Although you are (hopefully) reading the ingredients on the food you buy to feed your family, are you reading the ingredients on your pet’s food?
A fascinating new report was just released today by the nonprofit watchdog group, The Cornucopia Institute:
“Overall, the pet food industry is failing its customers as a provider of nutritious, wholesome food for our dogs and cats. As a whole, it could be viewed as a waste disposal vehicle for human food manufacturers, exhibiting disregard for the health of its customers.” – Decoding Pet Food: Adulteration, Toxic Ingredients, and the Best Choices for Your Companion Animals, by The Cornucopia Institute.
What they reveal in this report is shocking to say the least, and Cornucopia’s report highlights how important it is to read the ingredients on the pet food you buy (even if it’s organic).
The Top 6 Things To Stop Feeding Your Pets:
1. Food-Grade Carrageenan – They found that more than 70% of canned pet foods contain this additive. Although it’s linked to intestinal inflammation, it’s even found in prescription pet foods for pets with gastrointestinal problems! According to Cornucopia: “The frequency of inflammatory bowel diseases in cats and dogs raises concerns about conventional pet food and its effect on the gut, including changes in the gut microbiota.” Here’s more on why I avoid this ingredient.
2. Synthetic Preservatives – This is why some pet food has a shelf life for 25 years! BHA, BHT, propyl gallate, propylene glycol, or ethoxyquin are common preservatives in pet food linked to serious health issues – such as organ damage and cancer.
3. BPA – The lining inside cans of pet food contain this endocrine disruptor that mimics hormones and can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
4. Artificial Food Dyes – Do you think your pet cares what color their food is? Colors like red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, and blue 2 are common in dry pet food. According to CSPI, these dyes can cause allergic reactions, hyperactivity, organ damage and cancer.
5. Grains – Remember, cats and dogs are carnivores so their food should be primarily meat and grains aren’t necessary. Fillers like corn, wheat, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, and brewer’s rice should not be listed in the first few ingredients (if at all) to ensure that a product is mostly meat. Grains that aren’t fit for humans to eat, like moldy grains containing carcinogenic mycotoxins, are still allowed in pet food.
6. Rendered Meat Byproducts – Pet food regulations allow the use of meat from animals that died “otherwise than by slaughter”. Although the pet industry denies it (of course) there is testimony that this allows for dead pets (dogs, cats) from shelters to be added to pet food, and that some companies actually engage in this practice. The FDA has also found residues from a drug that’s used to euthanize animals in 30 different samples of pet food, which is evidence that euthanized animals are ending up in cans. In some states, rendering facilities that process dead animals are also authorized to process roadkill and rotten meat, which may also end up in pet food, along with the remains of animals that died of disease. According to Cornucopia, this can possibly lead to degenerative neurological diseases in pets.
Avoid These Pet Foods:
- 9 Lives: Tender Morsels
- Whiskas: Trays and Pouches
- Friskies: Pate
- Purina ProPlan: All formulas
- Iams Proactive Health: Pate, Filets
- Royal Canin: Feline Health Nutrition
- Hill’s: Science Diet, Ideal Balance Natural
What about organic pet food?
First, you need to determine whether a pet food is really organic or not, because there’s some serious misleading labeling going on. There are no exclusively organic brands, and many companies use deceptive packaging to make their non-organic formulas appear the same as their organic varieties. Make sure to look really closely at the labels to make sure what you are buying is truly organic by looking specifically for the USDA certified organic seal, because these cans can look nearly identical!
Organic pet food is the best choice, especially as artificial food dyes, GMOs, and most questionable food additives are banned from these products. However, organic pet food can still contain carrageenan, and some brands make some products with it and some without – so you need to check each one separately.
Another thing to point out – products labeled as non-GMO don’t contain GMO ingredients, but the feed given to the animals raised for the meat in these products was almost certainly GMO – unless the meat is certified organic.
Safer Foods For Your Pet:
- Organix Castor and Pollux: Grain Free Pate, Adult Cat, Natural Ultramix
- Pet Guard: All formulas
- Evanger’s : Organics, Classic, Signature, Super Premium
- Orijen: All formulas
- Nature’s logic: All formulas
- Wellness: TruFood, Spots Stew, Vigor
- Taste of the Wild: Canyon River, Rocky Mountain
- Great Life: Essentials
- Purina: Beyond, Muse (Owned Nestle)
- Hound and Gatos: All formulas (Paleo Diet)
Check out Cornucopia’s Pet Food Buying Guide for the complete list.
Want to save money and feed your pet well?
Make your own dog and cat food.
What else to look for when shopping for pet food:
- Read the ingredient list (even on the brands you trust, the ingredients are always changing!). High quality meat should be the first ingredient, and preferably the second and third ingredients as well. Beware that pea protein is a cheap substitute that doesn’t have a complete amino acid profile.
- Ignore the name and other marketing terms such as “healthy” and “premium” because slack regulations on pet food render these terms meaningless.
- Watch out for the terms “meat meal”, “bone meal”, “animal fat”, “animal digest”, and/or “blood meal” on an ingredient list, as this typically means meat from rendering facility that may have processed roadkill, sick animals, expired grocery store meat, and euthanized pets.
- Instead of synthetic preservatives, choose pet food with natural antioxidants such as tocopherols, vitamin C, and flavonoids.
- Look for cans that say they are “BPA-Free” on the label.
- Avoid pet foods with added colors and dyes, especially artificial ones.
- It’s better for the health of our oceans to choose pet food with fish meal byproducts (without ethoxyquin) instead of whole fish. But, you need to call the company to verify whether they use ethoxyquin because it’s not required on the label.
I’ve been wanting to cover this topic for a long time, and I’m so happy that the experts at the Cornucopia Institute put all of their research into this public report to expose what some pet food companies have been getting away with, as well as providing a buying guide of the best of ones to choose so that we can avoid poisoning our pets with disgusting ingredients. You can read the full report here, and check out their Pet Food Buying Guide to find the safest food for your pets.
If you know someone who has a pet or plans to get one, please please please share this info with them.
We want our pets as healthy as us!