There has been a great deal of discussion over the contents of pet foods in the news, mostly due to the lawsuit between Nestle Purina and Blue Buffalo. Blue Buffalo prides itself on being a “natural” food, free of any by-products. However, Purina discovered that Blue Buffalo’s claims are not exactly what they say.
Here is a run-down of what you might be feeding your pet, and why it may be time to change your food.
So what are by-products, and why are they so contentious? Does the content of your food even matter?
“By-products” is a wiggle word used by food companies to hide all of the ingredients in their food. In order to bulk up the amount of food and keep costs disgustingly low, by-products take the place of actual meat and protein. The items that make up by-products are deemed not fit for human consumption—not just because of what they are but also because of how they’re handled (livers, for example, are okay for humans to eat, so long as they’re tossed in the fridge right away. When making pet food, refrigeration like this is not a required step).
You could potentially find a whole smorgasbord of ingredients in animal by-products, from the whacky to the plain disgusting, including
- Road kill
- Dead animals donated by zoos
- Undeveloped eggs
- Livestock that died from disease
- Euthanized pets or shelter animals
Basically, then, animal by-products are what’s left of a slaughtered animal after the edible parts have been removed. And they can also include other…um…colorful ingredients.
Why does it matter? Well, chances are good that you wouldn’t want to eat food that could contain euthanized shelter animals. So why would you take a chance when feeding your pet?
“How do I avoid giving waste to my pet?”
Not all foods tacked with the label “by-product” are bad, and there’s an easy way to identify which ones are.
Carefully read the packaging of your pet’s food. Does it have any of these vague terms?
- “Meat meal”
- “Meat and bone meal”
- “Meat by-product meal”
- “Animal by-product meal”
If your pet’s food label doesn’t identify the type of meat it came from, stay away! As your mother may have told you when you were a kid, “You don’t know where that’s been!”
Alternatively, labels that identify the type of meat used (e.g. “chicken by-product meal” or “beef by-product meal”) are better options for your pet, although you should try to avoid any by-product in your pet’s food. The price is a bit higher, but the benefits are monumental.
By-products aren’t the only danger in pet food either. Over the past year we have seen numerous recalls due to illness and death in animals from contaminated food. Both of these practices can be stopped if enough voices are raised.
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