Why we need to read the label

in Contributors by

By Tracie Korol

Royal Canin, a major dog food manufacturer, was quoted recently in Forbes magazine as developing an “Anallergenic formula” dog food using chicken feathers as the main source of protein.  Keith Levy of Royal Canin states, “Feathers are broken down to an amino acid level and don’t have much of a taste. Then we add palatizers for taste … We’re looking for lots of different sources of protein for our foods: hydrolyzed soy; for some of our foods in China we use worm meal.” Feather meal is being pitched as the new best thing in pet food.  Hard to believe. At some point in recent history we have been led to believe that combinations of non-foods, unknowns, chemicals and now feathers are what constitute food for our Best Friends.  When I came to understand what “dog food” was really made of, I gained new appreciation for a dog’s inbred vital force and will to survive, and usually be in pretty good spirits, on a diet of garbage.

What follows are the ingredients from the label of one the most popular dog food brands, explained.  This list is taken directly from the white bag with colorful drawings of vegetables in the dog food aisle at most major grocery stores. Here’s what’s in it, right from the label and of course, with my commentary:

Ground yellow corn (Number one ingredient. That means that at least 95% of this particular kibble is corn. The percentage is standardized by AAFCO — Association of American Feed Control Officials — that provides model regulations for the pet food industry. Personally, I would be a little miffed at paying so much for plain old corn.); chicken by-product meal (Pet grade meat by-products consist of lesser organs and parts either not desired, or condemned for human consumption. This can include bones, blood, intestines, lungs, ligaments, heads, feet, and feathers. This can also include the dreaded 4 D’s — dead, dying, diseased or dying prior to slaughter. Sorry, it’s true).

Corn gluten meal (This is the remainder of the corn after the best parts of the corn have been removed. Primarily used as a binder.); whole wheat flour (fiber source and filler); animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E) (“Animal fat” is a “generic” fat source that is most often made up of rendered unknown animal fat, restaurant grease, or other oils too rancid or deemed inedible for humans); rice flour (filler); beef (Finally, a real food! But look how far down the list it occurs. How much real beef do you think is included in this remaining 5%?); soy flour (filler); sugar (dogs like sweet things, too); propylene glycol (say, isn’t this antifreeze?); meat and bone meal (unless labeled, “meat” can be any meat, dead or alive, hooved, winged, or the dreaded Wild Miscellaneous).

Now comes the list of supplements that are added when the real vitamins are leeched out in the rendering process. I’ll pick out a few that may seem mysterious:  tricalcium phosphate, phosphoric acid, salt, water, animal digest (This is purely a flavoring agent. It is made of unspecified parts of unspecified animals, cooked into a goopy broth and used as a spray-on or is directly added to the liquid kibble mix); sorbic acid (a preservative); potassium chloride; dried carrots, dried peas (vegetables!!); calcium propionate (a preservative); L-Lysine monohydrochloride (known to hasten recovery from cold sores); choline chloride (an ammonium salt also added to chicken feed to accelerate growth); added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 2), (These colors are added for your benefit alone. Your dog knows the orange-colored niblets are not carrots and the green-colored ones are not peas.)

DL-Methionine (Acidifies urine); Vitamin E supplement; zinc sulfate; ferrous sulfate; manganese sulfate; niacin; Vitamin A supplement; calcium carbonate; copper sulfate; Vitamin B-12 supplement; calcium pantothenate (Vitamin B5 that synthesizes fats); thiamine mononitrate (B vitamin complex, found naturally in pork, organ meats, legumes, nuts, and whole grain); garlic oil; pyridoxine hydrochloride (part of the B complex of vitamins usually naturally found in organ meats, whole grains and brewer’s yeast); riboflavin supplement; Vitamin D-3 supplement; menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity) (A Vitamin K3 derivative that is reputed to aid in “blood clotting.” It has been banned from use in food and supplements for human use in many European countries due to serious side effects, including permanent damage and death); calcium iodate; folic acid; biotin; sodium selenite (a salt commonly used in the manufacture of colorless glass).