“Every time a pet trustingly eats another bowl of high sugar pet food, he is being brought that much closer to diabetes, hypoglycemia, overweight, nervousness, cataracts, allergy and death”
R.Geoffrey Broderick DVM
The multi-billion dollar pet food industry is killing our pets. With millions of dollars to spend on promotion and hype, pet owners have become victims of their marketing ploys. The expression “It’s a dog eat dog world” is an apt description of the pet food industry.
Millions of euthanized pets from humane shelters and veterinary hospitals all across the United States and Eastern Canada are being recycled back into pet foods.
How does this come about? It is done through a process called rendering, Prior to World War 11, most slaughterhouses were all inclusive, that is – livestock was slaughtered and processed into fresh meat in one location; including rendering. During the years after World War 11, the meat industry became more specialized. A slaughterhouse just slaughtered and dressed the carcasses and the rendering of slaughter waste became a separate specialty – and no longer within the jurisdiction of government meat inspectors. Rendering companies are entities unto their own and service many slaughterhouses, plus process any other animal waste that can be rendered. Recent figures state that the US meat industry produces over 30 billion pounds of by-products per year in 286 plants nationwide.
In a September, 1995 article titled What’s Cooking , Baltimore City Paper takes their readers through Valley Proteins, Baltimore’s only rendering plant with very graphic pictures of dead animals stuffed into barrels, one picture shows a dead dog ; another is of fried animal parts! Neil Gagnon, general manager of Valley Proteins says that 150 million pounds of rotting flesh are fed into the plants grinders and cookers each year to produce 80 million pounds of the plants three products; meat and bone meal, tallow and yellow grease. Most goes into chicken feed, the rest into dry pet food.
The use of dead pets, work animals,zoo animals and wildlife as raw material is an aspect of the rendering process that Gagnon doesn’t like to discuss. Valley Proteins sells inedible animal parts and rendered material to Alpo,Heinz and Ralston Purina among other pet food makers. He further states that the meat and bone meal made at the plant includes materials from pets and wildlife and about 5% goes into dry pet foods.
Closer to home, just outside Seattle is a rendering facility cleverly disguised as Baker Commodities. Their raw material again is collected from veterinary hospitals and humane societies across Washington State. Seattle humane shelters have their clients sign a waiver indicating that pet’s bodies not collected by their owners will be sent to the rendering facility.
Baker Commodities, a facility which is guarded like Fort Knox, sells meat meal by the ton – average price is over $200.00 per ton. The majority of their product goes to American Nutrition of Ogden Utah which manufacturers over 175 different private label brands of pet food. Some product names you may be familiar with are Alpho, Kal Kan, Albertson’s, Western Family and Atta -Boy.
One of the largest rendering facilities is owned by Colgate Palmolive , who incidentally own Hills Science Diet Pet Food.
Raw material from slaughterhouses is composed of material unfit for human consumption, this includes cancerous tumors, offal, fecal matter, mammary glands, feathers etc. The raw material is then denatured to prevent it from going back into the human food change. Denaturing can be done with carbolic acid, creosote, fuel oil, kerosene or citronella. In Canada, a proprietary chemical Birkolene B is used. In addition to the above raw materials supermarket meats, restaurant leftovers, flea collars from dead pets, cattle insecticide patches, pesticides and plastic bags and wrapping from these items are all combined in these toxic soups. Rendering personnel say ” it is far too costly to cut off flea collars or unwrap spoiled steaks! ” This whole mess is loaded into batch cookers that are fed continuously non stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week as meat is melted away from the bones in the hot soup. During this cooking process, the soup produces a fat of yellow grease or tallow that rises to the top and is skimmed off. The cooked meat and bone is sent to a hammer mill press, which squeezes out the remaining moisture and pulverizes the product into a gritty powder. Shaker screens sift out excess hair and large bone chips. Once the batch is finished , all that is left is yellow grease, and meat and bone meal. This is what is used as a source of animal protein that goes into pet food and poultry, swine and cattle food.
