Question Pet Food Ingredients

…As If Your Pet’s Life Depended on It

When you look at a colorful label on a pet food, do you believe the pictures represent what’s really inside?

You may recall Dr. Randy Wysong is suing several big players in the pet food industry.

For exactly this issue of false advertising.

You know, steak and lamb chops on the outside and junk on the inside, nothing like what the pictures promised.

The companies are

  • Nestle Purina Petcare
  • Mars Petcare
  • Wal-Mart
  • Hills Pet Nutrition (who trained vet students, like me, in “nutrition.” Ha!)
  • BigHeart/J.M. Smucker
  • Ainsworth/APN

Not surprisingly, they have all countered with a lame motion to dismiss.

In essence, the defendants do not deny that the premium ingredient pictures do not accurately represent ingredients in their pet foods, but contend that it is implausible that any consumer would actually believe the ingredient pictures represent ingredients in their foods.

Apparently, defendants have gone to the considerable effort and expense of creating such packaging and advertising with the expectation that consumers would perceive the material as false.1

Dr. Wysong’s not buying it and neither should you.

Pet food ingredients are clearly not as manufacturers would have you believe.

Truth vs Bucks

Periodically, I pay Truth About Pet Food a visit. Susan Thixton runs this site, and she’s someone who’s really dug into the pet food industry and isn’t afraid to share the dirty truth of what’s happening there.

Susan cited a great example of what you’re up against as a pet food consumer recently.

Take a look at this image:

Nice looking cuts of meat there, right?

“Real Ingredients!” (what’s that supposed to mean?)

“High quality ingredients?”

Here’s another:

“Real Chicken?”

How bad could that be, real chicken?

But Susan always looks deeper, as a champion of pet owning consumers.

And she knows a thing or two about pet food ingredients.

Here she defines for you “food grade” vs “feed grade” and how both can be called “chicken.”

First – Rachael Ray Nutrish is a feed grade pet food. It is not food – it is feed. There’s a difference.

Human grade pet food is made with ‘food’ ingredients, the very same quality of ingredients sold in grocery stores all across the US.2

Feed grade pet food – on the other hand – is NOT the same quality of ingredients sold in grocery stores. Feed grade is defined by AAFCO as: “Material that has been determined to be safe, functional, and suitable for its intended use in animal food, is handled and labeled appropriately, and conforms to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act unless otherwise expressly permitted by the appropriate state or federal agency (suitable for use in animal feed).”3

The legal definition of ‘chicken’ in pet food allows it to be sourced from USDA inspected and approved chicken (human grade) OR chicken skin and bones – little to no meat OR USDA inspected and condemned chicken. Condemned chicken is a violation of federal law. But…illegal chicken is allowed in pet food4

It turns out the FDA watchdogs often look the other way and let condemned meat into pet food as “feed grade.”

And the label can still call it “chicken” or “beef” and even out and out lie to you by calling it “human grade” when it’s anything but.

Such product quality misrepresentation isn’t tolerated in any other major industry in the world. However, pet food regulators are inexplicably turning a blind eye to this pet industry practice in spite of a variety of state and federal laws prohibiting it.5

That misrepresentation is exactly what Evangers did.

And they are still lying since the pentobarbital showed up in their supposedly “human grade” “100% Beef” canned goods, that killed at least one dog we know of.

A Grisly Reality

Stacey, a long time Pack member, wrote me shortly after I sent an issue of Vital Animal News with the Evanger’s pentobarbital story.

Her detective work gives you a deeper sense of what you are up against if you trust pet food manufacturers:

When I went to the animal crematory to pick up our 18 yo dogs ashes I saw something that was very upsetting. As I was exiting the business park here comes the San Jose Tallow truck swinging the corner….I flipped a U-turn and followed, parked across the street to watch…

He went to the crematory, backed his truck up to the back of the crematory truck (it was a Monday-they pick up from the vets offices on Mondays around our town) and they proceeded to toss the black bags to the tallow driver and emptied a couple of bins then moved 2, 55 gallon drums with a dolly onto the tallow truck as well. I was horrified.

