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Pet Food – What’s In It?


Ads for many pet foods show appetizing images of thick cuts of meat, fresh vegetables and honey-colored grains, but that’s not what winds up in your dog’s dish. The ingredient label on that bag of pet food in your pantry may not be a clear indication of what your animal companion is actually eating.

If you’re not informed and selective about your pet’s food, your beloved pet may be subjected to antibiotics and drug residues, dyes from coal-tar derivatives, toxins, molds, powerful preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, heavy-metal contaminants and various wastes from slaughterhouses – including fecal waste. The animals used to make many pet foods are classified as "4-D," which stands for Dead, Dying, Diseased or Down (disabled) when they arrive at the slaughterhouse. If the meat from an animal is acceptable for human consumption, it likely will not be used for commercial pet food unless you buy products which truthfully state that they use FDA-certified, food-grade meat.

Here are some typical ingredients as listed on the packaging of most commercial pet foods, and what they might contain:

  • Meat/Meat Based – When it reads "meat" on the label, it indicates the clean flesh from an animal. However, "meat-based" may also include blood vessels, sinew, organ meats, tendons and other parts of the animal.
  • Meat Meal/Dried Animal Digest – This is the dry byproduct of rendered meat. During rendering, all usable animal parts (including fetal tissues from pregnant cows and glandular wastes) are heated in vats and the liquid is separated from the dry meal. Manufacturers then cover the meal with charcoal and label it "unfit for human consumption" before processing it into pet food.
  • Meat By-Products – These are often organs, bone, blood and fatty tissue. They may also include brains, feet, heads, entrails, intestines, noses and stomachs. Unbelievably, byproducts can also contain cancerous or diseased tissue (including things like stomach flukes and other parasites).
  • Poultry By-Products – These are the cleaned, ground parts from poultry carcasses such as feet, heads, intestines, necks and undeveloped eggs.
  • Poultry By-Product meal – Rendered by-products and no feathers added.
  • Meat and Bone Meal – This is the rendered meal from meat and bone.
  • Tallow – This is hard white fat. Most animals find it hard to digest.
  • Animal Digest – This is animal tissue that has been broken down with chemicals.
  • Fiber. This can come from whole grains and vegetables, or it could come from peanut hulls, newspaper or hair.
  • Carbohydrates. This could be nothing more than sucrose (sugar), propylene glycol or corn syrup. Quality dog foods will contain complex carbohydrates derived from whole grains.

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