A common ingredient found in dog food and cat food is by-products. When you look at your pet food or pet treat label, you might see by-product, chicken by-product, turkey by-product meal, or a few more variations. Most pet owners have never been told exactly what by-products are. If you don’t know – don’t feel bad about it…my guess is that even the pet food manufacturers themselves can’t tell you exactly what by-products are in their own brand of pet food.
To give you an understanding of by-products, I’d like to compare it to pies. How many different types of pies you can think of? There are apple pies, cherry pies, chocolate pies, meringue pies, meat pies, mud pies, pie in math, cow pies (yuck!) – I think you get my point. Now imagine if you were to purchase your dinner at the grocery and you looked at the ingredients and you see ‘pie’ listed as the first ingredient in your dinner. You wouldn’t know if it was apple pie or mud pie or even cow pie. All you would know is that your dinner contained ‘pie’. I’d guess if you knew that ‘pie’ could be any kind of pie – you wouldn’t be buying your dinner with ‘pie’ listed in the ingredients.
Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about ‘pie’ being a puzzling ingredient in people food. But there is the worry of the ‘pie’ ingredient in pet food – and that’s by-products.
Wikipedia describes a by-product as “a secondary or incidental product deriving from a manufacturing process,…”
The AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials – the organization responsible for all animal feed manufacturing rules and regulations) defines by-products as “meat by-products is the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth, and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”
So, with respect to pet food – a by-product is a catch-all ingredient name. My guess would be that AAFCO decided that ‘chicken lungs’ or ‘cow intestines’ listing on a pet food label wouldn’t sound very appealing to the pet owner. Probably wouldn’t sell a lot of that food.
Instead, all these less than appealing left-overs are clumped into one ingredient name – by-product. There is NO certainty of what you are feeding – one batch of pet food might be more intestine by-products while the next batch of pet food might be more liver or bone by-products. There is NO consistency to what is actually contained in the pet food ingredient by-product.
Without consistency of ingredients, there is no consistency to the quality of nutrition. Without consistency of quality nutrition, there is no consistency to your pet’s health.
The Center for Veterinary Medicine states that “animal feeds provide a practical outlet for plant and animal by-products not suitable for human consumption.” I can only imagine the conversation when that decision was made…’what are we going to do with all these left over intestines and spleens? Ah, what the heck, let’s put them in pet food. We’ll call it something else – no one will know – and then we don’t have to go through the expense and trouble of getting rid of the stuff.’
Personally I hope there will soon be a day for truth in pet food labeling. If some manufacturers are going to put intestines and spleen in their foods and treats – ok, just tell us. If you’ve got a clinical study showing pets thriving on these left-overs – show us your results. Just don’t put this stuff in my pet’s food bowl and tell me it’s premium and choice.
Please read your pet’s food and treat labels. Read the ingredients. Say bye, bye to by-products!
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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