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January 31, 2012 at 9:21 AMComments: 16 Faves: 0

5 Pet Food Secrets Corporations Don't Want You To Know About

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

You have a vague idea that it should be meat-based, but do you REALLY know what's in your pet's food?

After doing some personal research, I have no problem saying that I am extremely picky about my pet's food. (Check out my Top 3 Commercial Dog Food Picks!)

It took some time on my part, but it is worth it to understand what your pets are eating. You wouldn't believe what big corporations are putting in those bags!

Here are just 5 pet food secrets corporations are happy to keep to themselves.

1. You wouldn't recognize most of the "meat" they claim is in their food.

Thinking breasts, legs, or even hamburger when you see "chicken", "beef" or "lamb" listed in the ingredients?

Think again.

The "cuts" they count as meat is only meat by the loosest possible interpretation of the word. Meat can,and typically does, mean the heads, feet, throats, even diseased animals and their TUMORS.

Yes, even tumorous growths and animals so diseased they actually DIED prior to production are thrown into the mix!

And by-products - don't even get me started! Bones, blood, guts, horns and beaks are just a few of the parts that fall into this category.

2. Meat that is simply called "meat" COULD actually come from euthanized pets!!

You're looking down the list of ingredients and you see, chicken, beef and lamb listed. You even see "chicken by-products" (YUM!) Then farther down the list you see a mystery ingredient - just "Meat" or just "bone meal" or just "by-products."

"That's awfully... nondescript", you think.

"Where are they getting these ingredients? Why not just name the source?"

Well, probably because there's no nice word like "pork" for euthanized pets and road kill.

Yes, That's right.The AAFCO (Associate of American Feed Control Officers) president has admitted that dead and euthanized pets have been used in making pet food. Pet food companies that mass produce cheap and generic pet food save millions of dollars by using euthanized pets, expired store meat and road kill without disclosing exactly what they are using in their ingredients.

TIP: Listing only ingredients like "chicken" and "pork" allows pet food companies to charge a higher price for their product. Believe me - if they COULD name a source you'd want to read, they would. If you see ingredients listed simply as "meat", put the bag down and walk away!

3. Grains are for people, not for pets!

While many of us think of our pets as people, their nutritional needs are significantly different that ours.

Humans are built for an omnivorous diet and thrive on an abundance of whole grains, wheat and rice. Our cats and dogs on the other hand, are built for a carnivorous diet.

While grains like corn, wheat, soy and gluten look good (especially compared to ingredients like "animal digest" and "by-products!") they are actually detrimental to our pets.

They aren't selected for their benefits to cats and dogs. They offer little of the nutrients our pets really need as carnivores and in fact, dogs and cats lack an essential amino acid needed to break them down. As such, they can be very difficult for your pet to digest. Soy especially has been linked painful bloating and gas.

So WHY use them?

Because they are inexpensive and filling!

4. Grease sweetens the taste, but causes side effects.

How to convince dogs and cats to eat something so foul?

Add fat and salt!

Kitchen grease (from restaurants), lard, refined animal fat (house waste and supermarket trimmings from meat) and other oils that humans would not consume are used to entice our pets to eat their food. They actually spray this onto our pet's kibble.

Have you ever opened your pet's bag of food and became overwhelmed with it's strong, overpowering odor? Noticed your pet's breath is horrible?

Suspect lots of grease.

Unfortunate, because besides obviously being fattening without offering much nutrition, grease is known to cause a range of digestive problems including diarrhea, bloat and gas.

5. Who (not the corporations) knows best?

Where should you turn to find a good, high quality pet food?

Who will point you in the right direction?

HINT HINT: It's not those corporations!

When it comes to pet nutrition, turn to someone more interested in your pet's health than your money.

You can ask your vet for their recommendations. However, with this said, most veterinarians only acquire their knowledge about a pet's nutrition through elective classes in their school. Often the classes are taught by "pet food company" representative and the food the vet sales at their clinic is money back in their pocket.

You can use your vet's advice as a starting place, but it is important to take the time to do your own research or visit your local pet store and ask questions there too.

My personal guidelines?

Stay away from any pet food that labels "meal or bone meal," "by-products," "corn syrup," and or words you simply can't pronounce.

RUN from products listing "Meat."

Look for brands whose first 10 ingredients listed are simple and straightforward.

Visit your local pet store and ask a manager for guidance and recommendations. They are in the business of selling ALL types of brands and would be happy to help you find a high quality product.

I hope these secrets will encourage you to purchase the best food possible for your pets. Take the time needed to research. The most important thing you can do for your pets is to make an informed decision on your pet's food. While these foods may be more expensive than the generic brands, you'll save significantly if your pet never develops diabetes, cancer or other diseases as a result!

Photo Credit:

tonrulkens, amanda_ascani, aroid, lambchops, LoriHorwedel


Critter Minute - AAFCO Admits to Euthanized Pets in Pet Food

Precious Pets - Truth

Dog Food Advisor - Dog Food Industry Exposed

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  • Great, informative blog, Victoria! I cannot believe what kinds of things they deem OK to put into pet food. Blech. Also what are pet food brands that you would recommend? What ones do you use for your Izzy and Romeo?? :)

  • Great information. I had started buying a holistic food a couple of years ago because by Boxer has several health issues with skin, digestive issues, etc. I get the Blue that is holistic, natural. Is that a brand you would recommend?

