Have you ever wondered what is actually in those tasty looking pellets you feed your dogs and cats? I’ve never given much thought to pet food, mainly because I’ve only had fish for friends for the past few years. But we just got a puppy and I’ve been doing some research on organic dog food – surprisingly, my non-organic boyfriend is totally into feeding our little guy good food. The people who gave him to us gave us what was left of the Purina Puppy Chow they’d bought, and we’ve been feeding him that while we decide which organic brand to go with.
When we first decided to get a puppy, I signed up for a newsletter on Dr. Mercola’s website called Healthy Pets with Dr. Karen Becker. Well, a few days ago I read her article about what actually goes into pet food and how the “rendering” process works. Needless to say, this handsome hulk pup will not be eating the rest of that Puppy Chow.
This article – and the fact that I’ve been feeding my little guy such awful food – disgusted me so much that I don’t even want to write about it. I’m just going to share the highlights with you and leave you to make your own decision. If you care about the food you put in your own body, I hope you would give the same care to your pet’s food as well.
Here’s the low-down on the rendering process:
The rendering process involves combining “raw product” (defined shortly) in huge containers and grinding the mixture down to chips or shreds.
The mixture is then cooked at 220º – 270º F for up to an hour, which separates the meat from the bone. The grease, also called tallow, rises to the top, is skimmed off the mixture, and becomes the mystery ‘animal fat’ frequently found on pet food ingredient labels. The remaining product is put in a press which squeezes out all the moisture and pulverizes the material into a powder. Shaker screens are used to separate excess hair and large bone chips from the powder. The result is meat and bone meal added to pet food formulas…
In case you thought the rendered ingredients in your dog’s or cat’s food came only from (presumably regulated) slaughterhouses or animal processing plants, now you know better. Renderers also drive around in specially designed trucks picking up dead farm and ranch animals, as well as dead pets from animal shelters. They also collect fat, grease and other human food waste from food outlets…
Among the dead livestock and poultry that renderers collect are a large number of animals that died from disease or “accidents” – never even making it to the slaughterhouse…” (Decoding Pet Food Doublespeak)
Yep, it’s time to take a trip to PetSmart. They have a surprisingly good selection of organic pet food, though the one we went to only had canned and dry food. According to Dr. Becker, the best kind of pet food is a raw food diet, either frozen or dehydrated. Canned is second on her list, and dry is last because there is no moisture content (The 3 Best Pet Foods You Can Buy). I’m not sure where to find raw pet food, so until then, I think we’re going to stick to either canned or dry and just feed him lots of wholesome table scraps.
These are some of the organic dog food brands I’ve heard of or researched: Halo, Wellness, Castor & Pollux Organix, Natura Karma, Blue Buffalo, EVO, Instinct. (Check out this site for dog food ratings by ingredients: DogFoodAnalysis.com.) From what I’ve gathered poking around the interwebs, Blue Buffalo seems to be the most highly recommended. They even have a high protein line called Blue Wilderness. Sounds perfect for our hulk-in-training.