In the veterinary text book, Euthanasia of the Companion Animal (1988), in the chapter headed , Animal Disposal: Fact and Fiction by David Cook, Cook states that “millions of America’s deceased pets are being cooked and processed into pet food, most pet owners don’t realize this fact. Does this raise questions of ethics that should be answered by the veterinary profession and the pet food industry?” Cook goes on to say, ” Consider the introduction of dogs and cats into the human food chain by way of livestock food made from rendered by-products. What happens to all those toxic products that we use so liberally on our pets?”
Aside from the moral and ethical issues, this is the dilemma of recycling pets, road kill, and diseased animals of all types into the human and pet food chain.
The American Association of Feed Control (AAFCO) is the body that sets regulations and standards in the Agriculture industry. The only problem is that they do not enforce them. Ann Martin of London, Ontario who has been researching the pet food industry for over seven years says that after canvassing every state in the US and every Province in Canada, there are no regulations prohibiting the use of companion animals in pet food. In addition there are no regulations for any manner of testing for toxins in pet food and after talking with pet food manufacturers there is virtually NO testing done for chemical or drug residues in pet food.
In 1985 the University of Minnesota conducted a study regarding the survival of sodium pentobarbital in pet food. The investigation came about as there had been a number of reports, primarily from England that dogs and cats had died as a result of eating meat or tissue from cattle or horses that had been euthanized with pentobarbital, even though the meat had been cooked. One concern is the practice of rendering dead animals whose death may have been due to, or associated with, exposure to a toxic substance. The study mentioned that (in 1982 -1983) in the City of Los Angeles 52,216 animals were euthanized, Los Angeles County, a further 76,375 and in New York City , 56,000 animals ; 40 percent were sent to rendering.
The study concluded that sodium pentobarbital survived the rendering process.
The contamination of animal feeds with hazardous substances, drugs, pesticides, heavy metals and industrial chemicals poses a potential threat to the safety of animals and ultimately, persons.
If all this isn’t enough in pet foods, you now have the manufacturers adding artificial flavors and colours along with chemical preservatives to prevent rancidity. One of the chemicals, ethoxoquin, manufactured by Monsanto, you remember them – manufacturer of Agent Orange, Roundup ( the garden herbicide, Simplese ( a butter substitute), Nutrasweet, Posilac (the bovine growth hormone) and is involved in the genetic engineering of potatoes and tomatoes. Carol Barfield, of the United Animal Association based in Ohio, has a 400 page document before the US Food and Drug Association to ban the use of Ethoxyquin. As we know, Monsanto devotes a significant part of its resources into forcing its products through the regulatory process, as was the case with Ethoxyquin and its so called feeding trial. Ethoxoquin was initially used as a rubber preserver and stabilizer but found its way into pet food as a cheap and excellent source of preventing rancidity for periods of up to a year. It is classified as a toxic chemical with a rating of three (on a scale of 1-6) with 6 being super toxic requiring less than 7 drops to produce death. Ethoxyquin has been implicated in birth defects, stillborn puppies, liver failure, infertility and cancer. Ethoxyquin is approved for use in pet food at the rate of 150 ppm, in human food it is 0.5ppm. (note: recently changed to allow 75ppm.)
Labels can be misleading – the manufacturer DOES NOT have to state Ethoxyquin on the label if their other sources of ingredients already have ethoxyquin in it. In other words, Ethoxyquin is only on the label if the manufacturer has added it to the food themselves. Animal or poultry fat could already be preserved with ethoxyquin from a renderer and this would not be stated on the label. It’s anybodies guess how many ppm’s are in a daily ration of pet food.
The other preservatives commonly used are Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). Introduced in 1947 they are also used to prevent fats and oils from becoming rancid. Research in animals shows that BHA and BHT affects the nervous system. The behaviour of animals with respect to sleep, aggression and freezing behaviour was remarkably different than those of the control animals. BHA and BHT also affect the normal sequence of neurological development in young animals. Some companies, ie. Iams, add both Ethoxyquin and BHA to their product lines.
Natural preservatives are being used more frequently . These are composed of topherols (vitamin E), citric or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or a combination of the two. Again,Ethoxoquin may be in the other ingredients in the food and not listed on the label.
