Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to Turn Food Waste Into Good Pet Food

Most pet owners know that commercial pet foods are manufactured from human food waste. The reason Proctor & Gamble, Mars, Nestle, Heinz, and DelMonte are dominant, global pet food companies is the synergy with their human food businesses. They do not have to pay to dispose of waste from human products. They package it for pets at considerable profit.

Not all human waste products are bad for pets. 50% of each beef cow is not used for human consumption. 30 to 50% of pigs, sheep, and chickens are also considered waste. This huge amount of animal waste would overwhelm landfills and innundate agricultural communities, were it not for rendering plants that reduce animal waste to byproducts. Every part of the animal not put into the human food chain goes to the rendering plant -- skulls, brains, intestines, hooves, beaks, feathers, parts of hides, and so forth. It's all cooked into various kinds of meals, oils, and dehydrated byproducts.

Animal byproducts are the primary animal protein and fat ingredients in pet foods. Animal byproducts are regulated in the US to meet nutritional standards for protein and fat contents and to be relatively free of certain contaminants (not all pharmacuetical contaminants, however). Euthanized pets, sick and recently dead food animals, and other rejected meat sources are all part of rendered animal byproducts. Drugs used to euthanize pets and antibiotics, used with great abandon to keep livestock alive, are detected in animal byproducts -- at levels we are assured are safe for pet consumption.

Pet foods that contain animal byproducts may actually have more proteins and fats than pet foods that list "meat" as the first ingredient. Byproducts are already cooked and dehydrated before they are added to kibble. Fresh meats are mostly water that is removed in kibble cooking. A major deception in pet food labeling allows manufacturers to list products in order of weight before processing. Meats lose 75% of their weight when water is removed. If meat (or beef or chicken) is listed as a first ingredient on a pet food label, be assured there is very little meat in the kibble you buy.

Although animal byproducts in pet food are not necessarily bad nutrition, grain byproducts are truly chaff instead of wheat. Generally, waste grain products have less nutritional value than whole grains, but then grains are not good food for carnivorous pets in the first place. Cats and dogs did not evolve to digest or benefit from cooked cereals, potatoes, soy, tapioca or any other kind of starch. Starch is not an okay pet food ingredient, yet kibble is predominantly made of starches. Grain byproducts are bad pet food ingredients.

Let me suggest another way to use some animal waste as pet food: FEED IT RAW. Carnivorous pets will eat stomachs, espohagi, tracheas, spleens, lungs, and other animal parts that are not considered human food. Perhaps, 20% of food animals could be fed raw to pets.

Feeding raw animal parts to pets will not take care of all waste products that go to rendering plants, because cattle hooves, brains (remember mad cow disease), and herbivore intestines loaded with manure are not suitable raw pet foods. Certainly, euthanized pets and chicken feathers are not candidates for raw feeding. One could question if these byproducts should end up in the pet food chain at all. They will be rendered and added to dry pet foods as long as consumers do not revolt.

At least some animal parts that are currently sent to rendering plants can be safely fed raw to pets. Curiously, when investigating beef tracheas and esophagi as pet food, I found that many commercially available dog chews are made from dried beef tracheas. Since my dogs eat tracheas raw, I know how chewy they are. The Labrador retrievers love getting a whole beef trachea or esophagus. It takes at least 30 minutes for them to consume the foot-long tube and meaty end. Tracheas are more nutritious dog chews than rawhide, for sure, and even better fed raw.

My suggestion to feed more waste animal parts raw to pets could divert perhaps 20% of animal waste into much better diets for pets. Rather than cook it, treat it with chemicals, cook it again into kibble, and extrude it with starches from machines, why not feed some animal left-overs as raw-meaty-bones?


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