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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Where's the Beef?

Where's the beef? What's really in your dog's food??

I recently took a poll on what my readers feed their dogs and dry food topped the list so there are a couple of questions to be asked here. Do you really know what’s in your dog’s food? Do you know what the ingredients chicken or beef
by-product mean? What is the first ingredient listed on the bag of food you use? Are there really any benefits from grains such as wheat or corn? What about food coloring, should there be food coloring in a dog food?

Digest of Beef by- product is by the AFFCO (the Association of American Feed Control officials) standards described in this way:

Material from beef which results from chemical and/ or enzymatic hydrolysis or clean and undecomposed tissue from non-rendered clean parts, other than meat from Cattle, which includes but is not limited to, lungs, spleen kidneys, brain, livers, blood , bone, partially defatted low-temperature fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth, and hoofs.

Then underneath that is: ‘digest of beef’ which shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, and hoof except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice.

Chicken: consists of the ground rendered clean parts of the carcass of the slaughtered chicken such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs ,and intestines, exclusive of feathers except in amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.

My question: “Who is ensuring that the chicken’s and cattle’s intestines and stomach are free from its contents before going into a vat and being ground up and how are they doing this? “And how much effort do you think they’ll even put into examining the contents of the stomach and intestines of either animal? And what about beef that seemingly die on the farm of natural causes? Do we not think that they’ll be sent along with the supposedly cleaned intestinal animals? And no offense to factory workers, as I was once a factory worker myself, I don’t think factory workers are standing around saying: “Gee , George, you and Jim took all the beaks off them chickens before you put them in the pot didn’t you?
“ Well, Elmer, I don’t rightly recall.”

That’s not the way I imagine it going down!

This blog article may be a little unsettling and in no way is it my intent to make people go out and put themselves in debt to buy a bag of dog food, but at the very least you should know what may or may not be going into the food you are feeding. When the dog’s food is not up to par you may notice a difference in the dog’s health, such as with the skin and coat, food allergies, auto immune disorders, and certainly weight gain.

Food allergies seem to be a big problem when it comes to dogs and most dogs become allergic to chicken, beef, lamb and the grains in a dog food, thus special diets such as venison, duck, and sweet potato are made by some companies. A dog can develop food allergies at any time in its life, and it is not usually a new food that causes the allergy, but one the dog has been eating for a long time.

Some dog foods have fancy names, their packaging makes the food look fit for a human, or we trust them because they have been around for a long time. Basically, there wasn’t much choice in dog foods for a long time and there wasn’t much in the way of regulations in the dog food business.

‘But ah, the times they are a changin’ now that the family dog is really becoming more of a family member than the once thought of piece of property as stated by law. But surprisingly there are still some dog foods that look very appetizing but do not have much in the way of nutritional value. Beneful comes to my mind as I wonder why a dog food needs so much food coloring! Beneful has: yellow 5, red 40, yellow 6, and blue 2. The only reason I can account for so much food coloring is that it makes the food look tasty to the dog’s human companion.

But Come on, how stupid do these companies think we are? Food coloring is used to make something look more desirable and a dog food that consists of mostly grains and fillers would turn an ugly gray color once the moisture was taken out of it through processing. What human would look at that ugly gray color and say, “Yum, that looks good enough to eat!” Hence the food colorings to spice it up a bit. Kibbles and bits is another food that comes to mind. Dogs love it, but it sports little in the way of nutrition.

Beneful and Kibbles & bits are obviously not the only dog foods that are not very nutritious, but these two are my example because I see a lot of people buying them in my travels and I just want to tell them; “Yo, that’s not a great food!" but of course I bite my tongue, it is after all their dog! As I said before, I don’t want people going broke to feed their dog, but then again in the long run, healthier food may mean fewer health problems, meaning fewer vet visits.

Looking at the Beneful packaging it shows mostly vegetables and grains. Jeez, are dog’s suddenly vegetarians? In fact the first five ingredients are corn, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat and soy protein concentrate. So where’s the Beef? Grains are usually the first to cause wide spread problems because of the fungus they can obtain which causes aflatoxin poisoning. Granted, I think we all became more aware of what we feed our dogs when the industry caused a world wide loss of our pets because of the melamine found in the ‘wheat gluten’ that came from China. When the thought crosses my mind that I could have lost all of my brood due to that, it sickens me. Thankfully, I was spared because my dogs eat a food that contains no wheat, wheat gluten, corn, or soy grains. But since that awful time more people have purchased or adopted dogs and may know nothing about that whole disaster. During that calamity some people took to making their own dog food, but I can’t make a balanced meal for my family so I know I can’t do it for the dogs! For now, I have to trust AFFCO to keep on top of the dog food factories.

So how can you pick your dog food? Well you want to look for a meat listed as the first ingredient, real meat, not a meat by product, so if it says chicken as the number one ingredient you’re off to a good start. You want little to no grains or at least they should not be listed at the very top of the list, cheaper dog foods will use grains as fillers. (Real meat is too expensive) Look for omega fatty acids 3-6-9 which are great for the skin and coat, the fat content should be 18% or higher and the protein level should be at least 30% .There should be no food coloring!

I must admit, I once thought all dog foods were made alike and at the age of one year when adulthood kicked in, my brood was off of puppy food and started on Pedigree for adults, a trusted name or at least a good sounding name, but when my Newfoundland’s coat started to get dull and started to show fungal skin problems I switched to what I thought was a better quality food which does not contain grains, and although it got only a 3 star rating, it was better than Pedigree’s one star rating. (The ratings go up to six stars.)

So I admit, after writing this article I still have a little more homework of my own to do to find the best quality that I can afford to feed my brood! It’s unfortunate that price has to play a role in feeding your best friend, but then, price plays a part in every aspect of our lives.

So as they say in France, Bon  App├ętit!   Just know what you’re eating!

Below you will find a few sites on dog food to help you through the process.

The meanings of dog food ingredients such as by products, bone meal, etc. (the meat and bone meal is a little gross so read at your own risk!) link here

The dog food project –good insight on what to look for in dog food, link here

Here is a site that rates the different dog foods on the market. Link here

Symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning can be found here. 

dog food recipies and ratings by people who made them! Link  

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