Pet Food: All That Glitters is not Gold


Fish meal. Corn. Turkey meal. Cod head. By-products, of ANY kind. Dried beets. Salt. Sugar. Salmon meal. Soy. Propylene glycol. Gluten. Animal fat.

Crap-in-a-can. Or a bag.

These are some of the ingredients I saw listed on a popular can of dog food readily available at the local supermarket.

My first reaction was, “Why would anyone who loves his or her animal companion feed this garbage, especially when most of us understand that poor nutrition leads to higher medical bills later on?”

Cost is one reason. The cheapest, lowest-quality ingredients tend to be in the cheapest food. But not always. If you look back at the pet food report I posted here a few months ago, even the more expensive brands can cut corners and use “fillers” to bulk up the contents.

Deceptive marketing is another reason. No pet food company in its right mind will include “rendered” products in the list of ingredients. Carcass from roadkill, downed farm animals and animal shelters, hooves, feathers, diseased organs with tumors, and residue from vaccines all find their way to pet food from the local rendering plant. When Friskies and 9-Lives were exposed in the late 1970s for using by- products from rendering plants in their pet food, the public was outraged. But the public really got mad when it learned this was an industry-wide practice and other pet food companies were also following along. Reason: cheap ingredients are a great substitute for real meat.

The pet food industry promised to stop using rendered products in their pet food, but anyone hear of Mad Cow Disease? The carcasses of dead, diseased or sick cows were finding their way into the food supply of live cows.

Rendering plants deal with the unpleasant task of disposing of dead animals, of which there seems to be an endless supply. They aren’t well-regulated, and they are allowed to “re-purpose” body parts. The law does allow them to sell their “by-products” to agricultural and pet food industries but not to companies for human consumption.

But the clever marketing staff at Purina and Pedigree realize that many consumers know that code words like “by-products” can actually mean rendered body parts, fillers or questionable ingredients from an unknown source. The newest euphemism is “meal.” Turkey meal, fish meal, chicken meal, bone meal, poultry meal, etc.

According to the AAFCO, the government agency that does a poor job of regulating the pet food industry, “meal” can consist of any or all of the following four ingredients: muscle meat, organ meat, bone and rendered products.

If you are a legitimate pet food company like Orijen and want your customers to know that you are using the best quality, species-appropriate ingredients available, are you going to list ingredients as grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, or organic turkey? Or will you describe ingredients with terms such as meat meal, cod head or poultry by-products?

And by the way, be aware that “species appropriate” means that your dog or cat may not thrive on a seafood diet. According to wholistic veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, seafood is NOT the best source of protein and can contain toxic metals, chemicals and pesticides. Fish meal or any of its alternates such as salmon meal often include deadly preservatives. A little fish now and then such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon is not harmful. Always question the source of the food and avoid fish meal altogether.

Convenience feeding of our animal companions comes at a cost. With less and less of us cooking for ourselves anymore, preparing natural foods for FluffyButt and Hurricane is unlikely, especially after a long day at work. After the youthful years of our dogs and cats begin to fade, that is when years of poor nutrition begins to rear its ugly head in the form of autoimmune symptoms, tumors, joint disease, and dementia, along with increasing vet bills.  

Progress, not Perfection, should be our goal. Even if you don’t have the time to prepare natural pet food or can’t afford to buy the best commercial brand of pet food, get the best quality food you CAN afford and alternate it with less-costly food.

Next month I will be talking about a nutraceutical company that has been making its human-grade mineral supplements for horses, dogs, cats and plants since 1933 with astounding results. And what I REALLY like about this family-owned business is that they understand the energetics behind minerals and the soil. The book, The Enlivened Rock Powders (1994) by Harvey Lisle, is highly recommended.

Woowoo science is becoming mainstream!

As always, I welcome your comments, reactions and feedback.




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Pet Food: The Good, The Bad & The Inexplicable

First, the good news.

Back in the late 1970s-early 1980s an undercover reporter exposed a secret practice used in the pet food industry. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting public including trusting pet owners were not in on the secret.

Have you ever wondered what ever happens to all the dead animals picked up from animal shelters, veterinarians, farms, and even roadkill?

I will spare you the gruesome details. If you want a real education, however, about what was commonly added to make pet food, there is plenty of information available about “rendering plants,” thanks to the Internet.

