Note to Pet Food Manufacturers: Nails and plastic are NOT food groups!

Although it's been approximately four years since I switched all the fur people here at Tucker Tells All to a home prepared prey model raw diet, I still keep a wary eye on the goings-on in the pet food industry.  Sometimes I don't know why I do it ... since news of recalls and other problems are intensely disturbing, as well as more frequent than one might believe.

Ultimately, though, I do it because even though my animals rarely eat commercial pet food, there are a lot of other animals out there that do.  Dogs and cats whose families love them every bit as much as I do Tucker, Olivia, Tanner, Phoebe, and Finn.  I know some people who feed home cooked or do-it-yourself raw diets who seem to feel it is their obligation to recruit others into their ranks by means of fear and guilt mongering.  I don't happen to be one of those people.  I do have friends and family who either cook or provide a raw diet for their pets, but the majority of them eat commercially prepared foods.  Most dogs and cats, at least in the U.S., do.  It is for all those animals that I still continue to sign up for news of recalls and safety issues in the world of commercial pet food. 

And the truth is that the news is, more often than not, quite disturbing.  Like this report I got wind of just last night: 

One of the scariest parts about this, to me, (as if nails and visible pieces of plastic in our pets' dinner bowls is not horrifying enough!) is that this is a company with a generally good reputation.  They have several grain-free foods for both dogs and cats and their Whole Earth Farms line, one that a budget-conscious co-worker is currently using for her dogs at my recommendation, is, while not grain-free, still is (or was), in my considered opinion, one of the best foods out there at that price point.  

So I was not happy to have to tell her this morning about the email I got last night.  Having just bought a brand new large bag of this food for her two Labs less than a week ago, and with a husband out of work, she isn't sure what to do.  Sure, if she takes the food back to Petco, they will refund her money.  But then what?  What food to try next for her two big, active food-hounds, one of whom had been chronically itchy and scratchy, but who, with the change to this food and the addition of some fish oil to his diet, and a splash of organic apple cider vinegar in his water bowl every other day or so, had made a marked improvement?  

Participate in any dog (or cat) discussion forum or e-list, and  debates about food abound.  What food is best?  Second best?  How to find a food that the animals in our care will thrive on, and that we can afford.  Or, in the case of many cats, that they will actually EAT!  With all of that to worry about, we should not have to spend so much time obsessing over whether the carefully-chosen food that we spend our hard-earned money on is going to be safe.  We should not have to peel back the lid of a can of food and examine the contents for plastic or nails before spooning it into a bowl for our pets to consume.  Why is this so difficult for pet food companies to understand?!!!

After the mass recalls of 2007, I began to feel as if the process of choosing the foods I would feed to my animals was like some bizarre whack-a-mole game that I could never win.  I could carefully read labels all day long, but as we know, labels are important but they don't tell the whole story.  They don't tell you whether the ingredients in the food have been handled and stored properly.  They don't tell you that if you are buying a food that contains fish and if that food is also made in a co-packing plant that manufacturers many brands of well-known and respected pet foods, that it is almost certain to contain ethoxyquin, a preservative that was formerly used as a rubber stabilizer and is a known carcinogen.  In fact, because of the issue of the co-packers I just referenced, you often don't even know if the company whose logo is on the bag or can you're buying is even the one responsible for actually making the food.  (Hint: in many cases, they are not!) 

The only way to know these things is to dig deeper than most people have the time or energy to go, if they even knew to dig that deep in the first place.  And remember that whack-a-mole game?  The one we played as kids in arcades?  You had a big rubber mallet and you whacked the moles as they popped up out of their holes?  As the game progressed, the moles popped up faster and faster, and the holes they popped up out of were further and further apart.  

In the frightening and confusing aftermath of those 2007 recalls, I felt like I was right back in that arcade, whacking those moles for all I was worth, trying to win that prize.  Only the prize I was trying to win wasn't a teddy bear.  It was the health and well-being of my animals.  And I felt like I just couldn't win!  This food contained species-inappropriate ingredients like high-glycemic grains.  That one contained potentially carcinogenic preservatives or artificial vitamin derivatives also known to have causal links to cancer. The next one I considered might look great from a label standpoint, but when I made inquiries into who was co-packing the food, I found that it was one that had a poor track record with recalls.  

The decision I ultimately made was to eliminate 99% of commercial pet food and treats from my animals' diets.  I wanted to feed them the diet their wild ancestors would eat, from food sources I trusted.  Make no mistake, there are pet food companies out there that I feel have earned my trust, and that of my fellow pet owners, but they are few and far between.  And this morning, I feel betrayed yet again by one that I had trusted.  One that I recommended to someone else, who loves her dogs a great deal and is trying to do the best she can for them on a limited budget.  

So to all those pet food companies out there to whom we are entrusting the safety and health of our beloved animal companions, know this:  we have our eye on you, and we are holding you accountable.  Oh, and one more thing:  nails and plastic are not food groups!  And you really shouldn't need us to tell you that.  


Molly The Wally said...

That was very thought provoking. I am going to have a good look at what is on the labels of our pet food and treats. Have a fantastic Friday.
Best wishes Molly

Sam said...

I don't care how well rated a food is, the whole dog food business is scary. We are slowly making a transition over to primal, but with two finicky dogs who would just prefer kibble, it has been a long and hard process. It is scary!


Spitty-the-Kitty said...

That's real real skeery, Tucker. We tries to be careful but I guess you just nefur know. Thanks for keeping us informed!

CATachresis said...

There is some scary stuff going on in the commercial pet food world! having a stoneage diet is good for pets and humans too, I think!! Get rid of processed!

Good post !

GreatGranny said...

Tucker, thank you for this info. Mom is now feeding me prescription diet by science diet for my kidneys, in the can. She says she hopes its ok. But, we have to worry about cans too, even for humans.oxoxo Kassey

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