Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is Packaged Pet Food FOOD?

Are extruded kibbles and canned pet foods really FOOD?  To determine whether kibbles and canned mush are FOOD, depends on how one defines FOOD.

Most nutritionists believe that food is a simple sum of it's ingredients or known nutrients.  That perspective was roundly rejected by Michael Pollan in his book, In Defense of Food.  For Pollan and other whole-food advocates, FOOD is biologically impossible to replicate in a laboratory or manufacturing plant.  Many important constituents of real FOOD are currently unknown, and the complex interplay of  elements in real FOOD adds up to more than the sum of known parts.

For me, an old-fashioned grandmother, a definition of  FOOD begins with where and how it grows. FOOD is what grows in croplands and in green pastures.  FOOD is plants and animals in their unprocessed states.  FOOD is alive, or recently so.  Humans cook some FOOD to make it safer and more digestible.  Carnivores do not cook their FOOD to make it safer or more digestible -- it comes safe and digestible on the hoof. 

FOOD is not manufactured mixtures of ingredients or nutrients that are supposed to add up to adequate nutriiton, -- a constantly changing set of criteria.   What nutritionist believed was adequate nutrition in 1980 or 1990 has been revised and rewitten many times. A big problem with processed human and pet foods is they are based on what is know at that time about nutritional requirements of the species for which they are intended.  What is believed to be complete nutrition in one decade changes to the next and will change again by 2020.

People are advised to eat a variety of foods -- mostly fresh FOODS -- to cover all their nutritional needs.  Pet owners, on the other hand, are advised to feed only one kind of food for the lifetime of the pet.  Pet-food manufacturers are allowed to say their products are AFFCO-approved as a sole source of nutrition for the lifetimes of dogs and cats.  This statement is absurd on its face and very damaging to pets, whose owners depend on government agencies to protect their own and their pet's health.

Actually, most pet foods are not tested on animals to see if they sustain life or kill pets.  A few are tested for up to 6 months on 8 dogs or 8 cats.  Based on that brief trial, in which 2 animals are allowed to die, the food is declared to provide adequate nutrition for pets' 10- to 20-year lifetimes.  What is not wrong with this picture?

FOOD, for me, is not cococtions of 99 ingredients, half of them synthesized  from chemicals in a manufacturing plant.  Pet foods are.  

Can pet-food bags and cans be classified as FOOD?  Rarely.  Most kibbles and canned mush have many highly-processed ingredients and preservatives that extend shelf-life but may harm pets.  Reading the labels on most pet foods is not only (deliberately) confusing, but the list of ingredients contains many chemical compounds that are unfamiliar to nearly all buyers.  I challenge you to explain to me what is in a bag of Purina dog chow or Iams premium whatever.

A few canned pet foods, such as Wysong's all-meat line can be considered FOOD -- cooked, but FOOD nonetheless.  Also, dehydrated meats and vegetables, although processed, are essentially raw meats and vegetables with moisture removed and some biological preservatives added.  Not as good as unprocessed FOOD, but falls under my definition of FOOD.

 FOOD for dogs and cats is meat and meaty bones.  Carnivores eat meat, not cereals or raw vegetables.  Human omnivores can eat a variety of meats, vegetables and grains for complete nutrition.  We don't need to know -- indeed no one knows -- which edibles contribute what to a complete diet.  We just need to eat a variety of FOODS.

Similarly, carnivorous dogs get complete nutiriton from a variety of  muscle and organ meats and meaty bones, with occasional additions of cooked vegetables or green tripe.  For cats, forget the vegetables -- they get along best on just raw-meaty-bones.  Neither cats nor dogs need to eat grains, which are major ingredients in commercial cat and dog foods. Cats are sickened more quickly by grain-based diets, which kill dogs more slowly.

No, commercial pet foods are not FOOD by my definition or by defintions offered by whole-food advocates.  When it is so easy to feed pets real FOOD, why rob them of the benefits of the diet they evolved to eat?

1 comment:

  1. the high quality Pet Food makes your pet life healthier and happy.