A well-known pet food company whose cat food is still found on supermarket shelves today was investigated by a grand jury in San Francisco. Not only did this company acknowledge they used “rendered” meat in their pet food, but they admitted all the other pet food companies followed the same practice.

A lot has changed over the decades as a result of that investigation and the public outcry, but consumers must be “forever vigilant”—one of my favorite lines from Spencer Tracy’s character in Inherit the Wind.

And that’s the bad news. There is so much information about pet food ingredients and what is good or bad that one needs a Ph.D. to understand it all. The pet food companies cleverly conceal harmful ingredients by renaming them. And forget about asking your vet. Unless he or she has specialized in Nutrition, the veterinary colleges spend 2 hours during the entire curriculum on nutrition, and most if not all of that comes by way of presentations from the pet food companies themselves. Talk about letting a fox into the hen house.

Dr. Karen Becker, a wholistic veterinarian featured on has done a lot—but not all–of the hard work for us. Every 5 years or so she lists all the categories of pet food from best to last. Her last list was updated in November, 2015. Sorry, no brand names are mentioned. The article in full is available at:

I really encourage you to print out a copy of the article and study at your own pace the concepts about carnivores, processed diets, carbohydrates and the use of grains and “fillers.”

As you might suspect, the very best available pet food requires the most time to prepare, while the most convenient pet food and the cheapest are found at the bottom of the list.

Here is the short list of the best pet food categories:

  1. Nutritionally balanced raw homemade diet.
  2. Nutritionally balanced cooked homemade diet.
  3. Commercially available balanced raw food diet.
  4. Dehydrated or freeze-dried raw diet.
  5. Commercially available cooked or refrigerated food.
  6. Human-grade canned food.

 If the food you are feeding your pets is not mentioned above, well, think about doing a 50-50 split, meaning one meal a day is fresh food, and the next day would be processed food.

Not everyone is in a position to shop for fresh foods and prepare them for pet consumption. But you CAN educate yourself to read the ingredients and recognize the difference between real protein sources and meat-by-products. Begin to ask questions about where the meat comes from—does it come from a rendering plant or from China? And Dr. Becker warns NEVER wing it when it comes to preparing species-appropriate food. She has published a recipe book I highly recommend, Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats: Simple Homemade Food, available from

And always, always, always check with a medical professional before changing your pet’s diet if he or she has any medical issues.


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Last January a group of pet owners in Northern California filed a class-action lawsuit against Hill’s Prescription Diet, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet, and Iams Veterinary Formula. The complaint alleges that consumers are being over-charged for these foods because they do not contain drugs or other ingredients requiring a prescription.

According to, “The case document states that the American public reasonably expects a prescription requirement which implies that a substance is medically necessary, contains a drug, medicine or controlled ingredient, has been evaluated by the FDA  and legally requires a prescription. The prescription requirement allows the defendants to market and sell Prescription Pet Food at well-above market prices that would not otherwise prevail in the absence of the Prescription Authorization.”

There are, however, diets with reduced amounts of ash, protein or phosphorous that may be necessary for pets with specific medical issues. Another exception is a human-grade, fresh pet food company that includes therapeutic nutraceuticals in their ingredients to address specific medical conditions.

The suit alleges that selling the pet food as “prescription” is unfair and deceptive under California consumer protection laws.

To read the complete article, go to       



In another lawsuit brought last year by a pet owner who claimed Purina PetCare’s Beneful sickened two of his dogs and caused the death of a third dog, and despite “thousands of online consumer complaints and two prior lawsuits against this particular brand of dog food” a federal judge held that the plaintiff failed to prove the product was harmful and ruled in favor of Nestle Purina PetCare.

An analysis of 28 samples from different bags of Beneful revealed the presence of three types of toxins: propylene glycol, mycotoxins(a fungus mold on grains), and the heavy metals arsenic and lead. The level of toxins did not exceed the limits permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; however, “the FDA based its dog chow toxin limits only on short-term exposure and did not consider the effects of long-term exposure.” Expert toxicologist Dr. John Tegzes stated that “chronic exposure to mycotoxins, heavy metals and glycols posed a significant health risk to dogs and could adversely affect their health.”

To read more about Beneful’s other ingredients, go to

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Next Month: A Holistic Vet Rates 13 Pet Foods