A (infuriating) lesson of pet food regulations.
What do you think – which pet food ingredient has more definitions surrounding it, Alfalfa or Chicken? Pet food ingredient definitions are supposed to clarify exactly what is (what should be) used in your pet’s food. So, what do you think – did regulatory authorities give more clarity to Alfalfa or Chicken?
The answer is alfalfa.
Why should that be of any concern to pet owners? What difference does it make? Clarity to pet owners. Clarity to exactly what is included in their pet’s food.
Below are the different definitions and specifications for Alfalfa (a minimal ingredient found far down the ingredient list) in pet food/livestock feed as compared to Chicken (a major ingredient in pet food found first or high on the ingredient list):
Notice under Dehydrated Alfalfa the definitions even clarify protein and fiber content “for the various grades of alfalfa”. We have no such clarity for the most commonly used ingredients in pet foods – meat ingredients.
How many clarification definitions should we have for the pet food ingredient chicken?
Based on what the current (2019) definition of chicken allows…a lot of clarification is needed. The AAFCO legal definition of pet food chicken is:
T9.57 Poultry is the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of slaughtered poultry, or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and viscera. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto. If the bone has been removed, the process may be so designated by use of the appropriate feed term. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. (Proposed 1978, Adopted 1979, Amended 1995, Amended 1997)
The existing definition of chicken requires it to be sourced from ‘slaughtered’ poultry – but currently AAFCO has no definition of slaughter, thus anything could be accepted. The existing definition of chicken holds no requirement to be USDA inspected and passed chicken (as human food is required), thus condemned and non-inspected are allowed into pet food. And significantly, the legal definition of chicken does not require the ingredient to be meat, skin and bones (no meat) are still considered to be ‘chicken’ in pet food.
All of the possibilities of ‘Chicken’ in your pet’s food look like this (the first column are requirements of Human Grade pet foods, while any of the below could be in feed grade pet foods):
The same is true for the ingredient Chicken Meal. Every variable above could be rendered, becoming Chicken Meal and pet owners are provided no clarification to what exactly is in a Chicken Meal ingredient. As was exampled by the Purina vs Blue Buffalo lawsuit several years ago, Chicken Meal has the potential to include just about any part of a chicken with no one the wiser (until they get caught by a competitor).
And unfortunately, there are similar variables for Beef and Pork and Lamb and every other meat ingredient or meat meal ingredient in pet food. Pet owners are provided NO clarity to what type of chicken or beef or pork (and so on) is used in their pet’s food.
If clarity can be provided to Alfalfa ingredients, it certainly should be provided for all meat ingredients in pet food. Pet owners deserve to be informed what they are purchasing.
An initial email was sent today to AAFCO’s Pet Food Ingredient Definitions Committee asking how we can achieve meat ingredient clarity for pet owners. We asked for instructions on what AAFCO needs from us (via Association for Truth in Pet Food – our pet owner stakeholder association) to proceed.
In the meantime, feel free to contact your State Department of Agriculture (members of AAFCO). Tell them you want ingredient definitions to provide clarity – USDA inspected and passed, condemned, non-inspected and clarity to muscle meat or bones or skin that is included in your pet’s food. Click Here to go to the AAFCO website Regulatory page, click on your state, and contact information is provided for your representatives.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
Become a member of our pet food consumer Association. Association for Truth in Pet Food is a a stakeholder organization representing the voice of pet food consumers at AAFCO and with FDA. Your membership helps representatives attend meetings and voice consumer concerns with regulatory authorities. Click Here to learn more.
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