Do you know what's in your pet's food?
What are meat by-products anyway?
Meat by-products are ground, rendered, and cleaned slaughtered meat carcass parts such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, bones, heads, and intestines (and a small amount of feathers in the case of chicken meat). The terms meat by-products or animal by-products are often used in reference to the ingredients included in commercial pet foods.
The official definition for meat by-products by the Association Of American Feed Control Officials, Inc. (AAFCO) is:"The non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto."
Well, I guess that doesn't sound too bad if you think about what animals would be eating if they weren't domesticated. But lets look behind the curtain and see what that really means as far as pet food goes:
However, in many cases, by-product meals are derived from "4-D" meat sources -- defined as food animals that have been rejected for human consumption because they were presented to the meat packing plant as "Dead, Dying, Diseased or Disabled." The quality of animal meat by-products also tends to be very inconsistent between batches.
Meat by-products are commonly found in lower-grade pet foods and even many of the larger name brands, including Science Diet (even their prescription diet product line), Purina (both Purina One and Purina Pro Plan), and Iams / Eukanuba. Ingredients listed as "meat, beef, chicken, and/or poultry by-products" on pet food labels are not required to include actual meat, and "rendered meat" on labels can refer to any rendered mammal meat, including dogs and cats.
The official Publication of the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) gives wide latitude for ingredients that can be used in animal foods. As shown on the FDA's website here, legally approved pet food ingredients include:
"Collective terms" are used on feed labels to specify the type of product, but not necessarily the specific product, was used to formulate the feed. Any one of several specific products that a collective term covers could be included in the feed.
The collective term of concern under the BSE rule is "animal protein products."
7. What is included in the collective term "animal protein products?
The AAFCO official publication lists:
Animal blood dried
Animal by-product meal
Casein, dried hydrolyzed
Fish liver and glandular meal
Fish protein concentrate
Fish residue meal
Fish solubles, condensed
Fish solubles, dried
Hydrolyzed leather meal
Hydrolyzed poultry by-product aggregate
Hydrolyzed poultry feathers
Meat and bone meal
Meat and bone meal tankage
Meat meal tankage:
Meat solubles, dried
Milk, dried whole
Milk protein, dried
Poultry by-product meal
Poultry hatchery by-product
Skimmed milk, condensed
Skimmed milk, condensed cultured
Skimmed milk, dried
Skimmed milk, dried cultured
Whey, condensed cultured
Whey, condensed hydrolyzed
Whey, dried hydrolyzed
Whey solubles, condensed
Whey solubles, dried
What this translates into, *legally, is this:
dehydrated garbage (restaurant trash, what the industry calls "plate waste";
un dried processed animal waste products ;
polyethylene roughage replacement (plastic);
hydrolyzed poultry feathers;
hydrolyzed leather meal;
poultry hatchery by-product;
meat meal tankage;
ground almond shells;
(*Association of American Feed Control Officials, 1998 Official Publication)
A new category of pet food typically marketed as holistic, wellness, organic, ultra healthy, and/or simply premium pet food often emphasizes the use of human-grade meat sources only, with no animal meat by-products of any kind. Examples of such pet foods include Flint River Ranch, Wellness Pet Food, Innova, Life's Abundance, Nutro Ultra Holistic, and Pet Promise.
If you've come this far...
If you've come this far and you still want to learn more, an excellent site was put together by a team of students at the University of Florida: http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring04/Perhach/ . The material is well researched, in an easy to read style.
All pet food links in this page link only to to Wikipedia, so as not to be tied directly with any manufacturer.