A consumer recently sent me some marketing material put out by Purina. This is the perfect example to how words can be twisted combined with lack of information provided to consumers results in misleading information.
The Purina article is titled “What are animal by-products in dog food?” And it starts off with this video…
The Purina veterinarian Dr. Kurt Venator tells the viewer (about by-products) “we need to make sure we know what we are talking about – because there is a lot of confusion out there.” Purina turns to Dr. Marty Becker (no relation to Dr. Karen Becker) for explanation. Dr. Marty Becker tells consumers that by-products are “organ meats”. Dr. Marty Becker’s definition of by-products is only partially correct (Purina should have asked Dr. Karen Becker for the answer…she would have told the complete truth). Only one type of by-products would consist of mainly organ meats, but all other types of by-products could include many other parts of an animal.
The key to knowing if any pet food company or pet food company spokesperson is being honest with you is to understand the legal definitions of pet food ingredients. Such as the legal definition of Poultry by-products (Chicken by-products, Turkey by-products).
The legal definition of Poultry by-products allows poultry head, feet, feathers and even whole carcasses of slaughtered or non-slaughtered poultry; similar definition for Poultry by-product meal.
The legal definition of Animal by-product meal (Beef by-product meal, Pork by-product meal) allows slaughtered or non-slaughtered whole animal carcasses or any part of the animal including horn, hide, hoof, and intestines.
The legal definition of Meat by-products is a little different. Meat by-products (Beef by-products, Pork by-products) allows non-meat ingredients such as internal organs sourced from slaughtered animals (though not required to be sourced from USDA inspected and approved animals).
The Purina article goes on to state “At Purina, the by-products in our pet food are primarily made up of nutrient-rich organ meats such as lungs, spleen, liver, and kidneys.” Note the word “primarily”. Purina is stating their pet food by-products are “primarily” organ meat…but it is not exclusively organ meat as Dr. Marty Becker stated in the video.
The Purina article included this graphic…
This graphic is truthful – but ONLY specific to the ingredient “Meat by-products”. What most pet food consumers do not understand (and Purina did not explain) is that each by-product ingredient has it’s own definition and as explained above they can be very different. A “Meat By-Product” ingredient such as ‘Beef by-product’ does not include hide, hooves, horns and teeth. But, Beef by-product meal could. The word “meal” added to the definition changes everything. And if we change the word “Meat” to “Chicken” – we get another completely different definition. Chicken by-products could include feathers, beaks and feet – so could Chicken by-product meal. None of the by-product ingredient definitions require them to be sourced from USDA inspected and approved animals; all by-product ingredients are allowed through their legal definition to be sourced from rejected/condemned animal material.
Many pet food manufacturers count on consumers not understanding the legal definitions of ingredients. When consumers don’t understand – they unknowingly trust misleading information. Which is why is it vitally important that all pet food ingredient definitions become public information (a goal for 2018!). Until we reach that goal, consumers can…
- Ask their State Department of Agriculture to post all legal definitions of pet food ingredients on the State website (find your representatives here: http://www.aafco.org/Regulatory) and/or ask for a free copy of the AAFCO Official publication
- Consult this document providing consumer translation of common pet food ingredient definitions: https://truthaboutpetfood.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/AAFCOFDARegsandDefinitions.pdf
And make sure to ask your pet food manufacturer for a guarantee – in writing (and keep the email for your records) – that all ingredients are human edible. Such as ask “Are meat ingredients sourced from USDA inspected and approved animals?”
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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