While tallow is, strictly speaking, animal fat from rendered animals, the take away here is that pets, perhaps euthanized at the end of their lives, can and do end up as pet food ingredients.

And the crematorium is complicit in this, and lying to you in their own way.

Whose ashes were you actually given?

Why it’s Critical to Be a Critical Thinker

Perhaps now, as never before in history, it pays for you to be wise.

Especially so when you are caring for a defenseless animal, who eats what ever you offer, takes treatments or prevention that you deem as helpful, and lives a vital or devitalized life depending on the wisdom of your choices.

Let us know in the comments if you are warier this year than you were 3-5 years ago.

Tell us if you’re making homemade food and if so, what are your recipe origins.

And further, what are your trusted sources of information? I hope discovering Susan’s work on pet food has been a help to you.

And if you’d like help shifting to raw food that’s balanced, visit my Resources page, and find Lizzy Meyer there in the Food category.

Lizzy will help you source local, affordable options and get it in balance. Highly recommend her!

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  1. Trisha on February 12, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Hi. I am so confused about all the information going around about the DCM in dogs and not feeding grain free food. I have fed grain free Honest Kitchen and Steve’s Real Food. I paid for Susan’s lust should I change my dogs to one of those? Everything you read about the DCM says you should feed PPP, Hills, Eukanba, and Royal Canin. Please help I’m so lost with all of this. I have 2 dogs with heart murmurs.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 14, 2019 at 7:25 pm

      Hey Trisha,

      This heart disease issue is entirely on the shoulders of Big Pet Food. They realized, far too late, that their supposedly “100% complete” diets lacked vital heart nutrients. Those nutrients are present in balanced raw food like Steve’s and others.

      You’re doing fine. And all murmurs are not due to this nutritional lack. There can be many reasons. Best is to hire a homeopathic vet to be your primary caregiver and steer clear of what passes for prevention from Dr. WhiteCoat these days.

  2. Deanna on June 10, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Where can I get a raw diet receipe from?

  3. carol walker on May 11, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    I have 3 lahsapso and a shitzu I feed them organic chicken white rice and broccoli or carrots they also get natural balance lamb and rice the Dick VanPattan kibble. Is this kibble safe?

  4. Terri Russell on May 10, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    I am new. My post might be a little off topic. I am just trying to learn how to participate.
    I have a cat 17 years of age. He spent part of the first two years as a feral cat. Extremely successful hunter. I like many fed a dry food diet. Good food or so I thought. A few years back he developed problems in the urinary track. Difficulty urinating, blood in urine, loss of appetite, loss of weight. I went to the vet. Spent a few hundred dollars. Did rounds of antibiotics. The vet wanted to do additional testing but did let me know that it may know provide helpful info. It may turn out the problem was mechanical. What is mechanical? I asked. “Oh, he may not be drinking enough water.” That told me a lot.
    The tests were scheduled for the following week. I took the cat home gave can food and added water. I started reading a lot of online info. Learned about the issues of pet food and the benefits of a raw diet. My cat was already practicing that. I just needed to pull all dry food and only give wet with added water. I also learned by that ph of urine play a role. L-Methionene helps address the ph issue which in my cats case was too alkaline. Since following t his protocol I have not had to deal with the urinary issue since.
    The following might be considered off topic. I am dealing with another issue. TICKS. An explosion. I just lost one of my cats to bobcat fever. He was treated with a preventive but it was not prevented. It turns out due to a warm winter we are having a particularly bad year in ticks. I also live in an area the includes bobcats. I saw one the other day in my yard. Beautiful, wonderful but would like to know how to address ticks that come with him. I am a little concerned for my cat. I still let him out during the day. At least for a few hours. I will no longer leave him out if I am not at home. But he still hunts and I can not rule out the possibility he could come across the bobcat. I am pretty sure a bobcat would not be opposed to eating a cat.
    Would appreciate feedback.

