Seven Secrets to a Healthy Pet FoodWith thousands of pet foods being recalled over the last several months, where is a pet owner to turn in order to find a safe, healthy food for their dog or cat? You are about to learn seven secrets of the pet food industry that gives you the knowledge to find the best for your 4-legged family member.
Secret #1… All pet foods use descriptive words like choice and premium, though few of them actually use premium or choice ingredients. The ‘secret' is per the rules of the pet food industry, no pet food can make any references on their label or advertising as to quality or grade of ingredients. When related to pet food, the word 'premium' or 'choice' DOES NOT imply that the ingredients in the food are premium or choice. With pet foods, premium does not (can not) describe the food nor does it (can it) describe the quality of the food. It is a marketing term and that is all. Per the industries own rules regulations, "There are no references to ingredient quality or grade" (regulation PF5 d 3). So, words like premium, or choice, or quality are just marketing or sales terms, don't use them to influence your buying decisions.
Secret #2… If I can compare ‘people' food to pet food for just a second, we all know there are different qualities of people food. There is White Castle (I love 'em!) and there is Outback Steak House (another favorite). Both restaurants serve meat and potatoes. At White Castle for under $3.00 you get a couple of hamburgers and fries. While at Outback you can get a steak and baked potato for around $16.00. Both serve beef and potato - yet you already realize that there are huge nutritional differences between a fast food hamburger and a steak…right?
The problem in the pet food industry – is that most pet owners don't think in the same terms when it comes to pet food. They don't think in terms that there are fast food types of pet foods and there are sit down restaurant more nutritious types of pet foods. Now, imagine your pet eating this fast food type of food its' entire lifetime.
OK, so back to our two meals…if a chemical analysis of your meal at White Castle was compared to a chemical analysis of your meal at Outback – both would analyze with a percentage of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. The choice cut of steak at Outback and the hamburger from White Castle both analyze as protein. The analysis doesn't measure quality of protein.
So here is the secret…All pet foods come with a Guaranteed Analysis stating the percentage of protein, fat, fiber and moisture in the food. The REAL secret lies in the quality of the percentages of protein, fat, and so on.
In a chemical analysis of a pet food – chicken feet would analyze as protein, although granted it provides very little nutrition. And as well, a cow that was euthanized (put to sleep) because of a disease that made it unfit for human consumption – would analyze as protein although that could be considered dangerous for consumption. Both of those things – chicken feet and a euthanized cow – are allowable ingredients and commonly used in pet food. You see the secret within the pet food industry is manufacturers have a WIDE OPEN door to where they obtain their ingredients. The only strict rule they must follow is an adult dog food must analyze with 18% protein and an adult cat food must analyze with 26% protein. Sources to acquire those particular percentages range from a ‘human grade' meat, to chicken feet, to euthanized animals, to grain proteins, to even man made chemical proteins and many variations in between.
So how can you know if your pet's food uses chicken feet or euthanized cows or if it contains human grade ingredients?
Secret #3… This big secret is found in ingredient definitions. All ‘people' food must meet particular USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) guidelines. The same is not true for pet food. Chicken feet and euthanized cows are NOT allowed in people food for obvious reasons – they have no nutritional value or they could be dangerous to consume. The same is NOT true for pet food. The only way to know if those chicken feet or euthanized cows are in your pet's food is to know what ingredients they can be used in.
The common pet food ingredient ‘Meat and Bone Meal' is basically a combination of many different discarded left-overs from the human food industry. Components of ‘meat and bone meal' can be anything from cow heads, stomachs, and intestines, to (horrifying but true) euthanized animals including cows, horses and dogs and cats. The pet food ingredient 'meat and bone meal' can also contain diseased meat rejected from human foods. In other words, this commonly used ingredient is a mix of highly inferior and potentially dangerous left-overs from the human food industry.
The pet food ingredient ‘Meat By-Product' or ‘Meat By-Product Meal' is pretty much the same thing as ‘meat and bone meal'. Another similar ingredient to the above is ‘Animal Digest'.
As to the chicken feet I mentioned earlier – this item can be found in the ingredients ‘Chicken By-Product' or ‘Poultry By-Product' or ‘Chicken By-Product Meal' or ‘Poultry By-Product Meal'. Any left-overs in the chicken or poultry division – including but not limited to chicken feet, skin including some feathers, chicken or poultry heads, and intestines are found in these ingredients. BEFORE you purchase any pet food, flip the bag over and closely examine the list of ingredients. The above mentioned ingredients would be listed within the first five or ten ingredients. Please avoid pet foods that contain ANY of those ingredients. Remember – chicken feet and euthanized animals do analyze as protein. That is all that is required in pet food – just the correct analysis.
Secret #4… A very well kept secret of the pet food industry is the common use of chemical preservatives. BHA/BHT are very popular chemical preservatives used in pet food and science has linked them to tumors and cancer. Another common preservative is ethoxyquin which has known risks to cancer. You want a pet food that is preserved naturally – common natural preservatives are ‘natural mixed tocopherols' or ‘vitamin E'.
Secret #5… The very best food to provide to your pet is a well made food using human grade ingredients. That should be simple enough…How do you find that? Pet food manufacturers that are APHIS European certified assures you that ALL ingredients in their pet food are human grade. APHIS – Animal Plant Health Inspection Services – is a division of the USDA. APHIS European certification provides this pet food manufacturer with the opportunity to ship their foods/treats to Europe. When importing pet foods from the US, European countries demand that all ingredients are human grade and thus require this certification. Most pet food manufacturers that have APHIS European certification do not ship their products to Europe – they simply use this as a means to assure their customers to the higher quality of their ingredients.
Again, you WON'T see this listed on the label – it's not allowed. You must call the manufacturer and ask.
Secret #6… Minerals are a required ingredient in human diets as well as diets for our pets. Copper, Iron and Zinc are common minerals found in pet foods. Just as they are – copper, iron, and zinc are basically rocks, very difficult for anyone or any pet to utilize. Science has developed several ways to introduce minerals into the body (human and pet) for better absorption thus benefiting the individual far more. This scientific development is called chelating or proteinating and it's been around for years. Through the chelating or proteinating process minerals are absorbed about 60% better than just the minerals alone.
This secret is spotting the minerals in your pet food to see if they are chelated or proteinated. Notice the minerals on your pet food label, way down on the list of ingredients. You are looking for minerals that read ‘copper proteinate' or ‘chelated copper'.
Secret #7… This secret is called ‘friendly bacteria'. Although ‘friendly bacteria' sounds a little scary, the reason for it lies in your pets' intestinal system. A large portion of your pets' immune system is found within the intestinal system, thus keeping the intestines working properly keeps the immune system working properly. Looking at the fine print on your pet food label, this time you are looking for lengthy, scientific words like Lactobacillus Acidophilus or Bifidobacterium Thermophilum. If you do NOT see these words or some very similar, that pet food is not addressing the care of your pets' immune system.
Best wishes to you and your pet!
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