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Learn the Truth about Pet Food Ingredients – Part 1

Read the original article at Truth About Pet Food.

Posted by  on April 1, 2013 at 9:23 am

This will be an on-going project, defining pet food ingredients in consumer language.  What the ‘official’ definition really means and what questions to ask of manufacturers to make certain you are getting the pet food quality you are paying for.

The perfect beginning to this ingredient definition project is the common pet food ingredient chicken.  The consumer sees ‘chicken’ on the pet food label, some pet foods even claim ‘Made with Real Chicken’.  What do you think of when you see ‘chicken’ on the pet food ingredient list?

Well, thanks to pet food ingredient definitions…

‘Chicken’ on the label could be ONLY chicken skin and/or chicken bones.  In pet food, ‘chicken’ could include miniscule amounts of muscle meat and 99 % skin and bone.

So, beginning with Chicken – this starts the TruthaboutPetFood.com project ingredient definitions in consumer language.  All ingredients will be compiled in one location on the website (yet to be determined), but will be posted in sections (many sections…there are many ingredients!).

Chicken.  AAFCO definition of chicken falls under Poultry; duck and turkey would have the same definitions.  The AAFCO definition states poultry is a combination of flesh and skin and could include bone.  The definition does not include feathers, heads, feet or entrails of the animals.  The poultry/chicken in pet food does not have to be USDA inspected and approved; specifically stated in the definition as “suitable for use in animal food”.  This ingredient could consist of almost 100% chicken/poultry meat or it could consist of less than 1% meat, 99% skin and bone or it could be somewhere in-between.  The definition allows for any variation in pet food while still being labeled as chicken.

The official definition of chicken (poultry) does not include the requirement it must be sourced from slaughtered animals (this ingredient can include animals that have died prior to slaughter – illegal per federal law for human and animal foods – such as euthanized animals and/or animals that have died in the field).  Chicken by-product meal (poultry by-product meal) and chicken by-product (poultry by-product) definitions do include the requirement sourcing must be from slaughtered animals.

Chicken can be a quality ingredient if it is sourced from a USDA inspected and approved bird and if it includes meat (not just skin and bones).

Questions to ask the pet food manufacturer about their chicken ingredients…
1.  Is the chicken used in the pet food USDA inspected and approved? (Make certain they respond to ‘approved’ – many manufacturers will state something like ‘Our chicken comes from USDA inspected facilities’.  This does not answer your question.  Rejected for use in human food chicken ‘comes from USDA inspected facilities’.)
2.  What cuts of chicken are used in the pet food?

Chicken Meal.  AAFCO definition of chicken meal falls under Poultry meal; duck meal and turkey meal would have the same definitions.  Simply put, chicken meal is chicken with moisture removed.  Chicken meal is a rendered (cooked) ingredient that can include muscle meat, skin and bone.  It does not include chicken/poultry heads, feathers, feet or entrails.  The poultry/chicken used to make the chicken meal ingredient is not required to be USDA inspected and approved; specifically stated in the definition as “suitable for use in animal food”.  This ingredient could consist of almost 100% chicken/poultry meat cooked (to remove moisture – prior to cooking of pet food itself), it could consist of mostly chicken/poultry skin and bones cooked, or it could consist of a mix somewhere in-between.  There is some science that links high levels of bone in meat meal ingredients to bone cancer.  Click Here to learn more.

The official definition of chicken meal (poultry meal) does not include the requirement it must be sourced from slaughtered animals; this is confusing.  Chicken by-product meal (poultry by-product meal) and chicken by-product (poultry by-product) definitions do include the requirement sourcing must be from slaughtered animals.  In other words, by its official definition, this ingredient can include animals that have died prior to slaughter (illegal per federal law for human and animal foods).

Chicken can be a quality ingredient if it is sourced from a USDA inspected and approved bird and if it includes meat (not just skin and bones).

Questions to ask the pet food manufacturer about their chicken meal ingredient…
1.  Is the chicken used in the chicken meal ingredient USDA inspected and approved? (Make certain they respond to ‘approved’ – many manufacturers will state something like ‘Our chicken comes from USDA inspected facilities’.  This does not answer your question.  Rejected for use in human food chicken ‘comes from USDA inspected facilities’.)
2.  Does the meal include bone?

Chicken by-products.  AAFCO definition of chicken by-products falls under poultry by-products; all other types of poultry by-products would have the same definition.  Chicken by-products are parts of the chicken/poultry that are not utilized in the pet food ingredient chicken/poultry or chicken by-product meal/poultry by-product meal – such has the heads, feet, and viscera (internal organs) of the birds.  Unlike the official definition of chicken or chicken meal, this ingredient definition does not have any requirement to quality (must be suitable for use in animal food) however this ingredient does include the requirement it must be sourced from slaughtered animals (unlike chicken, poultry, chicken meal, poultry meal which has no requirement it must be sourced from slaughtered animals).

Some pet food manufacturers make the claim this is a quality ingredient because it includes nutrient dense internal organs.  Internal organs such as kidney, liver, or heart from healthy birds do provide quality nutrition to a pet food.  However this ingredient is a catch-all ingredient (combination of internal organs, heads, feet, ect.) without giving the consumer any guarantee to quality of those internal organs.  As example, the liver filters toxins from the body.  Liver from a sick bird or a bird that was fed numerous drugs prior to slaughter could result in a dangerous liver for the pet to consume.  Internal organ ingredients need to be sourced from USDA inspected and approved animals.

Chicken by-products is not an ingredient I would feed in a pet food to my own pets.

Chicken by-product meal.  AAFCO definition of chicken by-product meals falls under poultry by-product meal; all other types of poultry by-product meals would have the same definition.  Simply put, chicken by-product meal is chicken by-products with moisture removed.  Chicken by-product meal is a rendered (cooked) ingredient that can include any portion of the bird that is not included in the ingredient chicken/poultry – such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines.  Unlike the official definition of chicken or chicken meal, this ingredient definition does not have any requirement to quality (must be suitable for use in animal food) however this ingredient does include the requirement it must be sourced from slaughtered animals (unlike chicken, poultry, chicken meal, poultry meal which has no requirement it must be sourced from slaughtered animals).  This ingredient could consist of almost 100% chicken/poultry internal organs cooked (to remove moisture – prior to cooking of pet food itself), it could consist of mostly chicken/poultry skin and bones cooked, or it could consist of a mix somewhere in-between.  There is some science that links high levels of bone in meal ingredients to bone cancer.  Click Here to learn more.

Chicken by-product meal is not an ingredient I would feed in a pet food to my own pets.

More ingredient definitions will be added soon.

 

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
TruthaboutPetFood.com
Association for Truth in Pet Food
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible