Did you know that almost every single ingredient in your pet’s food has an alternate meaning very different than the same ingredient in human food? And did you know those alternate meanings are privately owned…not public information?
One of the most important things for consumers to understand about pet food takes us back to an elementary school lesson…homonyms. Homonyms are words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but have different meanings. As example the word ‘bark’ is a homonym. Bark on a tree is spelled and pronounced the same as the bark of a dog – but both words have completely different meanings.
Just like ‘bark’ – pet food is a homonym in many, many instances.
When ‘chicken’ is listed on the label of a human food, we all understand the word chicken means meat (chicken meat).
And we all understand that when ‘chicken’ is listed on the label of a human food the meat has gone through required inspection to provide us assurance it is safe to consume.
Without really thinking about it, our brains automatically understand that chicken listed on the label of food means chicken meat is in that food and that chicken meat has been inspected to assure us the food is safe.
And…should we ever want to read the laws governing all of our food, we can easily access the federal laws of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to learn everything we want to know about food law. It’s right on the Internet – free of charge – public information.
Now the homonym part. It is very, very different in pet food.
(Pet Food) Chicken:
Just as example, look at the label of Rachael Ray’s Nutrish Pet Food… the name of the pet food is “Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe”…
When ‘chicken’ is listed on the label of a pet food, especially when pictures of human food chicken is displayed and of course when ‘Real Chicken’ is included in the name…just like with human food, we naturally believe that the chicken in the pet food is the same as the chicken we understand…inspected, safe to consume, and meat. It’s real chicken…right?
No, not necessarily. Chicken in pet food has a very different meaning than chicken in human food, in fact chicken in pet food has it’s own distinct definition that is very different than human food chicken. Pet food chicken can be inspected, safe to consume meat just like human food (above)…but it does NOT have to be. Pet food chicken can also be this…
The legal definition/meaning of chicken used in pet food is very different than chicken in human food; ‘chicken’ is a homonym when comparing human food chicken to pet food chicken. Chicken in pet food is NOT required to be meat – pet food ‘chicken’ can be just skin and bones (very little to no meat). And pet food ‘chicken’ is NOT required to be inspected to assure it is safe to consume – in fact, pet food ‘chicken’ can be condemned chicken (illegal in human food).
Any pet food (excluding human grade pet food) from grocery store brands to high priced specialty pet store brands that contain chicken – can contain any of the above three options for chicken (or a combination thereof) because the alternate pet food meaning/definition of chicken includes all of these types of chicken. No consumer is ever told which chicken is included in their pet’s food.
Human food chicken and pet food chicken are spelled the same and pronounced the same..but the ingredient has very, very different meanings when used in human food or when used in pet food. Chicken is a homonym.
It’s not just chicken.
Beef, pork, turkey, lamb, fish…just about every single ingredient in a pet food (excluding human grade pet foods) have their own alternate meaning/definition that is specific to pet food. And every single ingredient and the finished product (the pet food) is held to a completely different standard of food safety law than if they were used in or as a human food.
It gets worse…
The laws governing human food are public information. Any consumer can search through the laws to discover what can or cannot be included in their food. But…
The laws governing pet food and pet food ingredients are private…corporately owned (AAFCO owns the legal definitions of pet food – they are copyright protected). Any consumer wishing to read the laws governing pet food – what can or cannot be included in pet food – and read all of those alternate meanings/definitions of pet food ingredients would have to pay $100 a year to access them.
Pet food does not abide by food law (the only exception is human grade pet food); pet food follows a completely different set of laws than (human) food. Those laws are not public information.
Almost every single pet food ingredient has an alternate meaning/definition that is not the same as in human food. Those alternate meanings are not public information.
And some ingredients are specific to pet food/animal food (not used in human food at all). All of the meanings of those animal food only ingredients are not public information.
The exception is human grade pet foods (pet foods that state Human Grade) on the label. The reason these pet foods are the exception is because each of their ingredients are the human food chicken or any other ingredient that we are familiar with. These pet foods are required by law to use the common definition of chicken, not the alternate pet food specific definition of chicken. Human grade pet foods are not homonyms.
Don’t accept the pet food label telling you it is “real chicken” (or real any other ingredient). Remember the homonyms. ‘Real’ means real pet food chicken, not necessarily the same real chicken you are familiar with.
Ask your pet food manufacturer if food ingredients meet all laws applicable to food (not pet food laws – human food laws). Ask if meats are inspected and approved for human consumption. Ask if fruits and vegetables are human edible. Ask if supplements are human edible or feed grade (feed grade is not food – not allowed in food). If any ingredient is not human edible, it is a homonym with a different meaning.
Consumers deserve the right to public access of pet food laws and public access to alternate meanings of pet food ingredients. Call your State Department of Agriculture and ask them to provide you with a copy of the AAFCO Official Publication and/ask them to provide you the full laws governing pet food and the complete list of pet food ingredient definitions on the state website.
We deserve to know. No consumer should be forced into a situation to blindly purchase a food without knowing what they are buying.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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