Pet Foods and Mystery Meat
“The better quality of food you put into your body, the better your body will be. That’s true for your animals, too,” says pet groomer, April Monigold, of Pensacola, Florida. “Store brands [the kinds you can buy at a grocery or big box store],” she adds, “contain fillers, such as corn, wheat gluten, animal by-products, and chemicals. There’s no way to know what the ‘animal by-products’ are. They could be euthanized pets, animals from research facilities, even roadkill.”
“Roadkill or research carcasses?” I must sound skeptical, because April then urges me to read Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food by Ann N. Martin and Shawn Messonier (New Sage Press, 2008).
So I do a little checking on the web. Dr. Jeff Feinman, VMD, CVH of Weston, Connecticut has posted an excerpt of the 1997 edition of Foods Pets Die For. Wow. I’m blown away by the awfulness of the “food” contents that Martin describes. Roadkill and research carcasses are only the tip of the pet food pyramid.
“[C]ompanion animals from clinics, pounds, and shelters can and are being rendered and used as sources of protein in pet food. Dead-stock removal operations play a major role in the pet food industry. Dead animals, road kill that cannot be buried at roadside, and in some cases, zoo animals, are picked up by these dead stock operations. When an animal dies in the field or is killed due to illness or disability, the dead stock operators pick them up and truck them to the receiving plant. There the dead animal is salvaged for meat or, depending on the state of decomposition, delivered to a rendering plant…”
And there’s more. A lot more. Not exactly mouth-watering, either. Granted, the copy of the book Feinman quoted from was published in 1997, so that information is dated. Martin has published two new editions since then, with the most recent appearing this year. But this post isn’t a book review. (See Books/Food Pets Die For.)
To be sure I’m not reporting on outdated processes, I check around some more. Rendering, I learn, grinds up the entire animal, from skull to hooves to tail, and turns it into “meat meal” for pet food. While this is politely referred to in Wikipedia’s entry on rendering as “a process that converts waste animal tissue into stable, value-added materials,” other sources I find are not so positive about it.
On About.com:Chemistry, Eve Riser-Roberts, Ph.D. describes rendering in graphic detail: “Cows are fed ‘protein concentrates’ made from rendered (ground-up) dead horses, dogs, cats, chickens and turkeys, as well as blood and fecal matter of their own species (6), and cattle too sick for human consumption. Maggot-infested grains, food contaminated by roaches, rodents, and bird excreta (59), outdated moldy meats, dogs and cats euthanized by vets and animal shelters; roadkill; noncommercial parts of cattle, sheep, pigs and horses—including offals, heads, and hooves; whole skunks; rats, raccoons, possums, deer, foxes, snakes, and even elephants end up in a pile on the floor of rendering plants, their decomposing carcasses swarming with maggots, covered with rat dung, waiting to be made into animal food. On top of that is added dehydrated food garbage, fats emptied from restaurant fryers and grease traps, cement-kiln dust, newsprint and cardboard, as well as cattle and hog manure. Chicken manure is popular, because it’s cheaper than alfalfa and hay…. Human sewage sludge is even used in some countries (19). The fur is not removed and the dead animals are cooked at 115°C for 20 minutes…. And this can legally go into your pet food.” [Emphasis added.]
After reading these articles, I check the labels of the dry food and canned “meat” we’ve been feeding our cat, Keebee. Let me preface this by saying that we thought we were giving Keebee good, nutritious food. The dry food, which contains “meat by-products” as one of the chief ingredients, is the top of the line at our grocery store. One can of the wet food is supposed to have beef in gravy, and another says it contains turkey in gravy. These have proven to be the only foods we’ve tried that she can eat without throwing up on a regular basis. She has a touchy tummy; not uncommon for cats, we understand.
Keebee is a happy camper; she eagerly eats her daily ration of wet food, practically running us down on the way to her dish when it’s time to eat. And she willingly snacks during the day on the dry food. She’s lean and seemingly healthy for an older cat, though her joints appear to pain her. We haven’t been worried about the contents of the cat foods we buy — until now. What toxins have we been feeding our cat without realizing it? Is her touchy digestive system really just “natural” cat behavior, or is she reacting to something we feed her? Could we ease her aches and pains with better foods?
I’m on a mission to find pet foods that cats and dogs can eat without being poisoned by garbage and toxins. And what I learn about healthy choices is encouraging. More to come tomorrow…
Part 1: Pet Foods and Mystery Meats
Part 2: Pet Foods Good Enough to Eat
Part 3: A Raw Diet for Your Pets