Pet Food Safety

  • American consumers were shocked in March of 2007 to learn that hazardous chemicals like melamine and cyanuric acid had contaminated common pet foods like Iams and Hill's Science Diet. Incidents like this led to a sad realization: the food pet owners are feeding their animals may not be lethal, but manufacturers are far from open about what goes into the food they produce.

    Ultimately, the vagueness and discrepancies of pet food labels place America's pets at risk and leave pet owners in the dark as to what they are actually feeding their animals. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration itself does little to regulate what goes into pet food. All it requires is that the manufacturer's name and address appear on the label, in addition to a listing of ingredients and their quantity. Many companies choose to go beyond these minimum requirements and adapt further-reaching industry standards governed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Consumers, however, would be surprised to learn just what the FDA and AAFCO allow in pet food.

    Manufacturers adhering to AAFCO standards, for example, often use a "meat by-product" in their food. This by-product, as defined by the AAFCO, is the "non-rendered, other-than-meat" products of the animal; that is, "lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defeated low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents," but not including hair, horns, teeth, and hoofs.

    Furthermore, if you were to glance at the ingredients of the some of the most popular pet food products, you might be surprised at what exactly you are (or aren't) putting in Fido's food bowl. Manufacturers, who use such descriptive terms as "platter," "entrée," and "formula" when naming their products, are required to include as little as 25% of that actual ingredient in their final product (not including water for processing). If the product is described as "stew," "in sauce," or in "gravy," then the product may actually contain up to 87.5% water. The FDA's "3%" or "with" rule requires manufacturers who label their product as "with beef" or other ingredients to include only 3% of that ingredient in the final product.

    Let's apply these rules to the top-selling dog and cat foods at one of the US' largest pet store chains, PetsMart. Hill's "Science Diet Adult Canned Dog Food," for example, lists "water" as its first (and most prevalent) ingredient. Hill's does not explicitly state the moisture content of this product, but the protein content, a meager "minimum" of 5.5%, is listed on the label. 5.5% of the 13 ounce can amounts to less than one full once of protein (0.715 ounces, to be exact). The FDA also states that canned foods typically have a water content of 75%-78%, so 9.75 ounces of your 13 ounces of Hill's dog food is nothing more just water.

    Hill's food also listed meat by-product as a major ingredient, as do all varieties of Caesar's Dog Food and Fancy Feast's Gourmet Cat Foods. Dry dog and cat foods have a greater percentage of protein content, but have one shortcoming: major brands (including Iam's dry "Adult Cat Formula," Hill's "Science Diet Canine Large Breed Adult Dog Food," Hill's "Active Maturity Dog Formula (Senior)," and Purina's "Puppy Chow") list a meat meal as their second ingredient (that is, the leftover lungs, brains, blood, bone, fatty tissue, stomachs, intestines, and so on of slaughtered animals). And in Nature's Recipe "Lamb Meal and Rice Recipe," "lamb meal" is listed as ingredient number one.

    That's just what the manufactures are willing to tell you.

    What they aren't telling you, even indirectly, is where some of the products that they put into your pet food come from. The melamine that contaminated our pet food supply in the spring was imported from China, which also received further criticism for allowing small amounts of the toxic substance diethylene glycol to be added to our toothpaste. Over a period spanning years, consumers in China have been confronted with not just one or two reports about tainted products reaching their markets, but have been continuously "bombarded" with reports of domestic food safety and fraud like these incidents.

    China's government "lack[s] accountability" in its main watchdog agencies for food and drug quality and has a substantially smaller role in protecting the safety of its food and consumer goods than similar organizations in the United States. This begs the question: are you willing to feed your beloved pet a product that is made from the waste of a butcher in China?

    These startling realities are why Tallgrass Beef has dedicated this section of its website to pet food and pet nutrition. We believe that it's important you know just what materials are added to your pet's food and that the same, all-natural and antibiotic-free beef and chicken you purchase should be available for your pet as well. Preparing Tallgrass Beef for your cat or dog is not only easy—we offer more than a dozen recipes that can be prepared quickly and easily—but it's also much safer than buying even name-brand pet foods.

    So make sure to check out our pet food recipes and try Tallgrass Beef for your pets. We guarantee they will love you more for it.

    Information Sources:

    New York Times, March 19 2007: "Canned Pet Food is Recalled After link to Animal Deaths"
    New York Times, May 9 2007: "Another Chemical Emerges in Pet Food Case"
    Food and Drug Administration: "Import Alert #99-29"
    Food and Drug Administration: "Interpreting Pet Food Labels"
    AAFCO (Association Of American Feed Control Officials, Inc.)
    New York Times: "As China's Economy Roars, Consumers Lack Defenders"