“One of the dirty little secrets kept by the pet food industry is that some by-products also contain substances such as abscesses and cancerous material. In my opinion, feeding slaughterhouse waste to animals increases their chances of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases. Some meat, especially glandular tissue, may contain high levels of hormones, which may also cause serious health problems including cancer. Unlike bacteria and viruses, these hormones are not destroyed by the high temperatures or pressure cooking used in the manufacture of pet food. Cats seem to be most adversely affected by high hormone levels. “ Healing Pets With Nature’s Miracle Cures By Henry Pasternak DVM CVA, page 11.
Our pets can bring us so much joy and peace amidst the chaos of our busy lives. They give us nothing more than their total attention and unconditional love and ask for minimal in return. However we’ve become consumed in learning about human nutrition and wellness and yet we seem to neglect the same consideration for our pets. We see a pet food label at the super market which reads “natural” and we immediately feel better about what we are feeding our animals. Unfortunately marketing most often leaves ethics at the door when promoting pet food products, and the term “natural” is often exploited to disturbing extremes.
The challenge comes in a society where the cost of living pressures us to save money wherever we can. Organic and nutritious food is expensive, processed foods are cheap. This reasoning often influences the majority, especially lower-middle class families, to invest in pre-packaged, frozen, and “convenient” foods. This logic is also applied when purchasing pet food. Considering the average 10 kg bag of “natural” pet food costs around $50 a CAN, it is understandable how one could stray away from buying organic pet food which costs more and usually comes in smaller bags. Buying “natural” usually strokes our cognitive dissonance and keeps us at ease.
The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the FDA supply us with no official definition of the term “natural.” One would naturally infer that this term would confirm that the pet food we are buying contains no miscelaneous chemicals, dyes, preservatives, etc., however this is not the case. Advertising is our generation’s greatest enemy. We see an image of a happy and healthy looking cat or dog and we immediately associate this with how our animals will be when they eat the particular food. Perhaps we see images of steak, fish, or poultry on the bag which helps make our decisions. The reality is that companies can label pet food as containing “natural meat” when in fact there is not a single bit of real meat in the mix. Harmful chemicals are not required to be labeled either, which creates trouble for the more conscious brands which actually contain quality ingredients.
“Let’s start with what usually appears as the protein source and the primary ingredient in pet food: Meat byproducts or meat meal. Both are euphemisms for the parts of animals that wouldn’t be considered meat by any smart consumer. The well-known phrase “meat byproducts” is a misnomer since these byproducts contain little, if any meat at all. These are the parts of the animal left over after the meat has been stripped away from the bone. “Chicken by-products include head, feet, entrails, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, stomach, bones, blood, intestines, and any other parts of the carcass not fit for human consumption,” writes Henry Pasternak in Healing Animals with Nature’s Cures.
Meat meal can contain the boiled down flesh of animals we would find unacceptable for consumption. This can include zoo animals, road kill, and 4-D (dead, diseased, disabled, dying) livestock. Most shockingly, this can also include dogs and cats. That’s right, your pets could be cannibals. Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser writes, “Although leading American manufacturers promise never to put rendered pets into their pet food, it is still legal to do so. A Canadian company, Sanimal Inc., was putting 40,000 pounds of dead dogs and dead cats into its dog and cat food every week, until discontinuing the practice in June 2001. “This food is healthy and good,” said the company’s vice president of procurement, responding to critics, ”but some people don’t like to see meat meal that contains any pets.”
The process of how dead animals become food for our pets is even more disturbing. After all, it takes a lot to turn roadkill into something owners feel good about pouring into their pets’ bowls. Ann M. Martin describes the process in Food Pets Die For: “At the rendering plant a machine slowly grinds the entire mess in huge vats. Then this product is cooked at temperatures between 220 degrees Fahrenheit and 270 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes to one hour. The mixture is centrifuged (spun at a high speed) and the grease (or tallow) rises to the top and it is removed from the mixture. The grease becomes the source of animal fat in most pet foods. Oftentimes, when you open a standard can of dog food, you will see a top layer of fat. The centrifuged product is the source of that fat, which is meant to entice a hungry dog or cat. After the grease is removed in the rendering process, the remaining material is dried. Meat meal, and meat and bone meal are the end product of this process. This dried material is usually found in dry pet food.”
Are we feeding our pets decayed road kill and euthanize shelter animals?
Rendering practices aren’t just gross; they’re also dangerous for your pets. The chemicals used to euthanize zoo animals, dogs and cats can survive the cooking process, which means these chemicals end up in pet food, and ultimately, in your pet. Martin writes, “Euthanized cats and dogs often end up in rendering vats along with other questionable material to make meat meal, and meat and bone meal. This can be problematic because sodium pentobarbital can withstand the heat from rendering. For years, some veterinarians and animal advocates have known about the potential danger of sodium pentobarbital residue in commercial pet food, yet the danger has not been alleviated.” In short, that means the poisons designed to kill pets are the same ones being fed to them.
Now that you know pet food manufacturers will seemingly go to any length to fill their foods with the cheapest sources of protein they can find, you probably won’t be surprised to find out that the other ingredients in pet foods aren’t much better. Cheap grain fillers, cellulose to bulk up the food, preservatives and poorly monitored vitamin and mineral supplements round out the recipe. In Healing Pets with Nature’s Miracle Cures, Henry Pasternak writes, “Remember, pet foods are primarily processed, grain-based diets. These foods are ‘fortified’ with synthetic B vitamins, which can cause a subclinical B vitamin deficiency.” Martin mentions in Food Pets Die For that one bag of dog food was overloaded with so much zinc that she had to take her dog to the vet because he became ill. She took the bag of food to an independent lab to verify that the zinc content of the food was 20 times the recommended daily allowance for dogs.
Preservatives in dog and cat foods keep them seemingly fresh for long periods of time: “Unfortunately, harmful chemical preservatives and other artificial additives are the norm in most pet foods. Some are intentionally added by the manufacturer, while others come from the herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides used by farmers to boost crop yields,” Pasternak writes. While some pet food companies have decided to use less harmful preservatives and natural preservatives, most pet food companies don’t find these ingredients to be cost effective.
What Can You Do Right Now?
This information can be difficult to take in, especially considering the amount of love we have for our animals. Shouldn’t the same love and consideration that we give to ourselves be taken into account with our pets? We have the ability to change all of this. The first step is to become as informed as possible. Susan Thixton is the creator of “The Truth About Pet Food”, a website dedicated to pet food awareness. It is an excellent source for any information regarding the ingredients contained in your pet’s food as well as the regulations surrounding the pet food industry today. She also offers recipes for easy and nutritious homemade pet food. “PetsumerReport” is another site which offers detailed information about pet food ingredients.