June 26, 2008
"Food Pets Die For"
Doggie Chef Rating:
4 out of 5 Bones
This is the first book I read about commercial pet food. It's shocking and enlightening, yet some of the claims it makes are hard to believe.
The book's forward is written by Shawn Messonnier, a veterinarian and author who hosts the weekly radio show, "Dr. Shawn, The Natural Vet," on Martha Stewart Living Radio (on Sirius Satellite Radio). In his foreword message Messonnier recalls his days as a student of animal science. He especially enjoyed a class that taught him how to process meat for the consumer.
"I was quite impressed that literally nothing from the slaughtered animal carcass was ever wasted. What wasn’t wholesome for human consumption was sold to the pet food industry…Now that I have learned more about pet nutrition, I’m not quite so impressed…The reason many companies rely on slaughterhouse waste for raw pet food ingredients is cost: it is simply cheaper to use the trash from the slaughterhouse than whole fresh meat and organs," the book's forward states.
According to this book, many "deplorable" ingredients can legally be used as sources of protein in pet foods.
"Euthanized cats and dogs, diseased cattle and horses, roadkill, dead zoo animals, and meat not fit for human consumption. In addition, sources of fiber in many foods are composed of the leftovers from the food chain, including beet pulp, the residue of sugar beets, peanut hulls, and even sawdust sweepings from the floor of the rendering plant," the book states.
The book contains valuable information about deciphering pet food labels (such as what exactly is in "meat meal,"). It tells how some pet food companies carefully word their ingredient lists, splitting certain ingredients (for example, "corn") into categories ("ground yellow corn," and "corn gluten meal"). Doing this can make a higher protein ingredient (such as "poultry by-product meal") appear to be the number one ingredient in a pet food when it actually isn’t.
While "Food Pets Die For," advocates home cooked meals, the author does not denounce the entire pet food industry. One chapter, "Homecooked Meals and Natural Pet Food Companies" contains information about several natural pet food companies. For pet owners who can't or won't make their pet home cooked meals, the author suggests feeding companion animals one of these natural commercial pet foods, along with some whole people foods (such as meat or vegetables).
The book also talks about vitamins, minerals and supplements for pets and provides recipes for cat and dog meals.
I don’t follow any specific author's or veterinarian’s guide when choosing foods and supplements for Gracie's homemade meals. I’ve learned to formulate my own, continually evolving method for feeding my dog. I base my choices for food and supplementation on various sources I’ve read, discussions with my dog’s veterinarian and my opinion of what’s best for Gracie. I’ll share more information about the specifics of Gracie's diet --- including photos and descriptions of actual meals --- in future blog posts.