    • Dawn on May 28, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      Ticks and fleas love smelly skin (you may not smell it but they do) and an improper diet along with vaccines and chemical tick and flea treatments make them appealing.
      I have two totally outside kitties and rarely find a tick on them. They only get wet food and they hunt and have plenty of their own kills to eat! No vaccines or chemical treatments. And yes do we ever live in tick country!
      I also have 6 indoor only kitties. They are raw fed and I stopped vaccinating many years ago and never use chemical treatments on them. With them go along 2 big dogs that are inside and outside dogs. The dogs also get a lot of raw meat and raw meaty bones. I use homeopathy on all if there are any issues.
      Keep working on getting your once feral kitty on raw food and do not waste any more of your money on kibble! There is a really good little company in PA called Hare Today (on the internet) where you can order almost any kind of protein in several different sizes to feed.
      I use turkey with organs and bones mostly. Also use rabbit occasionally for variety. I do add fresh local raw egg yolks, l-lysine, a cholrella powder, garlic, an oil mixture for skin and psyllium husk powder. All of my cats love it. I feed twice a day and they get a mouse sized spoonful!
      Not sure if that’s very helpful but I encourage you to keep learning and use the links provided on this site as well. Vet medicine is as messed up as human medicine and both have become profit driven. The true health of human and animal patients has become a distant second.
      Happy learning!

  5. Elle on May 8, 2017 at 8:59 am

    We buy pasture-finished whole steers and whole hogs and have them processed at a meat locker for our White German Shepherds. We buy organic chickens and occasionally we get fresh deer meat and goat. Our boys eat a combination of those meats every day. Plus a couple of organic fresh eggs. My 10 year old is supplemented with Transfer Factor, probiotics, krill oil, joint supplement and both get hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax and coconut oil occasionally.
    In addition I give my older boy a cell salt pellet every day and he’s like a huge puppy, so healthy and beautiful, playful and happy.

  6. Pattie on May 8, 2017 at 12:39 am

    I get meat for my cats at the local natural food store. When it gets past the pull date to sell for human consumption they freeze it and sell it as pet food at a huge discount price. I grind it up and add TC Feline raw diet premix to it, also raw liver and raw, organic, free range egg yolks. They get a green superfood powder sprinkled over the top with a little shot of krill oil. All the cats are amazingly healthy and energetic, even my 15 year old boy. I’ve been feeding them this way for almost 10 years and even though it’s more work, none of them have ever needed to go to a veterinarian, except for my old boy that had to have a dental.

    • Nora on May 8, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Now that’s the way to feed a cat! I got a grinder at Cabelas to grind chicken wings so they get some bone–mine are getting pretty old and are crazy energetic on an almost identical diet. Are you adding some Lysine, too? My big guy Hamp had chronic upper respiratory infection until I read about Lysine deficiency. Now he never gets one. I thank Dr. Falconer for all the information on raw feeding, it’s made such a HUGE difference in my kitties health!

  7. Nora Claypool on May 7, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    I make my cat’s food. Raw chicken, turkey, quail and some red meat. Almost no fish–too contaminated. I have a vaccine damaged cat, Pookie, who gets special supplements in hers; L-Arginine (which limits cancer cell growth and metastases,) soil based probiotics, prebiotics, PolyMVA, BioPrep F3, whole plant type cumin, colostrum, zeolites, a blend of 18 medicinal mushrooms, high dosage vitamin D3 and Omega 3 fatty acids, and lots of healthy fats because fats don’t fuel cancer cells–they can’t use it. The fats help combat the wasting that occurs in a cancer battle, one we’ve been fighting for over 3 years.
    What you DON’T put in the food is just as important as what you do, and what you serve it in matters, too! No maltodextrin (which is sugar!) no inflammatory substances like titanium dioxide, stearates, processed-meat nitrates, etc. Clean, whole food with taurine, Lysine and vitamins A through E, and only purified water from a glass bowl. Those plastic pet bowls can cause cancer, many contain PVC, PBA and other chemicals linked to endocrine malfunction.
    Dr. Wysong advertises premium ingredients in his pet foods, but I can’t find any mention of whether his sources are non GMO. He praises soy without acknowledging that 95% of all soy produced has been genetically modified. It’s true that whole soy has cancer fighting compounds (polyphenols, genistein, daidzein) but the inherent hazards associated with genetically modified foods scare me away from his products, despite his agile marketing. No disclosure, no sale. I’m all that’s standing between my pets and a great deal of harm. I’ve become wary of the “pet industry” as a whole, and in particular the White Coats who frown and say tersely, “It’s the law! You must allow us to bring your cat current on his vaccines and charge you for it, and if we find a flea, we’re going to put poisons on him too, because this clinic is a flea-free facility!” Hear my teeth grinding? I yelled at them this last time…they are not used to anyone standing up to them, these authoritarian asshats.

    • Kelly Hall on May 8, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      Ha ha. Well said Nora and so refreshing to find others that see through the lies that we are living with. I raw feed five dogs and one 16 year old kitty. All super healthy but it’s funny the look I get when I speak about my protocols for my pets. The silent blinking stare followed by a quick departure. As if I just grew a horn from my forehead. Ugh! I am a glutton for punishment. I normally pick up what’s on sale, grass fed included but meat makes up a small portion of their meal. There is organ meat, bones, green tripe, and veggies also. I like to keep them on the lean side as a rule so they do not get overfed.

  8. nora on May 7, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    It pains me to see people making something that should be simple so complicated and intimidating. Feeding dogs is cheap and easy when it is done properly. I have seen dogs get sick just from their well-meaning raw feeding owners thinking they have to spend $200 a month on supplements. I have been raw feeding for 20 years and teaching others how to raw feed and I have never used supplements, oils or additives of any kind. The dogs on my protocol get well if they are already sick and stay well if they aren’t.
    Dogs need simplicity and so do the people who are interested in raw feeding but are too confused and intimidated to do it. I invite anyone who wants to learn this method to visit my website, I sell my booklet for $9.95 to cover web hosting and domain fees. It is a tiny investment to make in your dog’s quality and length of life.

  9. Marilyn Durst on May 7, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    I will have nightmares for the rest of my life after reading about the crematorium. How is this allowed? My precious 14 year old Lhasa Apso, Marley, passed away in December, and I simply can’t bear the thought that his remains were defiled in this manner, along with so many other beloved pets before him. How can I investigate a crematorium to discover whether they have ever done this?
    What is the current wisdom about the Rx foods from the vet’s office? For several years, Marley ate RC White Fish and Potato Rx and now, my two Terrier girls eat RC Low Fat GI Rx. My cats, because of a history of bladder stones, eat RC S/O dry.
    Generally, I am not given to hysterical over reaction, but I’m having a very hard time with this.

  10. Cindy Gingrich on May 7, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    Yes, I am more wary. Thankfully, we use a good vet practice that is pro raw feeding. The takeover of the VCA by PetSmart aka Mars is horrible and I’ve noticed that the AKC and VCA / Banfield seem to be good buddies lately (I’m in the US). Pet food and care seems to be follow the sad state of human food and care, worsening all the time —

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 7, 2017 at 10:07 pm

      I believe you’ve nailed it, Cindy. Vet medicine is every bit as broken as human medicine now, and both are creating unprecedented chronic disease that they then cannot cure.
      The only way out is education, in my mind. We’ve got to get smarter as consumers and choose only what we know to be healthy, whether that’s from a conventional vet or a holistic one or a non-vet who knows their stuff.

