Quantcast
Food

The Truth About Pet Food

Did you know your pet’s food may include dangerous ingredients and harmful chemical compounds? Some of the most expensive brands, labeled “premium,” “natural,” “prescription diet” or even sometimes “organic” are often made from adulterated ingredients or contain carcinogenic and inflammatory additives.

High prices do not necessarily imply high quality. Illusive labels and deceptive marketing are used by many companies to disguise substandard food.

Cornucopia’s research into the pet food industry reveals that many products stray from the natural, wild diets of cats and dogs.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Cornucopia’s newly released report, Decoding Pet Food: Adulteration, Toxic Ingredients and the Best Choices for Your Companion Animals, reveals how the pet food industry is regulated, details specific ingredients to avoid and explains how to keep your pet healthy by choosing wisely at the pet food store and/or preparing their meals at home. Also included with this publication is an online shopper’s guide to help consumers differentiate between high quality, safe pet foods and their more risky alternatives.

Loose regulatory standards often protect the interests of companies that use lower quality ingredients and legislation and regulatory oversight for pet food is aimed at the feed industry. Current regulations allow for the use of animals “which have died otherwise than by slaughter” in pet foods. And, individual state regulations often allow for road kill, restaurant grease and spoiled meat to enter rendering facilities. These admissions pose significant risks to our pets, failing to ensure the quality and nutrient balance of their diets.

Cornucopia’s research into the pet food industry reveals that many products stray from the natural, wild diets of cats and dogs. Protein, fat and carbohydrate ratios may differ significantly from the nutritional needs of your pet. The majority of both dog and cat food product formulations contain too many grains and starches. Though grains need not be avoided completely in pet food, cats and dogs are carnivorous and should have diets based primarily on meat.

This report outlines reasons to avoid brands listing ingredients such as corn, wheat, corn gluten meal, soybean meal and brewer’s rice. Consuming moldy grains is arguably the most detrimental health hazard in pet food ingredients due to the mycotoxins produced by the molds. In addition to grains, many products contain other questionable and/or unnecessary ingredients.

When shopping for your pet’s food, there are specific ingredients you should learn to avoid. Carrageenan, synthetic preservatives, meat and bone meal, bisphenol A (BPA) and forage fish are a few of the main culprits.

Read page 1

Food-grade carrageenan, a thickening agent often found in wet pet food, contains poligeenan (carrageenan of low molecular weight), a known carcinogen. Multiple studies show food-grade carrageenan causes intestinal inflammation in laboratory animals, with the potential to lead to cancer, even in small doses. Even some of the most expensive, “premium” brands of pet food, including, ironically, those prescribed to pets suffering from gastrointestinal disease, contain carrageenan.

Animal fat and animal meat and bone meal contain potentially harmful ingredients, including expired grocery store meat and animals that died of unknown causes on the farm. These ingredients are also associated with the presence of sodium pentobarbital, the compound used to euthanize animals. The FDA has found sodium pentobarbital in at least 30 different pet food brands, all of which contain products of rendering that are not species specific.

Other harmful additives include synthetic preservatives like BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin and propylene glycol. When looking at pet food labels, look for natural antioxidants such as tocopherols, vitamin C and flavonoids. These are a better choice over synthetic preservatives.

Unlike humans, who likely vary their diets with each meal, dogs and cats are typically fed the same food on a continuous basis—meal after meal, every day for a lifetime. Cumulative exposure to controversial substances may be a contributing factor to the most common causes of death for both cats and dogs: obesity, cardiovascular disease, GI diseases and cancer.

Low quality ingredients are often chosen by manufacturers over their healthier counterparts. The desire to maximize profit margins drives money into advertising and packaging rather than high quality ingredients. Ingredient labeling can be confusing. Monopolization of the market has resulted in a few multinational corporations owning almost all of the brands; nearly identical food is merely packaged differently.

So how does a consumer go about choosing a superior pet food? When it comes to feeding your four-legged friend the healthiest commercial food available, undoubtedly the best choice is a certified organic product. While the National Organic Program announced in 2002 that pet food could be certified organic and organic options do exist, there are currently no exclusively organic brands and many companies use deceptive labeling to disguise their non-organic formulas.

The new report is dedicated to Codirector Mark Kastel’s cat, Moe, who likely died of diet-related causes. Photo credit: The Cornucopia Institute

This report is a helpful catalyst to ensure a healthy diet for your companion, depicting what to watch for when companies get creative with marketing ploys and deceptive labeling. When it comes to cheap substitutes and false health claims, the pet food industry is no different than leading marketers of processed human food. Regarding our own health, many of us choose to look for the USDA organic seal to ensure acceptable quality and safety. Organic products offer a superior choice for our companion animals, too.