Another problem that has reared its ugly head in pet foods is Vomatoxin. What is Vomatoxin? Vomatoxin is a chemical compound produced by FUSARIUM molds. These molds are found in the following grains: ie. wheat and wheat products, corn and corn products, peanut meal and peanut products (Aflotoxin), soybean meal and hulls, and cottonseed (Aflotoxin.)In 1995, spring weather conditions across many areas of the midwest produced excess moisture, resulting in vomatoxin production by Fusarium molds on wheat and corn. Wheat by- products which are widely used in pet foods are more highly contaminated than whole wheat. Anything over 2.0 ppm vomatoxin can result in illness in pets , it affects the immune system and in some cases death. In a 1992 report from the Mycotoxin Committee of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, it states that virtually all animal foods contain some viable mold. Peanut hulls are particularly susceptible to aflotoxin in addition to being heavily sprayed with pesticides. Hills Science Diet is one pet food that uses peanut hulls as a source of fiber in its formulas. A standard practice in the pet food industry is the blending and dilution of contaminated grain products. By blending a higher ppm vomatoxin wheat with a lower ppm vomatoxin wheat they can hopefully get an acceptable level of 1.0 ppm vomatoxin.Nature’s Recipe learned its lesson the hard way last year when 16,000 tons of product was recalled because of vomatoxin contamination. Vomatoxin levels were as high as 23 ppm, resulting in over 11,000 phone calls from unhappy pet owners, many whose pets had died as a result of consuming this product. The recall and replacement of dog food cost nature’s Recipe up to $20 million! We can only hope that pet food companies implement thorough mycotoxin control.
The latest crisis in animals – Mad Cow Disease is just the tip of the iceberg! I fear that we have seen nothing yet! In England, as early as 1990, ( feline spongiform encephalopathy), was identified in cats. Tests similar to those being carried out with human tissue in Edinburgh indicated that cats were catching BSE, perhaps from pet foods. To date over 70 cats have been identified as dying from FSE. Experiments showed that an agent transmitted from one species to another could change in such a way that it jumped into a third species that had not previously been vulnerable. Are dogs next? To quote Dr. Richard Pitcairn DVM, Holistic veterinarian, when asked about the FDA,CVA report that no cases of BSE, CSE or FSE exist in the US; Dr. Pitcairn responded that “very few owners would request a complete autopsy of a pet dead from neurological disease. To do this properly, the skull must be opened and I’ve never encountered a practitioner prepared to do this. FDA and CVA comments are without value. If they do not test or evaluate.. how can they know of incidence? “The FDA regulations for animal feed go into effect next month..banning the use of meat and bone meal in cattle feedbut this does not apply to pet food..which means that more of this material will be available for the pet food industry. On speaking with the head of Agri-Food Canada regarding the rendering of sheep into meat meal, Dr. Mike Martin of Animal Health B.C. region states that they have an understanding with the renderers that sheep will not be rendered, but there are NO REGULATIONS in place to ban the practice.
In the United States, the proposed regulation is a ban on rendering of sheep over 12 months of age. What happens to sheep under 12 months ? If sheep and cattle are buried in landfills the virus incubates in the soil, sheep and cattle grazing on this land in future could contract the virus through soil contamination.We have witnessed first hand in England the results of rendering and the resulting meat meal contamination of BSE infected feed, and the jump in species barrier – ultimately affecting humans! It behooves the FDA and the American Feed Control Association (AAFCO) to put the strong arm on these practices. Euthanized companion animals do not belong in our pet foods!
Morals and ethics aside -the healthof our pets – and ultimately ourselves is at stake!
Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinary surgeon of twenty years, has spent the past ten years studying the link between diet and disease.Dogs fed solely on commercial pet food can expect to die up to five years earlier than those given bones and ordinary food, according to his research.
His book Give the Dog A Bone, claims that prepared dog food lowers an animals immunity to disease, aggravating or creating conditions ranging from gum disorders and bad breath to skin problems and breeding and behavioural problems.
So give your dog a raw meaty bone, fresh grated raw or lightly steamed vegetables and try introducing some natural homemade food to your pet’s diet