  • Great Question! My pets (except Izzy) are all on a special diet through the vet, (Hills is the brand) that can only be purchased from them (they are all high maintenance pets, LOL!), and yes, I've read the ingredients carefully! However, Izzy is the one that I do add a little something special in hers, because she doesn't need to be on the special diet as Romeo, it just makes it easier for me to feed them the same dry kibble....Izzy gets an added bonus of which is a soft, holistic all-natural dog food (you can even eat it)....if I purchase through a store here is a list of my favorite brands that I encourage my pet clients to try; Blue Buffalo, Innova, California Select, Earthborn Holistic....these can not be purchased at Wal-Mart, Target or Meijer only a Pet Store.....

  • Euthanized pert?! Wow. There should be some kind of law against that.

  • Thanks for the tips, Victoria! Just checked out that facebook page for the homemade pet food. I will definitely be utilizing that when I get a pet. And I will be sharing that with all my friends and families!

  • I discovered a product called Artamis dry food which is full of the best nutrients and no rubbish and I purchase this from my local pet shop. I think it is from America but the change in my cocker spaniels coat and health changed quite dramatically once I introduced this dry food. My cocker spaniel did not like any dry food before this at all and is now 11 years old with best coat and shiny nose! This food is available for young and senior dogs.

  • Hi, Any suggestions for a 5 year old cocker spaniel that suffers from hot spots?

  • Glad all you US citizens are so confident about anything 'made in the USA' !
    I would take issue with a few things here. Top quality kibble is better than mass produced junk certainly, and I sometimes supplement with a couple of organic brands, one made in the UK, one made in Canada. BUT - dry food is not natural for dogs and cats, however high the quality. And vets are not always the best people to give advice, they have vested interests in selling particular 'science' products and are as interested in making a profit as human doctors are. Plus their knowledge of nutrition is generally quite poor, certainly below that of a lay person who takes the trouble to learn about it. Do your research yourself and find out what is best for your pets. They will be healthier and happier, needing few vet visits.
    My 16+ year old Shepherd mix lives mainly on HUMAN, not animal, grade chicken, some of it raw so he gets the benefit of the bones and enzymes, some of it cooked because he loves the broth. He also has veggies, herbs and supplements because of his age. The meat is verified as raised in the UK. You need to know the provenance because even meat for humans can be imported from far eastern countries. For health concerns I recommend homeopathy, but there are many excellent therapies out there.

  • Beware of pet foods containing sodium selenite or sodium selenate. According to documented information at Green Med Info, these inorganic forms of selenium - byproducts of copper metal refining - are 4 times more lethal than cyanide! They are nevertheless used in pet foods and some nutritional supplements such as Centrum (Pfizer) and One-A-Day (Bayer). They're also used in many processed foods. Toxicology reports from the Hazardous Substances Databank ( and PUBMED ( show that both forms may exhibit carcinogenicity and genotoxicity and may contribute to reproductive and developmental problems in animals and humans.
    I feed my cat a nutritionally balanced homemade raw food diet, which seems to be the best way to avoid all the garbage found in commercial pet foods, even the "premium" and organic brands. (Even Newman's Own contains sodium selenate.)

  • The comments and info are so interesting to me. I have realized for a long time that the commercial food offered to cats and dogs is horrendous. And I am glad that people are now
    taking an interest in the health of our "furry Friends. will be looking for more info!

  • Thanks for the informative article, I had to post the link on my facebook so my other pet-owning friends would know. It's terrible that corporations do this. I actually recently researched Buffalo Blue catfood, and so far they look good with their "true blue promise" of avoiding the things you mention here. However, I did look at their ingredients after reading your article, and the bag I bought lists "chicken mean" and "turkey meal" which they describe as high boiling off the fat and using the "meat residue". Do you know, since it has the word "meal" in it, if it is bad? What's your take on Blue Buffalo brand? Thanks for your input! Can you email this response as well in case I do not get back to this site? Thanks again!

  • Hi Sara~

    You didn't include your email address :-(

    I use to be a fan of Blue Buffalo, but they have been on the "recall" list one to many times for my comfort to recommend them.

    Meal is fine as long as there is another word in front of it. Like you mentioned "Chicken Meal" or "Turkey Meal." What that tells you is what type of animal is the "meal." If you see the word "meal" by itself with no other description before it, it could be any type of animal being used.

    I hope that helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions anytime. I will do my best to assist you. It can be overwhelming when trying to figure out what to feed our fur kids, as we only want the best for them.

  • I would like to update that my dogs are no longer on Hill's or any other type of a commercial dry kibble or treats. After more research, I found that Hill's is no better then many other commercial brands out there. They are both on a Fresh Diet only and thriving nicely on it. No more skin issues for Romeo, and Izzy will eat anything we put in front of her, but we stick to this fresh diet.

    I've learned so much since writing and researching about food for our pets. Yes, I regret feeding them commercially dry kibble. Healthy Paws Homemade food is what I feed my pets now.

  • I buy grain free pet food.

  • Hi Stefania~ That is fantastic and the right step to feeding your pet a healthier diet. Thank you for sharing. Victoria :-)

  • :)

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