The pet food industry is a 15 billion dollar year money maker for the manufacturers. Their commercials and tag lines tell you you’re getting products made with such wonderful ingredients as plump chicken, fresh beef, whole grains, and vegetables. But what are you really getting? And what are you really feeding your dog?

If you look at the ingredient list on your average bag or can of dog food, you’ll find of list that include things that may sound like they might be good and you’ll also find quite a number of incomprehensible ingredients that you have no clue what they are or what they’re for.

Let’s take a few minutes to break some of these down so you know what you’re really feeding your beloved canine companion.

First let’s take a look at some meat/protein sources. If you read Part 1 of this, you’ll remember that protein “is essential because it is utilized as the building blocks for tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, etc. and a body cannot manufacture the necessary amino acids without protein.” Protein, specifically digestible protein, should be one of the primary basis of your dog’s diet.

Here’s some of the protein/meat sources you may find in the food you’re feeding you dog, and what they really are.

Protein/Meat – Sort of – Not Really

When animals are slaughtered, cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, goat, etc., only about 50% of the animal is used for human consumption. What remains, including heads, feet, bones, blood, intestines, lungs, spleens, livers, ligaments, fat trimmings, unborn babies, and other parts not generally consumed by humans, is considered ‘by-products.’ These ‘by-products’ have many uses, including use in pet food.

Beef, Chicken, Pork, etc.
AAFCOBeef/Pork is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered cattle/pig, and is limited to that part of the striate muscle which is skeletal or that which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart, or in the esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh.

AAFCO Chicken is the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.

What you’re really getting though is mainly scraps. Pieces that are left over after what is used for human consumption is removed. In the case of chicken, this can include bones, so backs, ribs, less the breast meat, and scraps are what is considered ‘chicken meat’ in pet foods. As for beef or pork or lamb, etc., it’s the scraps that are left on the carcass after the meat for human consumption is removed.

When you see the higher grade pet foods listed as ‘premium’ and ‘super premium,’ ‘organic’ and ‘natural,’ these cannot contain any by-products so this is the ‘meat’ you are actually getting.

Poultry/Chicken/Turkey by-products and By-Product Meal
AAFCOChicken/Turkey/Poultry By-Products consist of the rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken/turkey, such as necks, beaks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines — exclusive of feathers except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices. Meal consists of these same products that are rendered and ground.

First off, by-product consists of any other part of the animal then meat. You are getting no actual poultry ‘meat,’ pretty much anything and everything else though. By-products are less expensive and less-digestible with varying and questionable nutritional value. It is basically the left over, not fit for human consumption product.

Poultry/Chicken/Turkey Meal
AAFCO: The clean combination of poultry/chicken/turkey flesh and skin with or without bone. Does not contain feathers, heads, feet or entrails.

This first thing you want to notice here is that this requirement does not specify ‘slaughtered poultry,’ meaning that it can from any source, including what is called, 4-D animals, dead, diseased, disabled or dying. Since it can be obtained from any source there is no control over quality or contamination and if it is just listed as poultry, it can be any type of fowl; turkey, chicken, geese, buzzard, seagulls, road kill, even birds euthanized at shelters.

You have basically the same thing with ‘meat by-products’ and ‘meat bone and meal.’

Meat/Beef/Pork Bone and Meal
AAFCO: The rendered product from mammal/beef/pork tissues, with or without bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.

With beef and pork, you are talking about the left-overs, not fit for human consumption and it can basically include the whole cow or pig, including the bones. It’s just a low quality, inexpensive ingredient which is used to boost protein.

When it just says ‘meat’ then it can be really scary. The ‘meat’ is animal parts obtained from any source, again so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: “4-D animals,” dead, diseased, disabled, or dying including; goats, pigs, horses, rats, road kill and even animals euthanized at shelters. It can also include pus, cancerous tissue, and decomposed (spoiled) tissue.

Did you notice ‘animals euthanized at shelters?’ Most animals killed at shelters are euthanized with pentobarbital which is the most common euthanasia drug. The FDA actually did tests looking for pentobarbital due to persistent rumors that rendered by-products used for pet food contained dead dogs and cats. It did find it too. The also did tests looking for canine and feline DNA which they did not find. So the study says. In the past the use of road kill and rendered shelter animals was an open ‘secret’ in the pet food industry. Of course pet food manufacturers deny the use of road-kill and shelter euthanized animals but since it’s not against the law, who knows? I have come across many, many sources in my research that says they are still used. I’ll leave that up to you to think about.

Then you also have something called “Digests’ which is a cooked down broth of tissues from most any animal source, unless specified, and can also include 4-D animals.

Blood meal is basically just a cheap protein booster and there is nothing specifying what animal the blood matter comes from and there is no way of knowing if it contained any kind of hormones, medication or anything else.

And that last ingredient I am going to touch on is fats, oils, tallow and lard. These are used mostly for ‘flavoring.’ Their nutritional value is questionable at best. Animal fats, like many other ingredients, can come from most any source without regard to contamination or quality. Often these fats are sprayed directly on the processed ‘kibble’ to enhance the scent and palatability for out pets. Ever stuck your hand in a bag of dog food and felt how ‘greasy’ it felt afterwards? There ya go!

As you can easily see, just in the category of meats/proteins, there are many things included that you would really have no clue of when you read the label. In theory, not all of this is bad; organ meat is fantastic but wouldn’t you like to know that the organ meal is coming from a ‘clean’ animal rather a something that falls under the 4-D classing?

And this is actually just a rather general overview or some of the ingredients. There are many others and I’ll go over some more of them next time. Arm yourself with the knowledge to keep you pet healthy and happy.

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