Exactly What is in Pet Food ?

pet foodIf you didn’t know before now, consider yourself informed. Dog food is really a gumbo comprised of a lot of weird ingredients. Don’t bother rushing over to read the ingredients listed on the bag, or can. The package or label is about the marketing. I’m not suggesting that some of what’s displayed on the label is not part of the ingredients, but it appears, that’s not all. Therein lies the issue.

Some of the stuff that ends up in dog food is material that can’t be sold as food for humans. For those of us hell bent on our Fido dining on an as close as possible human menu, then you might want to start whipping up Fido three hots yourself  to go with that cot. Surely the FDA does not let such mess go on. Well.

According to Food and Drug Administration regulations, only about 50 percent of a cow can be sold for human consumption. The hide, bones, digestive system and its contents, brain, feces, udders, and various other undesirable parts are all left over after a cow is slaughtered and butchered.  Am I suggesting that slaughterhouses send their leftovers to rendering plants? No I’m not suggesting it; I’m telling you it’s already been reported.  Other meat processing facilities that find themselves with large volumes of otherwise unusable dead animal parts follow the same practice, including animal shelters and veterinary clinics that euthanize a lot of animals.

Now about this here rendering plant.

A rendering plant is a processing operation where dead animals are ground up and recycled into products from pet food to biodiesel. Heads, hooves, bones, blood, offal (internal organs) and anything else that cannot be used ends up at a rendering plant.

Carcasses of dead animals from livestock and confinement operations are the secondary contributors. A rendering plant will also take dead horses, llamas and other farm and zoo animals. Remains of dogs and cats, road kill (deer, skunks, rats and raccoons) end up there as well. Veterinary clinics and animal shelters also rely on rendering plants for their euthanized animals. They also accept throwback or rejected meat from supermarkets. Some rendering plants are pickier than others and some process ingredients in different batches to comply with state or local laws but for the most part, if it’s got meat or bone and its dead they’ll take it.

The majority of edible rendering products are sold to feed manufacturers as a source of protein, calcium and phosphorous. The manufacturers then take this “food enhancer,” add ingredients to eventually sell as domestic pet food and livestock feed.

This collection of animals is slowly milled into one immense blend. It is then transferred into a vat where it is heated for hours to between 220–270 degrees F.  At these temperatures, the fat and grease float to the top along with any fat-soluble compounds or solids that get mixed up with them. Most viruses and bacteria are killed. The fat can then be skimmed off, packaged, and renamed. Most of this material is called “meat and bone meal.” It can be used in livestock feed, pet food, or fertilizer. It joins a long list of ingredients that you might prefer not to see in your pet’s food. Feeling kind of queasy? Go grab a sip of water and take a few deep breaths. I’ll wait.

Back to the FDA.

There is essentially no federal enforcement of standards for the contents of pet food. FDA technically has authority, but the agency has delegated this to a couple of organizations that encourage mostly voluntary compliance with the few federal standards.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials is mainly responsible for setting and maintaining standards, but it conducts no testing of food and has no enforcement authority. In practical terms, regulation of the contents of pet food is largely accomplished by those individual states that bother to get involved. Some states, such as Florida and Nevada, have no regulations at all. Others, such as California, require that rendered pets be labeled as “dry rendered tankage” rather than meat and bone meal. However, even California allows rendered pets to be processed and sold out of state for pet food as meat and bone meal. The city of Los Angeles alone sends about 200 tons of dead pets to a rendering plant each month. There is no inspection of pet food or meat and bone meal shipped in from other states.

Many pet food manufacturers say that they are not using rendered pets to make a cannibal of your dog. Considering the whole process before the product even gets to them, you have to wonder. How would they know? There is no simple way to look at a shipment of meat and bone meal and tell exactly what species are in the mix. The protein percentage of a load of cats and dogs looks basically the same as a shipment of carcasses from a poultry farm. The rendering industry gets vague about the ingredients, even in otherwise highly technical documents.

The truth is the general public knows rendering exists. Well if they didn’t they know now. And unless there is some rendering houses out there that have partnered with the local funeral home, they haven’t done anything criminal, so the vagueness makes one all the more suspect.

Now the truth is, most carnivorous animal will eat road kill. So I think if it was a simple matter of recycling road kill and naturally expired animals, most pet owners would probably be good with that. Then maybe they wouldn’t be. To some, the practice of feeding dogs and cats to other dogs and cats can be unsettling. The road kill, diseased cattle and pigs that and other things you read here are somethings some wouldn’t want anywhere near their pets.

But does the yuck and uck of it really make it wrong?  What’s wrong and is a concern to me as a pet owner, is the lack of regulation, and jangled juxtaposed policies and guidelines that vary by locale. There is no guarantee that what’s on the label is all that’s in the recipe. There’s a lot of nasty residuals behind the dead cats, dogs, zoo animals, and some of the livestock that were rejected for human consumption. Some of these animals were heavily medicated for health problems that contributed to their deaths, and not all drugs are neutralized during the rendering process. Meat and bone meal can contain antibiotics, steroids, and even the sodium pentobarbital used to kill pets at shelters. And we do know, a lot of the animals that ended up in the rendering vat had something wrong with them.

Then there are those animals that find their way to the rendering process that are perfectly healthy. In the case of Fifty percent of all chickens hatched out in the egg industry are unneeded roosters that are discarded seems like rendering is used as population control. The 75 percent of all cats in shelters that are euthanized rendering seems to serve as recycling burial ground of sorts. Because they were unprofitable, because they were inconvenient, because we made too many of them, they were killed.

Then there are the downers. Livestock targeted for the slaughterhouse and then the market that have become too weak to stand on their own. Iowa farmers say a growing number of animals shipped to market are being classified as “downer” or non-ambulatory and killed at processing plants Dan Gudenkuf, is a pork producer from Ryan who markets hogs at the Farmland plant in Monmouth, Ill. He would occasionally lose an animal in the delivery process, but in recent months he saw the number climb to two every week he sent a semi-load of about 175 hogs to market. That’s just one farmer and animals that are headed for the rendering plant.

Taking all of this into consideration I see two issues of concern rise to the top.

One is everyone on the receiving end of the rendering process has no true knowledge of what is actually in pet food which make it impossible to guarantee the ingredients of what pets are consuming is in fact nutritious, and conducive to their growth and longevity.

The second issue is the enormous numbers of animals finding their way to rendering houses in the first place. A large percentage of which are perfectly fine. And if you’ve read this far then you know this problem is going to take more than nurturing and spaying. We have and industry that finds itself with a glutton of a particular species or gender and the only option that is available is euthanization to resolve this. I mean they can’t very well let them loose to roam free. And we certainly don’t want more genetically altered solutions, so we have quite a quandary.

In the interim, when it comes to feeding our pets, it looks like the only way to be absolutely sure what they’re getting is to start organic, home prepare, home serve. Or find a manufacturer that guarantees what’s listed is only what’s in it, and what’s in it is beneficial for the health and life of our pets.


Author: Geo Gee

I'm a curious one that finds politics, social issues, and diverse progressive solutions interesting. I believe information and education are the most powerful weapons one can arm himself with. Those two dynamics alone open the doors to opportunities. I also subscribe to each one teach one for a better world for all.

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