…The carnivore asks, "what’s really in that bag?" As you may recall in part one of this blog we posed the question “if nutrition is the foundation of good health then why is only one week of study dedicated to this subject in the eight years it takes to become a vet”?
Our discovery left us with an even larger onslaught of questions or rather really frustrating observations such as:
- How confusing the label is on a bag of a commercial pet food
- How cleverly misleading the pet food ads are on television
- The lack of regulations surrounding pet food manufacturing
- The appalling reality of animal cruelty involved with factory farming, not to mention the intense environmental impact it has on our planet
- The exorbitant amount of money the commercial pet food industry brings in each year in relation to how little they spend on the most important element, the ingredients
I mean, holy smokes – we’re talking about a real machine here, responsible for driving a grand divide between how the information of commercial dog foods are portrayed to us, versus what the actual ingredients are that go into commercial dog food…and then there is the topic of who is responsible for the grand divide…
So in order to keep this a straightforward blog post as opposed to a book of small essays, let us break this down into a “Who, how, what” of Commercial Dog Food.
Who are the main producers of commercial dog food?
The top five commercial dog food companies are:
- Mars Pet Care – Royal Canin, Pedigree, Whiskas, Cesar
- Nestle Purina Pet Care – Proplan, Beneful, Alpo, Dog Chow
- Proctor and Gamble Pet Care – Iams, Eukanuba
- Hills Pet Care – Science Diet, Hills, Prescription Diet
- Del Monte Pet Products – Milk Bone, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Pup-peroni, Meaty Bone, Milo’s Kitchen, Gravy Train, Jerky Treats, Snausages
How the media portrays commercial dog foods to us:
Whole roasted chicken, prime cuts of beef, fresh fruit and vegetables all wrapped up in a shiny package. Pulling in an estimated $19 billon in sales in 2011, the commercial pet food industry has got it in the bag! Advertising works, even when it’s misleading.
What is actually in that bag?
As we concluded in part I of our nutrition quest, our aim is to help you make informed decisions by providing you with the facts. During my research to find these facts it became very apparent that what is in the bag is not at all what is advertised.
And before I begin, it is worth stressing; the following is shocking and not necessarily appropriate if you have a weak stomach. Here we go…
Rendering companies in the US pick up 100 million pounds of “waste material” everyday to be turned into pet food. This “waste” includes: heads, feet, stomachs, intestines, spinal cords, tails, bones, contaminated blood, feathers and restaurant grease rejected by slaughterhouses. Okay, so far, besides the contaminated blood, feathers and restaurant grease, some of these ingredients sound somewhat edible by carnivore standards.
Then, 4D animals are thrown into the mix: What the heck are 4D animals you ask? Disturbingly the 4 D’s stand for Dead, Dying, Diseased and Disabled animals. We are talking cancerous cow, contaminated swine, decaying lamb nothing is off limits. They throw it all in there.
Then add a little road kill, dead zoo animals and expired grocery store meat (including the styrofoam packaging).
But here is the kicker: 6 to 7 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year and brought to these rendering plants. Besides introducing qusai cannibalism, trace amounts of the drugs used in the procedure- pentobarbital and phenytoin have been found in kibble. The drugs have proven to be resilient to the cooking process. Because the amount of companion animals in each rendering vat varies, so does the amount of these toxins.
Although pet food companies claim they do not buy from rendering plants that accept dog and cat, the rendering industry acknowledges it would be impossible for the purchaser to know what exact raw material they are buying. After processing dog, cat and chicken are almost identical.
Another ‘how’ question: How is this possible?
Rendering persists because it provides an essential service: disposing of millions of pounds of dead animals. Advocates of rendering claim that there is no other way to dispose of these dead animals. Dr. William Heuston, formerly associate Dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, argues that disposing of animals via landfills would create a “Colossal public health problem, because dead animals are the ideal medium for bacteria. Cost and potential air pollution problems preclude burning the animal carcasses”.
Oh, I get it; instead we feed it to our companion animals…What? Is anyone else alarmed by this?
Pet food manufacturers have become masters at inducing our companion animals to eat “food” and I use that word lightly, they would normally turn their nose up at. Pet food scientists have learned that it is possible to take a mixture of inedible scraps, fortify it with artificial vitamins and minerals, spray it with “tallow” (left over yellow fat after rendering), preserve it with chemicals so that it can sit on the shelf for more than a year, add dyes to make it attractive, and then extrude it into whimsical shapes, wrap it up in a pretty package to appeal to the human consumer then finally it’s passed to Don Draper to work his magic and Ta Da!
For this, pet food companies can expect to earn $20.3 billion in sales in 2012.
And finally: What can we as animal loving, environmentally conscious, pet owning consumers do about this?
If you feed kibble to your pet, do some research and ask questions. Look into the company that manufactures the product. It is within your rights to contact the company to ask if they use HUMAN GRADE ingredients. This is the most important question. The wonderful world of marketing and advertising is really excited about using the words “organic”, “whole”, “AAFCO Inspected” or “FDA Approved”. These words mean very different things when talking about pet food but there is no getting around whether or not it is fit for human consumption.
We here at The Bone House have done some of the legwork for you. On our shelves you will find food and I can confidently use that word here, produced by manufacturers that use human grade ingredients such as:
Champion Pet Foods- Acana and Orijen
Fromm Family Foods- Classic, Gold, Four Star
Petcurean- GO, NOW, Summit
Bottom line, no matter where you shop do your canine and consumer research, equip yourself with the basic knowledge of a dog (remember, that’s a wolf in pet’s clothing…) and don’t let your pet become of victim of advertising. Your dog or cat could not care less about the colour of their bag of kibble.
Companion animals rely on us for everything. It is our responsibility to provide the best we can for them. If money is tight these days for you as it is for me, rather than spending your hard earned dollars on chew toys to occupy your dog, go for a walk, then spend that money on proper nutrition. You’ll end up saving money in vet bills, you dog’s behavior will improve, you’ll build an amazing bond and you’ll add years to yours and your pet’s life. Sounds worth it to me!