By, Jodi L. Hartley

 

Chicken, chicken meal, chicken by-product, chicken fat…You want to feed your dog the best food available, but deciphering food labels can be challenging. As you read food labels, you probably come across lots of ingredients that you’re unsure of the difference or are just plain unfamiliar. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets definitions for these ingredients. Here are some of the ingredients commonly found in pet foods.

 

Animal Digest: Animal digest is a material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed.

If it bears a name descriptive of its kind or flavor(s), it must correspond thereto. Animal digest is a cooked-down broth made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. Any kind of animal can be included: goats, pigs, horses, rats, etc. The animals can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination.

 

BHA/BHT: BHA/BHT is short for Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated

Hydroxytoluene (BHT), both of which are chemical preservatives. BHA and BHT have been banned from human use in many countries. In the US, they are still permitted in pet foods.

 

Beef (or Chicken, Pork, etc.) and Bone Meal: Beef & bone meal is the rendered product from beef tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. Beef & bone meal is a byproduct made from beef parts which are not suitable for human consumption. It can incorporate the entire cow, including the bone — although the quality cuts of meat are always removed before beef & bone meal is made.

 

Beef (or Chicken, Pork, etc.) Byproducts: Beef byproducts are the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered cows. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hooves. Beef byproducts are not meat. They can include almost any part of the animal other than meat, including organs and bone, which are not suitable for human consumption.

 

Beef (or Chicken, Pork, etc.) Fat: Beef fat is obtained from the tissues of cattle in the commercial process of rendering or extracting. Beef, in all of its forms, is an allergen for many dogs and a common cause of skin irritations.

 

Beef (or Chicken, Pork, etc.) Meal: Beef meal is the rendered product from beef tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.

 

Beet Pulp: Beet pulp is the residue from sugar beets which has been cleaned, freed from crowns, leaves, and sand, and extracted in the process of manufacturing sugar. Beet pulp is added to some pet foods to act as a fibrous stool hardener.

 

Brewers Dried Yeast: Brewer’s dried yeast is the dried, non-fermentive, non-extracted yeast that results as a by-product of the brewing of beer and ale. Although brewer’s yeast is a good source of Vitamin B, it is a potential allergen for some animals.

 

Brewers Rice: Brewer’s rice is the small milled fragments of rice kernels that have been

separated from the larger kernels of milled rice. Brewer’s rice is a lower quality

rice product that is missing many of the nutrients found in ground rice and ground brown rice. (See the descriptions for those ingredients.)

 

Choline Chloride: Choline chloride is a member of the B-complex group of water-soluble vitamins (vitamin B-4). It is used as an animal feed additive, especially for poultry and swine, to increase growth, reduce mortality rate, increase feed efficiency, increase egg production, and improve meat quality. It is not a substitute for any other feed supplement and has no direct substitutes itself.

 

Corn Meal: Corn meal is the entire corn kernel, finely ground. While the whole corn kernel is nutritious, corn is considered to be highly allergenic.

 

Ethoxyquin: Ethoxyquin is a chemical preservative that is not approved for human use.

 

Meat Byproducts: Meat byproducts are the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. Meat byproducts are not meat. They can include almost any part of the animal

other than meat. Because any mammal can be used, cheaper meats like horse, pig, or goat are often included. In addition, organ byproducts (such as liver) may contain chemical residues and other elements of decomposition which raise serious health questions.

 

Meat Meal / Meat and Bone Meal: Meat Meal or Meat & Bone Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, with or without bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. Most people associate this ingredient with beef. The truth is that it can come from any mammal: pigs, goats, horses, rabbits, rendered animals from shelters, and dead animals found on roads. Meat meal can contain condemned parts and animals that are rejected for human consumption, including ‘4D’ animals: dead, diseased, dying, or disabled. It can include pus, cancerous tissue,

and decomposed (spoiled) tissue.

 

Methionine: Methionine is a natural amino acid which serves as a urinary acidifier. Methionine is a principle supplier of sulfur which prevents disorders of the hair, skin and nails. It helps lower cholesterol levels by increasing the liver’s production of lecithin, reduces liver fat and protects the kidneys. Methionine also regulates the formation of ammonia and creates ammonia-free urine which reduces bladder irritation.

 

Mixed Tocopherols: Source of Vitamin E.

 

Sorbitol: Classified as a sugar alcohol, sorbitol is both a naturally occurring sugar-like

compound found in some fruits, and a compound that is produced to be used as a sweetener, as in diabetic human foods, for example. Since it is not easily digested, sorbitol can cause diarrhea.

 

Soybean Meal: Soybean meal is the product obtained by grinding the flakes which remain after removal of most of the oil from soybeans by a solvent or mechanical extraction process. Soybean meal is a poor quality protein filler. The “Crude Protein” analysis on pet food labels is only a measurement of the amount of nitrogen in

a food — not the quality of the protein. Because of this, pet food companies can use the cheaper by-products of human food production, such as soybean meal, to boost protein numbers. Meat is always the best source of quality protein. Meat protein is better absorbed and retained and is higher in essential amino acids like methionine, arginine, and taurine. Soybean meal has a biologic value less than 50% of that of chicken meal.

 

Tomato Pomace: Tomato pomace is the mixture of tomato skins, pulp, and crushed seeds. This is an inexpensive by-product with the potential for pesticide residues in discarded tomato skins, which are the largest component of tomato pomace.

 

These are just a few ingredients you’ll find in some pet foods. For an expanded list of ingredients and their AAFCO definitions, visit http://www.skaervet.com/documents/Common%20Pet%20Food%20Ingredients.pdf

Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for Club Canine, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an M.B.A.