Written by Beth Laubenthal, January 2014.
This article is the final in a series of four focused on the pet food industry manufacturing process. This one discusses the formation of the pet food industry and its evolution. The others are, The Origins of the Pet Food Industry, AAFCO: Their labeling requirements and the “Rules”, and The Rendering Process: From the Raw Materials to Your Store Shelves. None of this is intended to frighten anyone. The objective is to educate people, arming them with the information they need to make better food choices for their pets. If these articles are of any value to you, I hope you will share them and “pay it forward” for other pet owners!
The previous article discussed how kibble is made – from the raw materials to the shelf stable packages that sit at your local store. Many of these packages contain colorful pictures of whole chickens, fruits, veggies, even corn. Have you ever really wondered what is in that eye catching bag?
As formerly reviewed, rendering plants source their raw materials from a variety of places. Raw materials can include euthanized pets (which the Pet Food Institute denies but the AAFCO says is not illegal and the EPA allows), restaurant grease, expired meats, meat scraps and “condemned” animals (also known as 4D animals: diseased, dying, disabled, dead). It is not too far fetched to say that the pet food industry is a giant recycle center of the waste product from the human food industry.
To list all acceptable foods and their definitions would take a very long time and would result in a novel. That said, I will be focusing on the common list of ingredients that one might find in a pet food at the supermarket. The resulting list will be long, but it will be worth it.
I will start the examination of pet food ingredients by following the simplified pet food ingredients list on an average bag of cat food. Remember, the AAFCO requires this information to be on all packages of pet food. This is something that anyone can look up.
The first ingredient in this pet food is ground yellow corn. The term “yellow” means absolutely nothing except for the fact that the corn was yellow as compared to white or bi-colored corn. It is the whole ear of corn, cob and all, ground up.
Here’s a list of the rest of the ingredients:
Corn Gluten Meal: The dried residue from corn after the removal of the larger part of the starch and germ, and the separation of the bran by the process employed in the wet milling manufacture of corn starch or syrup, or by enzymatic treatment of the endosperm.
Chicken Byproduct Meal: Consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.
Soybean Meal: Obtained by grinding the flakes remaining after removal of most of the oil from de-hulled soybeans by a solvent extraction process.
Beef Tallow: Fat with titer above 40 degrees Celsius, obtained from the tissue of cattle in the commercial process of rendering. Also called Beef Fat.
Animal Digest: Material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and un-decomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed.
Calcium Carbonate: A form of calcium.
Turkey Byproduct Meal: Consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered turkey, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.
Salmon Meal and Ocean Fish Meal: Both are the same thing, but species specific and fall under Fish Meal: the clean, dried, ground tissue of un-decomposed whole fish or fish cuttings, either or both, with or without the extraction of part of the oil.
The rest of the ingredients, with the EXCEPTION of the following, are vitamins and minerals that must be added back in: Titanium Dioxide (dough conditioner), Yellow 4, Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 2. Food coloring is an unnecessary ingredient that serves only to appeal to humans. Some studies link the food coloring to tumor formations.
Beef tallow is commonly used as a spray on pet foods. “Animal digest” is not species specific. It can be ANYTHING allowed to be rendered per the EPA’s rules. Animal digest could be beef one day, horse another, roadkill, a shelter pick up or expired meats from a grocery store across the country.
Some additional definitions:
Poultry Byproduct Meal: Consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.
Corn Meal: Ground corn germ which consists of corn germ with other parts of the corn kernel from which part of the oil has been removed and is the product obtained in the dry milling process of manufacture of corn meal, corn grits, hominy feed and other corn products.
Brewer’s Rice: The dried extracted residue of rice resulting from the manufacture of wort (liquid portion of malted grain) or beer and may contain pulverized dried spent hops in an amount not to exceed 3 percent.
Animal Fat: Obtained from the tissues of mammals and/or poultry in the commercial processes of rendering or extracting.
Meat and Bone Meal: The rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. (Can be any animal.)
Flavor: Any chemical or spice added to change the or add to the flavor of a food.
Propylene Glycol: Used to keep semi-moist foods from drying out. Also used in anti-freeze and as a solvent. Toxic if consumed in large amounts.
At the rendering plant, when they make these ingredients, they do not cut out disease, puss or any other questionable bits out. They do not cut off the collars off the dead animals or remove the plastic wrap from the grocery store meats. They dump the truck into holding tanks and when it is time to render the product, they send the materials under a strong magnet to remove metal and then grind up everything.
As the pet food industry continues to grow, the industry is going to look at new ways to use materials that many would consider undesirable in pet food such as feather meal and plastic coatings that dissolve inside a pet’s mouth.
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Created 02/17/14; Updated 08/11/14