Human grade vs. pet grade ingredients in pet food

Q. What’s the difference between the ingredients used in human foods and those used in pet foods?

A.  Pet foods are the traditional dumping grounds for the leftovers of human food manufacturing. Ingredients destined for human food products have to pass minimum standards of quality and safety imposed by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture). In the big business of multinational food companies, nothing is wasted. Any indigestible wastes, condemned parts, or other by-products deemed unfit for human consumption are then used for pet food, where the quality and safety of ingredients are unregulated. This applies to grocery store brands and mass marketed specialty brands such as Science Diet and Hill’s Prescription Diet (owned by Colgate Palmolive), Iams and Eukanuba (Proctor & Gamble), Nature’s Recipe (Heinz), and Ralston Purina.

Fortunately, there are conscientious pet food companies that are not owned by large conglomerates that go to great lengths to make pet foods containing only human quality ingredients.

Q. What kind of meats are used in mass-marketed pet foods?

A.  There are two sources of supply for “pet-grade” meats and poultry.  One source is federally-inspected USDA meat packing plants, where the carcasses that fail inspection due to damage, disease, or cancerous tumors are separated for shipping to the pet food factory. The other source is rendering plants, where 4D animals (dead, dying, diseased, or disabled) are rendered into a dry crumbly meal and used for livestock feed, fertilizer, and pet food ingredients. Rendering plants also process road kill and euthanized zoo animals and pets from shelters and veterinary clinics.

Q. What about grains in pet foods?

A.  Name brand pet foods utilize the grain waste products, too. After the more valuable starches and oils have been extracted, often by chemical processes, the hulls and remnants are turned into ground corn, corn gluten meal, brewer’s rice, ground wheat, and various flours. These ingredients have almost no nutritional value and are merely fillers. Sometimes whole grains are used that have been deemed unfit for humans because of mold, too many pesticides, or improper storage.

Q. How about fats & oils in pet foods?

A.  Fats are an expensive and nutritionally important part of a pet’s diet. Many manufacturers use “blended fats” from multiple sources, including (often rancid) recycled restaurant grease, that are stabilized with powerful chemical preservatives. Both the toxins formed in previously cooked fats and the preservatives used to stabilize them have been linked to cancer.

Q. What are my options?

A.  All of the food sold at All The Best Pet Care uses the highest-quality ingredients. Stop in and ask us for a recommendation for your dog or cat’s particular needs.

Analyzing the ingredients

At All The Best Pet Care, we believe in giving our pets nothing but the highest quality foods made with wholesome, nutritious ingredients. With so many brands to choose from, it can be hard to select the very best ones to feed your pet. Our foods feature USDA meats, whole nutritious grains or starches like brown rice, barley and potato, natural preservatives, and fruits and vegetables.

Be wary of foods that contain the following low-quality ingredients:

What is it?

Why is it used?

What’s wrong with it?

Animal or meat by-products

Rendered and ground carcasses and parts including heads, brains, bones, feet and intestines.

As a cheap source of poor-quality protein in inexpensive foods.

Often sourced from “4D” animals, roadkill, euthanized pets or zoo animals, or restaurant waste.

Animal digest

A cooked down substance made from animal parts not including hair, teeth, horns or hooves.

As a palatability and smell enhancer in low quality foods.

Often sourced from “4D” animals, roadkill, euthanized pets or zoo animals, or restaurant waste.

Artificial colors

Dyes used to color foods including Red #40, Yellow #5 and Yellow #6.

To replicate the color of fresh meat and other ingredients for marketing purposes.

Dyes have been linked with health conditions ranging from mild to severe, including cancer.

Chemical preservatives (BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin)

Chemical substances used to preserve fats and oils in dry pet food.

To preserve and stabilize dry pet foods as a less expensive alternative to natural preservatives.

BHA and BHT are banned in many countries. All are known or suspected carcinogens.

Corn and wheat

Found in many forms as primary ingredients in low quality pet food. Acceptable in small amounts.

As an inexpensive source of incomplete proteins to act as a “filler” in low end foods.

Common allergens for dogs and cats, they are poorly digested and the protein is largely unavailable.

Corn gluten meal

The dried protein by-product of making corn starch or syrup.

Used as an inexpensive and low ash source of protein.

Provides incomplete proteins to carnivores. Can disturb immune system function.

Propylene Glycol

A sweet humectant used to keep food and treats soft and prolong shelf life.

To ensure a long shelf life (up to five years) and make foods appear meat-like in texture.

A cousin to antifreeze and a potential cause of digestive issues including constipation.

Soy

An inexpensive source of protein found in many low-grade foods.

Soy is used as a meat substitute in vegetarian diets and to boost protein percentages.

Another common allergen and an inaccessible source of protein for dogs and cats.

Sugar

It comes in many forms, including corn syrup and beet pulp sugar.

To increase palatability and act as a humectant to preserve food

Can lead to diabetes and weight gain and contribute to behavioral problems like hyperactivity.