Take matters into your own hands by reading labels and choosing high quality ingredients. Also consider preparing your pet’s food at home from fresh, whole organic ingredients. Many chronic problems such as allergies, vomiting and skin issues can be solved with homemade pet food.

Making your own pet food allows you to control the quality of ingredients and often saves money. Fresh, real ingredients ensure that your pets’ food is lower in artificial or toxic additives. Dogs and cats have different nutritional requirements and the best diets for your pets are based on an understanding of the diets of wild relatives of cats and dogs.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

10 Reasons Why GMO Smart Label Isn’t ‘Smart’ at All

Congress Keeps Anti-GMO Labeling Rider Out of Spending Bill

Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp: Help Us Stop the DARK Act

8 Grossest Things the FDA Allows in Your Food

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Science
The ICESat-2 will point lasers at Earth's ice sheets. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

NASA's New Space Laser to Measure Earth's Changing Ice

NASA will soon activate the "most advanced laser instrument of its kind" to study Earth's changing polar ice.

The incredibly precise Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) is the main feature of the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) that successfully launched into space from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sept. 15.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Atlantic wolffish is already at risk from oxygen depletion. Nilfanion, via Wikimedia Commons

Oxygen Loss in Canada Linked to Climate Change

By Tim Radford

Oceanographers have identified an act of slow suffocation, as oxygen loss grows near one of the world's richest fishing grounds, and are linking the change to human-triggered global warming.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
A Co-op grocery store location in Shoreditch, London. The Co-op Group / CC BY 2.0

Supermarket Becomes First in UK to Replace Single-Use Plastic Bags With Compostable Alternative

Since 2015, all large stores in England have been required by law to charge five pence for single-use plastic bags in an attempt to reduce plastic pollution.

Now, major UK supermarket chain the Co-op is taking that one step further by phasing out plastic bags entirely and replacing them with compostable alternatives, becoming the first supermarket in the UK to do so, The Guardian reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Tiger: Bernard DuPont (CC BY-SA 2.0); Wolf: John and Karen Hollingsworth /USFWS

Tigers and Wolves: The Reigning Cats and Dogs in Conservation?

By John R. Platt

Do the species most in need of conservation also receive the most scientific research?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
A tiger in Dhikala, Nepal. Ranjith Kumar 2016 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Wild Tiger Population Nearly Doubles in Nepal

Thanks to dedicated conservation efforts, Nepal now has an estimated 235 wild tigers in the country, a nearly twofold increase from its baseline of 121 individuals in 2009, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) announced Sunday on the occasion of Nepal's National Conservation Day.

The South Asian nation is now on track to become the first country to double its tiger population as part of WWF's "TX2" goal to double the world's wild tiger population by 2022—the next year of the tiger on the Chinese zodiac.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
North Carolina hog CAFO in Hurricane Florence floodwaters, Sept. 18. Larry Baldwin / Crystal Coast Waterkeeper / Waterkeeper Alliance

In a Warming World, Carolina CAFOs Are a Disaster for Farmers, Animals and Public Health

By Karen Perry Stillerman

In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, I've joined millions who've watched with horror as the Carolinas have been inundated with floodwaters and worried about the various hazards those waters can contain. We've seen heavy metal-laden coal ash spills, a nuclear plant go on alert (thankfully without incident), and sewage treatment plants get swamped. But the biggest and most widely reported hazard associated with Florence appears to be the hog waste that is spilling from many of the state's thousands of CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), and which threatens lasting havoc on public health and the local economy.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Models are seen backstage ahead of the Chika Kisada show during Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019 on Sept. 24. Tristan Fewings / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Milan Fashion Week Closes with ‘Oscars of Sustainable Fashion’

Milan Fashion Week closed on Sunday with the second annual "Green Carpet Fashion Awards" to promote sustainability in the fashion industry, Reuters reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
An art installation of a polar bear crossing a New York City street. Thomas Jackson / Getty Images

7 Events to Check Out During the 10th Annual Climate Week NYC

Monday marks the start of the 10th annual Climate Week NYC. From Sept. 24 to the 30, non-profit The Climate Group has invited businesses, governments, nonprofit organizations, universities and art and music organizations to host a wide variety of affiliated events devoted to raising awareness and prompting action around climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!