A recent email from a Pet Parent was full of some very good questions. What should or should not be pet food ingredients? Are by-products unhealthy? Help me understand better what should go into pet food. Well…here’s my answer.
I try to respond to each email I receive (a bit challenging because I receive 100+ emails on average per day). Recently, I received the following questions from a Pet Parent…
What should/should not be ingredients? Question: In nature, among the first things to be eaten by a predator are the guts. Most animals even eat old rotting meat without problems (at least that I know of). Are you concerned with the inconsistency of the ingredients or that it is not all (if any) protein from actual meat? Are these by products unhealthy? I am concerned about toxins in the food, but meat by products are not setting off alarms with me yet. Help me understand better what should go into pet food. I am not attacking or criticizing, I really need to know. This is a serious issue and request. I will also read more on your site. I have read and heard opinions that say pet food for cats and dogs should be all protein, some say all veggies and grains. Some say they are not built to eat much else but meat, and eventually get sick without it. What do they eat and avoid in nature? If you were to be involved in manufacturing pet foods for cats and dogs that would have not toxins, no bad ingredients, and all they needed to be healthy, what would it look like for each? Sincerely, B N H
Great questions. Here’s my answers…
Pet food ingredients that could originate from non-slaughtered animals are by-product meal (any variation such as poultry by-product meal), meat meal, meat and bone meal, animal digest, and animal fat. Non-slaughtered animals would include animals that were euthanized and animals that died of disease. For starters, federal food safety laws (specifically the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) states very specifically that NO food, human food or animal food, can contain any part of an animal that is a non-slaughtered animal. Section 402 A (5) of The Act “A food shall be deemed to be adulterated (5) if it is, in whole or in part, the product of a diseased animal or of an animal which has died otherwise than by slaughter”.
The FDA allows all animal food producers (including pet food) the privilege to by-pass these federal food safety laws by use of Compliance Policies. FDA Compliance Policies tell pet food it’s ok, acceptable, to include diseased animals, euthanized animals, rodent or insect infested foods all to be processed into pet food and other animal foods. The FDA has no legal authority to ignore these laws, it just happens that no one has bothered to stop them. To be honest, this very issue is not solely a pet food concern – it is a human food concern as well. It’s pretty simple, animals fed a diet of waste, rodent or pesticide infested food, and/or a slew of chemicals are not going to produce healthy meat. You are what you eat. Until someone of authority (FDA, Congress, the President) realizes that by continuing to allow animal feed to violate federal food safety law, the quality of the food we all eat will continue to fall.
Euthanized animals processed into pet food ingredients would also include the lethal drug used to kill the animal. FDA’s own testing found the euthanizing drug pentobarbital in dog foods purchased from grocery stores and pet stores. The euthanizing drug is not destroyed in the process of rendering the animal. Thus, pets consuming a pet food that included ingredients sourced from euthanized animals would also be consuming a deadly drug.
The pet food ingredient by-product (not by-product meal) is not rendered and according to AAFCO definitions must come from slaughtered animals. According to AAFCO definition, the ingredient is not meat; it consists of other parts of slaughtered animals not common to or not suitable for human consumption.
Healthy internal organs from slaughtered animals, such as liver and heart, are great sources of nutrients for dogs and cats. BUT, what could also be included in this pet food ingredient is the concern. Cancerous tissues cut away from slaughtered animals can be by-products, injection sites in animal tissues cut away from slaughtered animals can be by-products, diseased livers and kidneys can become by-products. A pet owner purchasing a pet food with by-products in the ingredient list has no guarantee the by-products came from healthy animals, healthy tissues or diseased animals and/or diseased tissues.
What I believe dogs and cats should eat is a variety of wholesome food. Some meat and fish, some internal organs, some vegetables (more for dogs). No rejected for use in human food, no euthanized, diseased, or downer animals should become pet food. If you can afford all organic, by all means do it!
I am involved in manufacturing pet food – sort of, I ‘manufacture’ my own pets food. And I practice what I preach. I give them chicken, beef, duck, fish, oysters, clams, chicken livers and hearts, beef liver, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, sweet potato and a lot more. And I don’t even like to cook! It’s not hard, but its time consuming.
I hope this explains it. The difference between pets consuming the leftovers from the industrial processing of food and a wild animal consuming road kill are two completely different things. Plus, its not a violation of federal law when a wild animal consumes dead prey…but it is a violation of federal law when pet foods contain euthanized animals or diseased animals. Problem is, nobody at the FDA seems to care.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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