A few months ago, I was renting a house in New Orleans for a film with one of my clients. When I gave her the meal I’d prepared, she mentioned how guilty she felt eating such healthy food for herself when she didn’t pay that level of attention to her pets, who she loved. So is it possible to feed your pets as well as you feed yourself? Of course it is!
Pet Food Recalls
In 2007, the FDA discovered that certain contaminated pet foods contained melamine, which was causing renal failure in dogs and cats. This led to more than 100 pet deaths and 500 cases of kidney failure across the country, sparking a recall of Menu Foods dog and cat food. Ultimately, the problem traced back to wheat gluten from a company in China that had been contaminated with the dangerous ingredient. The recall extended to several popular brands of pet foods including some touted as the gold standard in “health” for your pets, Science Diet.
The 2007 pet food scare wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last. It was just one widely publicized incident in a string of pet food scares over the years.
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Take a moment and read the label on your pet food. You probably see all sorts of interesting ingredients including “meat byproducts” and ash. What are these products your pet is eating?
Meat byproducts: Sometimes called “meat meal,” meat byproducts are animal parts that you wouldn’t want to wind up on your plate – the leftovers after the meat is stripped away, which can include things like entrails, organs, intestines, heads, and feet, among many others. The label meat byproducts also doesn’t list the types of meats that create its byproducts, but could include house pets, road kill, dead or diseased livestock, and zoo animals. It’s not illegal to put cats and dogs into the foods that feed your cats and dogs, or any of the other animals that wind up as pet food (!).
To create meat byproducts, processing plants grind the different animal parts together and then cook it. Using a centrifuge, the plant separates the fat from the protein, and the fat is added back into the foods to ad flavor and scent. Protein may be dried for dry food or canned for wet food.
Chemicals: Since many of the animals that wind up in pet food are euthanized, the chemicals used in the process often wind up in the pet food. The foods also have preservatives and often, artificial flavors and colors.
Other ingredients: Other added ingredients contain bulk, but don’t add to the nutritive value of the food and many can be very harmful to dogs and cats. These ingredients include grain fillers, cellulose and other grains that can contribute to vitamin deficiencies in dogs and cats. They may also contain other ingredients that dogs and cats weren’t meant to eat that can create vitamin and mineral overload.
How to Feed Your Pet
So, if commercial pet food is so unhealthy, how can you ensure your pet is eating a healthy, organic diet?
- Prepare healthy foods for energy using human grade ingredients. Opt for organic, natural protein sources that have been pasture raised and include healthy fruits and vegetables. Beware that dogs cannot eat onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, dairy, macadamia nuts, chocolate, avocado, stone fruits, and chocolate while cats should never be given tuna, onions, garlic, chives, dairy, grapes, raisins, and chocolate.
- Purchase organic pet food. Visit your local health food store or specialty pet food retailer and find out the types of foods they offer. Before buying it, head home and do some research on the Internet to determine the quality of your pet’s food. Read the ingredients and avoid those with meat byproducts or meat meal.
- Try raw pet food. Many natural raw foods mimic the way dogs and cats would eat in the wild. Again, research is key here since many raw brands contain harmful ingredients. Good brands include BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) and Paw Naturaw Grass Fed Organic.