Saturday, December 15, 2012

What's Really in Pet Food

I know commercial pet food (the ones they sell in supermarkets) are not good for cats. So since I started working, I've been alternating them with premium cat food like Royal Canin and Regal. I thought I've been feeding my cat good, nutritious food until I read a report by the American Pet Institute (API) last night. This repor t explores the differences between what consumers like me think they are buying compared to what they are actually getting. 

What most consumers are unaware of is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food industry, also known as the agriculture industry. Pet food provides a place for slaughterhouse waste and grains considered "unfit for human consumption" to be turned into profit. This waste includes cow tongues, esophagi, and possibly diseased and cancerous meat. The "whole grains" used have had the starch removed and the oil extracted -- usually by chemical processing -- for vegetable oil, or they are the hulls and other remnants from the milling process. Some of the truly whole grains used may have been deemed unfit for human consumption because of mold, contaminants, or poor storage practices.

Although the purchase price of pet food does not always determine whether a pet food is good or bad, the price is often a good indicator of quality. So basically premium cat foot are generally better than commercial brands. The protein used in pet food comes from a variety of sources. When cattle, swine, chickens, lambs, or any number of other animals are slaughtered, the choice cuts such as lean muscle tissue are trimmed away from the carcass for human consumption. Whatever remains of the carcass -- bones, blood, pus, intestines, ligaments, and almost all the other parts not generally consumed by humans -- is used in pet food. These "other parts" are known as "by-products" or other names on pet food labels. The ambiguous labels list the ingredients, but do not provide a definition for the products listed. Many of these remnants are indigestible and provide a questionable source of nutrition for our pets.

The next point raised in the report is probably the one that disturbs me the most. Another source of meat you won't find mentioned on pet food labels are dogs and cats. 
In 1990 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that euthanized companion animals were being used in pet food. Although pet food manufacturers vehemently denied the report, the American Veterinary Medical Association confirmed the Chronicle's story.
Yuck! This has definitely never crossed my mind. 

What can the feeding of such ingredients do to your pets? Some veterinarians claim that feeding slaughterhouse wastes to animals increases their risk of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases. One factor is that the cooking methods used by pet food manufacturers and rendering plants do not destroy many of the hormones used to fatten livestock, or medications such as those used to euthanize dogs and cats.

Also, restaurant grease has become a major component of feed grade animal fat over the last fifteen years. This grease, often held in fifty-gallon drums, is usually kept outside for weeks, exposed to extreme temperatures with no regard for its future use. "Fat blenders" or rendering companies then pick up this rancid grease and mix the different types of fat together, stabilize them with powerful antioxidants to retard further spoilage, and then sell the blended products to pet food companies.

These fats are sprayed directly onto dried kibble or extruded pellets to make an otherwise bland or distasteful product palatable. The fat also acts as a binding agent to which manufacturers add other flavor enhancers as well. Pet food scientists have discovered that animals love the taste of these sprayed fats. 

The amount of grain products used in pet food has risen over the last decade. Once considered filler by the pet food industry, grain products now make up a considerable portion of pet food. The availability of nutrients in grain products is dependent upon the digestibility of the grain. The amount and type of carbohydrate in pet food determines the amount of nutrient value the animal actually gets. Dogs and cats can almost completely absorb carbohydrates from some grains, such as white rice. Up to 20% of other grains can escape digestion. The availability of nutrients for wheat, beans, and oats is poor. The nutrients in potatoes and corn are far less available than those in rice. Carbohydrate that escapes digestion is of little nutritional value due to bacteria in the colon that ferment carbohydrates. Some ingredients, such as peanut hulls, are used strictly for "filler" and have no nutritional value at all! Then, there's the additives and preservatives that have been known to cause cancer. 

Commercially manufactured or rendered meat meals are highly contaminated with bacteria because their source is not always slaughtered animals. Animals that have died because of disease, injury, or natural causes are a source of meat for meat meal. The dead animal may not be rendered or cooked until days after its death. Therefore the carcass is often contaminated with bacteria -- Salmonella bacteria contaminate 25-50% of meat meals. While the cooking process may kill bacteria, it does not eliminate the endotoxins that result from the bacteria. These toxins can cause disease. Pet food manufacturers do not test their products for endotoxins. 

Escherichia coli (E Coli) is another bacteria that can be found in contaminated pet foods. E Coli bacteria, like Salmonella, can be destroyed by cooking at high temperatures, however, the endotoxin produced by the bacteria will remain. This endotoxin can cause disease as well.

Cereals are the primary ingredients in most commercial pet foods. Most people select one pet food and feed it to their dogs and cats for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, dogs and cats eat a primarily carbohydrate diet with little variety. Today, the diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the primarily protein diets with a lot of variety that their ancestors ate. The problems associated with a commercial diet are seen every day at veterinary establishments. Chronic digestive problems, such as chronic diarrhea, are among the most frequent illnesses treated.

So, should I start feeding my cat with fresh fish instead?


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...