Its in the bag,pet food information                                                    

The time has come to provide you with a little more detailed information that may help you to make an informed decision with respect to the "convenience" of commercial food versus the "work" involved in preparing your own pet food.

Caution: If you have a weak stomach, skip this article!


Obviously there are millions and millions of pounds of pet food sold in bags and cans every year. Did you ever wonder where they get their "meat" and "fat" from? Do you re      ally think they have their own ranches or farms to raise their own raw material? Of course not! They look to the many rendering plants across the nation to provide them with the tonnage they require on a regular basis.

In the previous article (Food for Thought we did mention the quantity of pets shipped to rendering factories to be recycled and used in pet food. However I left it to your imag-ination to visualize what goes on in a rendering facility. Let me provide you with a few details to assist the imagery!

Firstly let me say that I am glad that these facilities do exist. Without them our cities would run the risk of becoming filled with diseased and rotting carcasses. It's a dirty job that someone has to do. Before World War 11, most slaughter houses looked after their own rendering. After the war, the rendering of slaughter waste became a separate specialty. Consequently the rendering plants were no longer subject to most of the federal inspection regulations associated with meat processing. Thus today we find that the industry is largely self regulated and out of the "public eye".

To even begin to understand this industry we must first look at the "raw material" as it is received at the plant. The slaughterhouse for animal carcasses is one of the main suppliers of material to the rendering industry. To prevent condemned meat from being rerouted and used for human consumption, government regulations require that the meat be "denatured" before being sent to the rendering plant. Nice word, but what does that mean?

Basically it means that first it must be contaminated in some way that would make it virtually unusable for human consumption. Some of the materials used to accomplish this task are: carbolic acid, creosote, fuel oil, kerosene, citronella, etc. Once this stuff has literally soaked into the meat, it's then fit to be sent on to the rendering plant.

Another prime source of raw material is the veterinary community. Not only are dogs and cats received in nice little green plastic bags, but also raccoons, possums, deer, foxes, snakes, etc., etc.

Of course we can't forget the grocery industry, that must somehow get rid of the spoiled meat cuts that are no longer salable and the fat, bones, etc. that we (at home) would consider garbage.

So inside the rendering plant we find the floor piled high with "raw product" consisting of a mixture of whole bodies and animal parts, plastic bags, styrofoam packages, metal tags, pet collars--anything and everything that is considered to be "waste"--but suitable for recycling.

"Rendering" is the process of cooking raw animal material to remove the moisture and fat. Let's take a closer look at how this is actually done.

Inside the plant we find masked men (because of the stench of rotting carcasses) operating mini-bulldozers, loading the "raw" material into a 10 foot deep stainless steel pit. At the bottom of the pit, a giant auger-grinder begins to turn. This converts the mass material into smaller, more manageable chunks. From there it is transported to another auger for fine shredding.

Now you have to realize that this is a business and like any other business, they have to cut costs wherever possible. Consequently they do not bother to take the time to remove the flea collars from pets, the pesticide car tags from cattle, the plastic bags, styrofoam packaging, etc. etc. All is grist for the grinder! Just push it in with the bulldozer.

This mass of goop is then cooked at 280 degrees for one hour. During the cooking process the goop produces a layer of yellow grease or tallow that rises to the top and is skimmed off. The cooked meat and bone (along with whatever metal, pesticides, etc.) are sent to a hammermill press, which squeezes out the remaining moisture and pulverizes the product into a gritty powder. Once the batch is finished, all that is left is yellow grease, "meat" and bone meal. This continuous batch cooking process goes on non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, grinding out ton after ton of salable product.

Depending on the dominant ingredient of a particular run, the product now becomes: beef, chicken, lamb, meat meal, meat by-products, poultry meal, fish meal, fish oil, yellow grease, tallow, beef fat, chicken fat, etc.

Never is it labeled, dog meal, cat meal, skunk meal rat meal, or any of the "other" goodies that get mixed in with the everyday batches of "raw material".

Although this processing effectively kills off any beneficial enzymes, it does not get rid of the sodium phenobarbital in the carcasses of euthanized animals. The potential of other chemical contaminants to be degraded by the rendering process is also highly questionable. Perhaps instead of calling them rendering plants it would be more appropriate to call them "toxic waste" recycling plants.

Need we say who are some of the biggest customers of the finished product? You got it-the pet food companies. The primary source of meat and fat in commercial pet food is from this endless process of rendering.

The scary part is that millions of tons of this "food enhancer" is also trucked to poultry ranches, cattle feed lots, dairy and hog farms, fish feed plants, etc. where it is mixed with other ingredients to feed animals and fish that humans will eat.

By the time the pet food boys get through adding their own "enhancers" (i.e. preservatives, food dye, synthetic vitamins,) who really knows what's in the bag?

One of the most common problems I hear about is food allergies. Breeders switch from one brand to another, from beef to lamb, from grain to rice, etc. and find themselves frustrated at not being able to solve the problem. Things may seem to go well for a time and then the same old thing happens all over again.                                                       

Changing to lamb from beef would appear to be a logical thing to try, but how on earth do you really know just what you are really getting? Let me give you a hypothetical example of what could he in a run of "lamb" from the rendering plant and still legally be labeled as lamb.

If we were to bulldoze into the pit, say 25% of lamb parts, mix with 20% beef, 20% chicken, say 15% dogs or cats, and say a mixture of 20% of various road kill animal carcasses, we can say that the dominant ingredient of this -run is lamb. (For this example we will ignore the % of plastic, metal, styrofoam, insecticide, etc.--all to small to affect the labeling process).

As long as the rendering plant does not misrepresent the % of protein or fat or calcium, etc., they are legitimately entitled to sell the run to you favorite pet food manufacturer as "lamb".

By the way, I should mention that the fat sold by the rendering industry does not all come from animals. Thanks to the proliferation of fast food restaurants, nearly half of the "raw material" is waste kitchen grease and frying oil cleaned out of the traps on a regular basis (another industry all of its own). Again, the pet food people rely on this source for the fat that is usually sprayed on the kibble at the end of the drying process.

Once you understand just what really goes into producing a commercial pet food, you can't really be surprised to learn that many of the health problems we see in our companion animals are directly attributable to a lack of proper nutrition.

When someone asks me "aren't you afraid of salmonella or contamination in the raw meat you use?", I only wish I could take them out to a rendering facility and show them just how bad the commercial goop can be! Never again would they buy a bag or can of pet food without reauing just what they are really doing. Never again would they have any fear of using "fresh" meat in place of what the industry laughingly calls food for pets.

For any of you that have not yet switched to a raw diet, I would urge you to go back and read "Food for Thought", in conjunction with this article. By doing this you should have enough basic information to make a fundamental decision on the type of diet you choose to use for your animals.

As we move into the 21st century maybe it's time we turned the clock back a hundred years and got back to some basic nutrition.

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