  11. Sonia on May 7, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    I started cooking ground turkey (the kind I too eat) with broccoli, carrots, sometimes dried unsweetened cranberries and some other veggies when I have them on hand. I have three chihuahuas one has a problem with digesting fat so give her boiled chicken breast with veggies. The new little girl gets a little of both and they do fine. I refuse to give them the canned food and even hesitate about kibble but do sometimes give the youngest Fromm’s kibble.
    Thank you Dr. Will really appreciate your articles and have learned a lot!

  12. chris on May 7, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    I have had four dogs cremated. I do know that smaller ones are more accountable to their customers. I used small ones three times so hopefully got back the right ashes. That truly is disturbing especially since learning that vets gave the bodies.

  13. Kathryn D Ladick on May 7, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    I feed the ketogenic diet to my Rocky as he has cancer.
    I use fresh meat from the store that I buy for myself.
    Fresh Chicken,Turkey,Beef,ground or in cubes,to this I add
    Steamed Broccoli,Asparagus,Spinach,Califlower. His supplements
    are many including Colostrum,Turmeric,Shark Liver Oil,Essiac,
    Etc. Too many to list here.I also feed hearts,liver,gizzards,tripe.
    Goats Milk,Camel Milk and organic brown eggs, and as many cancer fighting supplements
    as I can get into him.This diet has saved his life and I think it will help any dog live a healthy life.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 7, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      Hey Kathryn,
      Sounds like great work. Can you share where you got your ketogenic diet guidelines from?

  14. Henneke Versteeg on May 7, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Thank you for this important information. It makes me wonder how things are working out over here in Europe.
    A while ago there was a consumer’s television show that tried to get info about the pet food industry. The big producers did not only refuse to meet this people and show what they were doing, but they also put enormous pressure upon the smaller firms, so they all, but one, were afraid to have people filming in their plants. And the one that was not afraid and did give permission was a firm that produces raw complete dog food.
    The television people also were able to film and interview people at slaughterhouses and transporters of all the garbage of those slaughterhouses and they were told that all this filthy material was sold to the companies that produce so called premium pet food.
    Even long before I saw that television show I stopped feeding kibble of any brand. First I gave my two rottweiler girls a commercial raw food, but lately I started giving them whole prey animals and meat, veggies and fruits that are as pure as possible. It is a bit more work, to make sure they get everything they need in the right proportions, but it is fun to do, and the girls love it.
    I never use any poison to fight parasites and do anything in my power to keep my babies as healthy as possible. And of course I keep learning more about caring for their health, every day, thanks to you Dr. Will, and others…

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 7, 2017 at 10:00 pm

      Oh, Henneke, it sounds like you have much the same secrecy to deal with in Europe that we do here. I’m so glad at least the healthy company got on film.
      In the US, where we have CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), the animals are crowded together on areas that are dumb foundingly huge. And, the operators have managed to get laws in place that makes it illegal to fly over them, even with a drone.
      If people saw these expanses, there’d be a lot less meat consumed, my best guess.

  15. Donna on May 7, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    I’m very disturbed about the crematorium ordeal….I have ashes of what I thought were my loving boy!?
    On another note I do make my new guys food by request of his vet…due to severe allergies and seberia. Turkey either ground or cut and cooked pieces, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic..I add tummeric and ginger for digestion. This is his main staple, he can some other fresh or uncooked veggies and limited amount of fruit. No grains or starches as of yet for this 2 year old rescued peke!

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 7, 2017 at 9:55 pm

      Nice, Donna. Bone is part of it, right? And have you considered not cooking the meat? That little cutie is a wolf, genetically speaking, and will thrive on raw. See what it feels like to start with 50:50…

  16. Zdena on May 7, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Great ifo as usual!
    I would like to know what you think about factory produced meat? The ones in stores for human consumption. Z

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 7, 2017 at 9:52 pm

      Hey Zdena,
      I’m not a fan. But I’m a vegetarian. If you’re asking about dogs, I think it’s still better than kibble, though meat alone is very imbalanced.
      If you can afford to make food based on raw ingredients, I’d suggest supporting those who are doing it well: grass fed beef, free range chickens, etc.

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