Are the Ingredients in Pet Food 'People' Safe?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008 by: Susan Thixton
Tags: pet food, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) When I officially began reviewing pet foods, companies I contacted shared without hesitation if their foods used human grade or pet grade meat ingredients. Now I am seeing a shift in that. These days many are telling me they use human grade/quality ingredients even though their pet food ingredient listing says otherwise.

To me, the topic of human grade meat should not be a gray area. A piece of chicken or beef is either suitable for me to consume or it's not. That is not the case with pet food. Today alone, I spoke with two different manufacturers and both assured me they use USDA Grade A human grade/quality ingredients. However both of these pet food manufacturers have by-products in the majority of their foods which is a contradiction to the AAFCO pet food ingredient definition of a human food (AAFCO is American Association of Feed Control Officials who develops animal feed ingredient definitions and animal feed regulations). By-products, by AAFCO definition, are not considered human food.

The AAFCO definition of a common pet food ingredient 'chicken by-product meal' is: "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 practices."

Do you consider 'ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines' human food? Also consider that without the opportunity of by-products and the other left-over ingredients from meat processing being sold to pet food manufacturers, there would be no selling point for them. Without AAFCO's regulations allowing these types of garbage ingredients to be utilized in pet food, the livestock industry would lose money. Actually it would end up costing the industry money to safely destroy these waste animal pieces. And you should know that the livestock industry has lobbied the FDA and AAFCO on numerous occasions whenever the possibility of eliminating them from pet food has risen. Worse yet, pet owners have to wait another year for what the FDA considers Specified Risk Materials (SRMs) to be removed from pet food. SRMs are brains and spinal cord tissues that are known risks to spread mad cow disease. Even though cats worldwide have developed the feline version of mad cow disease, because of the lobbied efforts of the livestock industry, removing these known risk materials from pet food must wait another year.

There shouldn't be a gray area to a solid understanding and pet food definition of human grade ingredients; but there is. The gray area happens for two reasons. One, AAFCO has no official definition of human grade ingredients. A pet food manufacturer can say human grade and not be held accountable for misusing such claims. Second, it happens because pet food manufacturers purchase by-products (feet, heads, intestines, and so on) from a USDA approved meat processing facility. Sick, diseased animals and animal parts come from a USDA meat processing facility; they are rejected from the USDA facility!

One of the manufacturers that I spoke with today whose dog foods and cat foods contain chicken by-products, when I asked the quality/grade question, replied "oh yes, we use only human grade ingredients, you could eat the food and be healthier than you are now". I almost laughed. Trust me, I'm not going to be eating pet food that contains by-products, meat and bone meal, and similar ingredients. Pet owners are becoming more educated and I'm guessing that manufacturers are taking note of this and coaching representatives to say 'yes' to the human grade question. Legally they are not breaking any laws because AAFCO has no official definition to the term human grade. Morally, to me, they are intentionally misleading pet owners.

So, what are you to do now? Start with calling your pet food manufacturer asking if they use human grade quality of meat or if they use pet grade quality of meat. Once you have that information, flip the pet food bag you are considering over and scan the top 10 ingredients. If you see by-products, by-product meal, animal digest, meat meal (not chicken meal, or turkey meal or similar –- specifically the ingredient 'meat meal' applies here), or meat and bone meal -- this pet food is not using all human grade ingredients. If they told you they use only human/grade quality and you see by-products or any of the above ingredients -- well, 'there's your sign.' To me, the 'sign' tells a great deal about the integrity of the manufacturer. If a pet food manufacturer can tell a pet owner chicken feet and intestines are human grade/quality with a straight face, they are telling me volumes about their lack of integrity. I would never trust a pet food company if they could so boldly mislead me on this issue. Who knows what else they are stretching the truth on?

For all pet owners, understanding a few pet food ingredients will tell you volumes about the food and manufacturer as well.

About the author

Susan Thixton has an international pet people following providing dog and cat lovers a trusted source for pet food and pet food ingredient information. She's been called courageous, perseverant, even "the Caped Crusader for Pets" for her 16 year study of pet food. Susan Thixton is the author of hundreds of pet industry articles and the 2006 released book Truth About Pet Food (currently being updated for a second edition). She developed and publishes the pet product consumer magazine Petsumer Report and is a frequent speaker and radio guest all over the U.S. and Canada with more than 70 appearances in the last 2 years.
If you are looking for straight forward pet food information that can have an almost immediate impact on your pet's health - subscribe to the free newsletter, and subscribe to Petsumer Report to see reviews of close to 700 dog and cat foods and treats (adding 40+ each month). Susan Thixton's 'truth' will help you find a safer, healthier dog or cat food that could add years to your pet's life.

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