By-products are usually found in canned foods, where they are often the only source of animal protein. While a hunting cat or wild canine would eat the by-products as well as the meat, a named meat should be the mainstay of a carnivore’s diet. Rendered ingredients vary greatly in quality. Some rendering facilities are closely associated with slaughterhouses, which are in turn connected with feedlots or poultry farms. Independent renderers take all materials from an area, from roadkill to dead livestock.
Many independent renderers accept for processing such items as road kill, euthanized shelter dogs and cats, and other unappetizing ingredients. These items can be segregated from the food stream, and are not supposed to find their way into the pet food chain, but this is not always done. They are supposed to be converted for use in fertilizers, livestock feeds, and industrial applications. Over the years there have been numerous unsubstantiated reports of this material being processed into dog and cat food. All the large, reputable pet food manufacturers certify that they do not use such materials in their products. Because of the way they are processed, most dry foods use meals as their major animal-source ingredients.
Meals do contain more protein than whole meat, since the fat and water have been removed. However, because of the high water content of fresh meat, and the water added to it, the actual percentage is small. The first named meal is usually the primary protein source in these foods. AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials. These standards set the required amounts of protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and so forth. These theoretically have the benefit of extensive research behind them. However, even though these profiles were updated as of 2016 by panels of canine and feline nutrition experts, the data they are based on were largely published before 2003, and are already more than a decade out of date.
Moreover, any manufacturer can synthesize a food containing sufficient amounts of each ingredient according to the standards, yet an animal will ultimately starve to death on it. Certain forms of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids are poorly absorbed from the digestive tract. A noted veterinary nutrition textbook claims that a food can be created from old leather boots, wood shavings, and crankcase oil that will meet the technical requirements for protein, carbohydrates, and fats, yet would be completely indigestible. However, when you look at the actual AAFCO protocols for an adult maintenance diet, a manufacturer must feed exclusively the test food to only six animals for six months. Foods intended for growth and reproduction must be tested for only 10 weeks. Several of the largest pet food producers, such as Hills, Walthams and Purina, maintain their own colonies of dogs and cats, and test their foods on hundreds of animals over years or even multiple generations.
Other manufacturers rely on testing facilities that keep animals for this purpose to do the studies for them. It is easy to see how a poor quality diet could be fed for only six months without seeing adverse health effects, and legitimately be labeled as meeting AAFCO standards. In fact, studies have confirmed that even foods that pass feeding trials may still be inadequate for long-term maintenance. Since there’s no way to tell which food actually passed a feeding test, this label designation is useless. Commercial foods are designed to be adequate for the average animal, but may not be suitable for an individual animal’s variable needs. Some of the most dangerous synthetic chemical preservatives are BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin. 1993 was ordered to conduct a new study of this preservative due to faulty test protocols and alleged doctoring of data in its initial report.
Not surprisingly, the second study, completed in 1996, found no problems associated with ethoxyquin in pet food. Given Monsanto’s track record and reptuation, do you believe this? Another concern is pesticide residues, antibiotics, and molds in various pet food ingredients. Glyphosate, another Monsanto creation and the active component of the herbicide Roundup, isn’t even tested for by USDA, and is a major contaminant of the genetically engineered corn and soy used in pet foods. Meat from downer animals may be loaded with drugs, some of which are known to pass unchanged through all the processing done to create a finished pet food. In the 1990s and 2000s there were major recalls of dry dog food by different manufacturers due to mold contamination of grain ingredients.
120 dogs have died due to contaminated dog food. When selecting a commercial food for your animal companion, be sure to read the label. Although percentages are misleading due to the variable moisture content of processed foods, they are often the only data available. A named meat or meat meal should be the primary protein source, rather than a cereal like corn gluten meal, rice protein concentrate, pea protein, or other cheap meat substitute. Corn and soy in all their forms must also be avoided. The feed-grade corn and soy used in pet food is certain to be genetically engineered. In low-priced foods, corn gluten meal is often substituted for expensive meat ingredients. All grains are susceptible to mold and other toxins. Because the pet food makers have gotten pretty clever about marketing, it’s important to know how to see through the hype. Avoid foods containing chemical preservatives such as ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT, propylene glycol, or propyl gallate. Many brands are now preserved with Vitamins C and E instead of chemical preservatives. While synthetic preservatives may still be present, the amounts will be less. While they are not perfect, they tend to be better than most. These foods may contain acidifying agents, inadequate protein, excessive fiber, and poor quality fats that will result in skin and coat problems.