Real Meat or Fake Meat Pet Food? Consumers Should be Told
It’s one thing if a canned pet food is a meat loaf type, but it is another thing entirely if a pet food is meat chunks and gravy – and those meat chunks are fabricated…fake meat. Pet food is not required to tell consumers if the meat is real or fake, but they should.
Today’s food science industry has close to mastered the ability to manufacture fake meat. Made with vegetable proteins and gums (no meat), fake meat products have been developed to have the same texture and the “right chew” properties of meat.
Below is a video of how a human food fake meat product is made (Beyond Meat chicken strips)…
In a human food product, the manufacturer must disclose to the consumer if the meat is fake or real. But in pet food…the consumer is not told.
In a loaf style wet pet food, consumers understand that the loaf is not 100% meat. It is similar to meat loaf that we prepare for our family. We know from personal experience that meat loaf is made using multiple ingredients (ground meat, bread crumbs, egg, seasoning, and sauce). Using the example above, this Fancy Feast Tender Beef and Chicken Feast canned cat food is loaf style.
But pet food being the mysterious secretive world that it is, when consumers see this type of pet food…
…they would have no thought that the displayed pieces of meat in the pet food could actually be fabricated meat.
Fabricated meat pieces in pet food is a well protected industry secret. The Beyond Meat product (from the video) uses no meat – all vegetable proteins to fabricate their ‘chicken’ or ‘beef’ products. But pet food utilizes some meat (meat slurry), various vegetable proteins (wheat gluten, corn starch, pea protein and/or soy protein) and sometimes gums (carrageenan) – this concoction is then extruded (cooked with pressure and steam to produce the meat-like texture) and finally added into the canned pet foods as ‘meat’. The fabricated meat pieces look almost identical to actual meat.
How would a consumer know if the pet food is made with real pieces of chicken or beef or made with fabricated meat pieces? They wouldn’t. The pet food industry is not required to tell the consumer if the chunks of meat are actual meat, or a fabricated meat product.
Which one of the two pictures below is real grilled chicken strips? Which one is fake meat?
The one on the right is real chicken. The chicken on the left is 100% fake chicken (Beyond Meat).
So…if it is challenging to spot a fabricated meat visually, how can we tell if our pet’s food is made with real meat or fabricated meat?
We can’t with any certainty. We can make assumptions based on a little detective work – but there is no certain fool-proof way to determine if your pets food is made with real meat or fabricated fake meat. Basically, the pet food industry is allowed to deceive consumers by using fabricated meat product pretending the pet food is made with real meat pieces.
The following letter was sent to FDA and to AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee…
Pet food consumers want to know and understand what they are buying for their pet. One area of pet food that consumers have no clue to what they are purchasing is with canned foods.
Many canned pet foods utilize an extruded or fabricated meat. These meat ‘chunks’ have the texture of real meat (100% meat) – but they are not. Instead of 100% real meat chunks, many ‘meats’ in canned pet foods are a meat product made with some animal protein, added gums or vegetable thickeners and then this concoction is extruded to produce a meat product with similar appearance to real meat.
The pet food label might list all ingredients used in the extruded fabricated meat (example: beef, wheat gluten, soy or pea protein,…), however most consumers have no idea that the ‘meaty chunks’ within the pet food are not 100% meat chunks. How would they know? There is no requirement for manufacturers to disclose this information to any consumer. This extruded meat process is a well protected industry secret.
Representing our pet food consumer members, Association for Truth in Pet Food asks FDA and AAFCO to establish a requirement of disclosure by the pet food manufacturer informing consumers if meat chunks in pet foods are 100% meat or if the product includes extruded fabricated meat chunks.
ATPF is not placing judgment on extruded meat pet foods, and we are not asking FDA or AAFCO to place judgement on these products. We are simply asking authorities to require an extruded meat disclosure by the manufacturer on the product label allowing the consumer to make informed purchases. We suggest ‘includes fabricated meat product’ as a pet food label disclosure statement to properly inform consumers.
There is a significant difference between 100% meat chunks and fabricated meat chunks. Consumers deserve the ability to quickly and clearly understand which they are purchasing. We ask FDA and AAFCO to promptly require pet food manufacturers to disclose to consumers which they are buying – real or fake meat pet food.
Representing consumer members of Association for Truth in Pet Food,
I don’t know if FDA or AAFCO will agree that this is an issue that consumers deserve to know about. I don’t know if they will require pet food to disclose the use of fabricated fake meat. All we can do is ask, and hope they understand that consumers deserve to know what they are purchasing. While we wait for a disclosure requirement from authorities, consumers can…
- Ask your pet food manufacturer if the meat in your pet food is 100% meat chunks or if the meat is an extruded meat product. However, it is doubtful they will disclose their use of extruded meat products. I’ve asked several companies that I suspected to be an extruded meat product and none have admitted to their use.
- One clue is the price of the pet food. As example a pet food that appears to be made with chicken or beef chunks that sells at retail for $0.30 or $0.40 an ounce, is very suspect of being made from an extruded fabricated meat.
- If a ‘with gravy’ style pet food includes wheat gluten, or soy proteins, or corn gluten, or gums – it is suspect the vegetable binders or gums are included to fabricate an extruded meat. These vegetable proteins or gums are common to loaf style foods (used as binders to hold the food to a loaf shape), but their use in a ‘gravy’ style pet food would not be required/necessary.
When/if I hear a response from FDA and AAFCO, it will be shared.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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