (or similar poultry meal), ask if the meal contains muscle meat only or if it also contains internal organs. Ask again, if the meat is classified as a human grade of meat or pet grade of meat; pet grade of meat can be 4-D animals. Ask your pet food manufacturer if the chicken or chicken meal is ‘diverted’ from human food processing or if the chicken or chicken meal is of the same quality as human food.
Until AAFCO bothers to define human grade/quality meat used in pet foods, and until the FDA enforces existing laws, we continue to be forced to ask questions.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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