Dogs and cats, like humans, need protein, fat and carbohydrates – but in different proportions.
Dogs – like humans – are omnivores, meaning by nature they eat vegetables and fruit as well as meat. It’s unusual for a dog to need more than 30% protein. And animal based protein is more desirable for them than vegetable based protein.
Cats are true carnivores, meaning by nature they require a higher ratio of protein. They can thrive on a diet of 75% protein. Carnivores also require animal based protein. A vegetarian diet for cats is not a good idea.
Quality Ingredients Make Quality Food
When it comes to canned or bagged commercial pet food, the food is a bit of a mystery to most consumers. Dried pellets, pureed spread, chunks of something under some kind of gravy substance. It looks quite a bit different from what you’d see on your plate. In fact, it is quite a bit different. Despite the wholesome picture on the label, what goes in to the food inside is often not fit for human consumption and otherwise deemed “waste”. I don’t mean the difference between ‘prime’ and ‘choice’ beef.
There’s not nearly the degree of safety regulation for pet food that there is for human food. In practice maybe that isn’t as bad as it sounds. We’ve had many a human food recall. And we’ve had pet food recalls. I’m not sure the actual regulations in place matter more than the practice of food production from field to table. One thing that is certain – with human food you do have a higher minimum standard. Let’s look at some of the differences…
The 4D Rule
The 4D Rule applies to animal sourced food. Calling it meat isn’t truly accurate. Even calling it food doesn’t seem accurate.
The 4D Rule states that parts from animals that are Dead, Diseased, Downed/Dying or Disabled can be used in pet food. (Included in that dead category is many tons of “euthanized” pets.) 4D parts are not allowed in human food.
4D sourced parts alone are not enough to satisfy the pet food industry demand. Additional supply comes from “remnants”. When animals are slaughtered, the lean muscle is trimmed away for human consumption.
The destined-for-humans meat accounts for about half the animal. The rest – bone, blood, ligaments, tendons, beaks, hoofs, hair, feathers, etc., as well as organs – become “by products” and are used in pet food, animal feed and other products. Waste becomes inexpensive and not very nutritious or digestible pet food ingredients. Fast food burgers are a few steps up in quality.
Pets need fat for energy, growth, healthy skin and coat, blood clotting, liver function and wound healing.
Over the last 15 years a popular cheap source of fat is used restaurant grease as well as other oils too rancid for humans.
Grains AREN’T very healthy for pets. Grains are hard to digest and cats and dogs have shorter digestive tracts. For cats especially since they are true carnivores, grains should not be limited in their diets.
Of course grains are cheap. So they add bulk at a low cost. And, like meat, the human waste part of grains are allowed in pet food. Humans get the corn kernels, pets get the cornhusks. Humans get the peanuts, pets get the peanut shells.
It’s also acceptable in the industry to use grains spoiled with mold and toxins. In 1995, Nature’s Recipe recalled thousands of tons of dog food after people complained their dogs were vomiting and losing their appetite. Turns out the wheat they used was moldy. The mold produced a toxin – “vomitoxin”.
Dina Butcher, Agriculture Policy Advisor to North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer said the vomitoxin wasn’t a threat to humans because the “grain that would go into pet food is not a high quality grain”.
Quality Versus Cost
While price may be some indication of quality, it’s no guarantee. Read the ingredient label. When you see words like middling, by-product, lots of chemicals and a high ratio of grains, you’re not holding nourishment in your hands.