Some may say ignorance is bliss, but we don’t think so at PetMio. Constantly, we find that pet owners are not fully aware of what they are feeding their dogs or cats. Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising to us. The pet food industry, both its regulating bodies and some pet food companies, aren’t doing enough to ensure that the best products reach your pet’s bowl.
Hang on for this ride through 5 facts about the pet food industry that may surprise you.
#1: The Nutrition Label and Packaging Don’t Represent the Contents
Instead of displaying the nutritional contents of pet food, the nutrition label only has to include the minimum percentages of contents like fat, protein and fiber. According to Kasra Farsad, Chief Science Officer at PetMio, the label leaves much unsaid.
“You add up everything on that label and it’s only about 68% of the bag,” he said. “And you’re wondering, ‘What’s the other 32%?’”
According to Farsad, the truth is that it’s just ash, or ground-up bone, joints, cartilage, tendons and other indigestible material in a form that has no nutritional value. Ash can slow down the digestive process, taking up energy that would normally be used to process food that does have nutritional value.
“You might as well be putting sawdust in the food at that point,” Farsad said.
#2: You Don’t Know Where the Meat is Coming From
In the pet food industry, there’s very little transparency when it comes to protein sources. There’s even a grade of meat called 4-D, which includes animals that are diseased, dead, dying or disabled.
According to Farsad, protein requirements in pet food are only limited to the amount of protein, not its source. So, pet food manufacturers are allowed to use meat that is not fit for human consumption.
In a system with this many loopholes, some scary products slip through.
For example, several news outlets reported in early March 2017 that a euthanasia drug, pentobarbital sodium, had found its way into one company’s brand of dog food. Farsad said there’s only one explanation for the chemical’s presence.
“The fact that…an animal was euthanized, and its corpse was ground up into meat and sold as a pet food is undeniable,” Farsad said.
While this is an extreme example, and pentobarbital sodium is not dangerous in trace amounts, the discovery sheds a light on the protein sources that some parts of the industry consider acceptable for pets.
#3: Low-Grade Grains are Acceptable
It’s not too difficult for contaminated, infested and heat-damaged grains to find their way into pet food. Manufacturers often add low-grade grains as fillers because they’re sold at an extremely low price. Additionally, manufacturers will also use grains considered unfit for human consumption, according to the Dog Food Advisor. It’s all perfectly legal.
The Dog Food Advisor also states that some of the contaminated grains found in dog food can cause severe illnesses, and, in some cases, death.
“The main issue is these grains have different nutritional compositions than ordinary grains,” says Farsad.
So, this discrepancy could be the difference between your pet getting the right nutrients or going without – all without you even knowing.
#4: The Industry is Reactive, Not Proactive
In 2007, a major pet food crisis involving melamine, a contaminated vegetable protein, led to the recall of many brands of dog and cat food. According to Dr. Arlianne Velez, Chief Veterinarian at PetMio, the oversight led to thousands of sick or dying pets.
Though this happened 10 years ago and is arguably the largest pet food crisis ever, pet food recalls are frighteningly common. Take the euthanasia case, for example. And the recent discovery of elevated thyroid hormones in one dog food brand, which caused weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and breathing problems in affected dogs.
Farad says that the pet food industry is largely responsive.
“They wait for a dog to get sick to start analyzing the food,” he explained. “They’re using your pets as their quality control.”
It’s cheaper for pet food manufacturers to let a few pets get sick than analyze every batch that goes out, according to Farad.
#5: It’s Not Clear Who Makes the Rules
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is partially responsible for setting guidelines in the pet food industry. The problem? The AAFCO, according to its own website, “has no regulatory authority whatsoever.”
So, while the FDA website claims AAFCO is responsible for enforcing state legislation about the production and labeling of pet food, AAFCO has no power to actually lay down the law.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Not every food brand out there lacks responsible inspections. But lack of regulations means you’re relying on pet food manufacturers to go above and beyond the bare minimum. The question then remains: How much do you trust your pet’s food brand? The PetMio team doesn’t just want to scare you. We want to make sure you understand the lack of transparency in the pet food industry.
We plan to do something about it. Our transparency will empower you to make the best decision for your pet. With PetMio, you will know exactly what is in your pet’s food. And we’ll do everything in our power to ensure you know where it came from.
Keep reading the PetMio blog for information on pet nutrition, and sign up for more information about our latest advances in pet food technology below.