Guest Post! Originally posted by Susan Thixton on TruthAboutPetFood, October 7, 2015, and re-posted here with permission.
ATPF asked AAFCO to require pet food manufacturers to disclose the use of fabricated meat on the pet food label. The AAFCO Pet Food Committee told us that consumers do not need to be informed.
Our pet food consumer association (ATPF – Association for Truth in Pet Food) sent a request to AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee asking that pet food be required to disclose the use of fabricated meat (chunks – used in moist pet foods). We stated “Pet food consumers want to know and understand what they are buying for their pet. One area of pet food that consumers have no clue to what they are purchasing is with canned foods. Many canned pet foods utilize an extruded or fabricated meat. These meat ‘chunks’ have the texture of real meat (100% meat) – but they are not. Instead of 100% real meat chunks, many ‘meats’ in canned pet foods are a meat product made with some animal protein, added gums or vegetable thickeners and then this concoction is extruded to produce a meat product with similar appearance to real meat.”
ATPF suggested to AAFCO that the term “includes fabricated meat” be required to be on the pet food label.
AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee told us…(bold added for emphasis)…
“I think that forcing firms to designate where each of the ingredients is present in an overall product would be burdensome and not particularly clear or helpful to a consumer. And inconsistent with how AAFCO labeling is typically approached (ingredient based). It would not make sense to force firms to require firms to declare something like ‘fabricated meat product’ if that isn’t a defined feed term/definition.”
“My understanding is that a fabricated meat purchased from a supplier would need to be listed on the final pet food label as the sum of its ingredients. The Pet food company would be required to list it this way since the product would not meet any other definitions.”
The problem…there is no legal definition of a fabricated meat product. With no legal definition, pet food consumers are at the mercy of the pet food manufacturer. There is no regulation requiring minimum amount of animal protein the fabricated meat must contain. Some may contain 10% animal protein (example chicken or beef), others may contain 50% animal protein. And all – because there is no legal definition – will be allowed to be termed as chicken or beef on the pet food label misleading the consumer to believe they are 100% beef or chicken. Without a legal definition to fabricated meat products in pet food, pet food manufacturers have an open opportunity to use whatever process or ingredients they like. To my knowledge, there has been no investigation as to the safety or bioavailability of nutrients within fabricated meat products for cats and dogs.
Chicken has a legal definition in pet food, beef has a legal definition in pet food. Chicken meal or beef meal has a legal definition in pet food. Fabricated chicken or fabricated beef does not.
Regulatory authorities typically wait until an ingredient is popular in pet food, and then decide they need to look further into it (in other words, industry does what it wants and regulatory authorities follow their lead). Prior to fabricated meats, the perfect example of this is pea protein, pea fiber, and pea starch. These pet food ingredients were used in many pet foods for at least five years before AAFCO finally wrote legal definitions. Per regulations, no pet food manufacturer should have been allowed to use these ingredients without a legal definition. But that was not the case then, as it isn’t the case now with fabricated meats. Reverse order of how the regulatory system is supposed to work to protect our pets.
Our consumer association will continue to ask authorities to legally define fabricated meat products and require disclosure to consumers of its use. In the mean time, the only thing consumers can do is make an informed guess. If a ‘stew’ or ‘with gravy’ canned pet food (not a loaf type canned pet food) includes gums or vegetable binders (starches), the guess would be the meat is fabricated.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
I talk a lot about how unhealthy kibble is and the damage caused by feeding it, but canned food products come with their own issues. The ingredients are rarely more than leftovers from the human food industry and many are problematic (see Canned Food Products: Ingredients to Avoid), nor do many of the products contain the quality or amount of protein necessary to provide a truly healthy nutritional profile for our beloved cats. Case in point, this fake meat.
My recommendation is to take control of your cat’s diet and start feeding fresh, whole meat, organ and bone-in meals using products you sourced yourself (or, better yet, switch to real whole prey). But the truth is, there is a market for commercially produced cat food and that’s not going to go away. So my next recommendation is that you demand transparency from pet food manufacturers. At a bare minimum, you’ll at least be able to see what it is you’re truly getting when you pick up those pretty bags and shiny cans of manufactured cat foods.
Write to your representatives and tell them of your concerns. Start attending AAFCO’s annual meetings. Educate yourself on the pet food manufacturing processes, call the companies and ask them about the source and quality of their ingredients. Ask them if those ingredients, for instance, are at least refrigerated during transport to and from the rendering facilities (there is no requirement and little incentive for companies to do so).
Most of all, feed only those products you know will provide your cats with the safe, quality nutrition they need and deserve to live happy, thriving lives. You are your cat’s first and only line of defense!