Are Pets Being Recycled Into Pet Food?

Tim Phillips, DVM

The headline read: “How dogs and cats get recycled into petfood” (San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 20, 1990). Similar headlines appear regularly. The belief is dead pets are rendered and the resulting product finds its way into petfoods.

Not true, according to Fred Bispling-hoff, DVM, Consultant for the Animal Protein Producers Industry (APPI). “I believe I have as much information on this subject as anyone,” says Dr. Bisplinghoff. “I have spent much time talking to reporters, renderers, petfood manufacturers and pet owners for the past twenty years. Adverse publicity has dictated that renderers get rid of small animals or make arrangements to sell their end products into markets other than the petfood market.”

Rendering pets for petfood is not harmful to pets consuming such petfoods. Nevertheless, emotional reactions over-shadow any rational discussion of this issue. Pet owners tend to be appalled by the idea. The rendering industry is well aware of public disapproval of the practice.

Rendering is an economical, environmentally sound way of disposing of pets. The alternatives are to bury or incinerate them. However, these alternatives have economic and environmental disadvantages. Still, because most renderers will not accept pets, humane societies and others have increasingly turned to incineration.

The following is the breakdown of producers of animal proteins by type of raw material processed:

♦    Independent renderers process raw material from small packing houses, supermarkets, etc. There are 182 in the U.S.
♦   Packer renderers process raw material from only the species they are slaughtering. There are ninety-eight of this type in the U.S.
♦    Poultry processors process poultry by-products. There are fifty-six nationwide.
♦    Protein blenders purchase dry rendered tankage from the preceding processors. There are twenty-four in the United States.

Of these, says Dr. Bisplinghoff, the only group that might process dead pets are the independent renderers. He estimates that of the 182 independent renderers, only five to seven process pets. However, this number does not include the “small country processors who may occasionally take a pet from a livestock producer.” Generally, these small feed companies do not manufacture companion animal diets.

Petfood manufacturers have demand-ed guarantees that their animal protein suppliers do not process dead companion animals. Since petfood makers are large volume, valued customers, says Dr. Bisplinghoff, no renderer would chance losing this profitable business.

Furthermore, dead pets are not desirable raw material for rendering. Therefore, there is no economic incentive for renderers to seek this type of raw material.

“Some renderers may process a small volume of dog pound animals,” says Dr. Bisplinghoff, “but they do it to get along with local health authorities who have the responsibility to dispose of these animals in an economic and sanitary manner. But, these renderers do not sell their products to petfood manufacturers. The few renderers who handle large volumes of dead pets either export their animal proteins or sell them to integrated poultry operations.”

Tim Phillips, DVM is Editor of Petfood Industry Magazine.

Reprinted with permission from Petfood Industry Magazine, March/April 1992.

New Rules on Light Dog

If you’re confused about what makes a dog food “light,” “low-calorie,” or “less fat,” you’re not alone. It’s a confusing topic, but beginning in January, 1998, things should get a bit clearer. That’s when AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) is recommending implementation of the new PF8 rule. Under this rule, some labels will have to be changed, and some formulas, too.

The new rules differentiate between claims of light/lite or low calorie and less fat or less calories. Light or low calorie is called an absolute claim, because it’s making a solid claim that the product is low in calories. It must meet certain new standards. “Less” is considered a relative claim, which must be qualified by an explanation of exactly what it’s being compared to.

To use the absolute claim of light, lite or low calorie in the U.S., the food must have fewer calories of metabolizable energy (ME) per kilogram of food than the new standard. For dog foods, a lite or low cal food must have less than 3,100 kcal of ME/kg of food if it’s a dry food (less than 20% moisture). A semi-moist food, with more than 20% but less than 65% moisture, can have up to 2,500 kcal/kg to qualify as lite or low cal. And wet or canned foods with more than 65% moisture must have less than 900 kcal of ME/kg to qualify. The calorie claim must be substantiated by one of two AAFCO-designed standard tests.

To translate all of this into English, a food that calls itself light, lite or low calorie must have 15% fewer calories than the average of other foods in its category of dry, semi-moist or wet. This is similar to how the new FDA regulations work for people food, although human foods must have 33% fewer calories to make a light claim.

“Less” claims must meet a less stringent standard. They must tell you how much less, and less than what. In this case, the label will give you the percent reduction, and the product that it’s being compared to. All comparisons must be on the basis of weight of food, not volume, and the comparison must be within a moisture category. That means they can’t say that Dry Dog Food A has 15% fewer calories than Canned Dog Food B. Finally, if a product makes a Less claim, it must also provide consumers with the number of calories in the food. The manufacturer must also have substantiation for the comparison with the other food.

Any “lean” or “low fat” labels will meet another set of standards. They must have a maximum fat content that’s about 30% less than the industry average for dog foods. Foods that make this kind of claim must also state the maximum fat content in their foods, as well as the required statement of minimum fat content. And the comparison with another brand must be done relative to the minimum fat guaranteed in the other product. A food with a maximum of 5% fat can say that it has “50% less fat than Brand X” only if Brand X has a minimum of 10% fat.

On second thought, maybe things are not really getting simpler with these new regulations.

Nutrients: What’s Required?

Here are the AAFCO Nutrient  Profiles for Dog Foods. These  are the nutrients which are required to be provided by your dog’s food.

This table should be used cautiously. While it gives the minimum (and sometimes maximum) amounts of each nutrient which is required in your dog’s food, you can’t just compare numbers off the chart with numbers off the bag or brochure. In this case, you have to do some homework to compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges.

First, this chart is based on “dry matter.” Most numbers you’ll find for dog food is on an “as fed” basis. The difference is simple: dry matter  is what’s left after the moisture content has been adjusted out. As fed includes the moisture. The guaranteed analysis on the dog food bag is always on an as fed basis; sometimes a company brochure will give you the dry matter numbers.

You can make the adjustment your-self. To convert the as fed numbers on the bag to dry matter numbers, first find the adjustment factor. Take the moisture percentage and subtract it from 100%. The result is the percentage of dry matter. For example, if the moisture level stated on the bag is 10% maximum, then 90% of what’s in the bag is dry matter.

Instead of 90%, we’ll call it 0.90. Now we’ll take that as the factor used to adjust all the other numbers, by dividing those numbers by 0.90.

For example, let’s start with 21% protein listed on the bag. Divide 21 by 0.90 and you discover that the food really has a guaranteed protein level of 23.3% on a dry matter (DM) basis. Likewise, the 8% fat turns into 8.9% fat (DM) and 4% fiber becomes 4.4% fat (DM).

Now you’re on an equal footing. Maybe. The table also is based on an energy density of 3.5 kilocalories of metabolizable energy per gram of food on a dry matter basis (3.5 kcal ME/g DM). Many dry dog foods have an energy density near this, and don’t need to be adjusted. But canned or other high-fat foods may be considerably higher in energy density, meaning the dog will need to eat less to meet his caloric requirements. If that’s the case, other nutrients in the food will have to be increased so the dog  gets all of the nutrients needed from eating less food. In other words, the need for a certain amount of vitamin A is constant, no matter how much food the dog eats. If the dog is eating a smaller portion of a Super-Premium food to fill his needs, the food better have more vitamin A per bite than a less nutrient-dense food in which he eats more per meal.

Current Standards For Dog Food

Back in 1974, the National  Research Council recommended minimum levels for nutrients in dog foods. According to AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, products which met the standard could be labeled as “complete and balanced,” and could state that the food “meets or exceeds” the NRC recommendations. Nearly every dog food on the market has made one or both of these claims in the past. (AAFCO is an advisory body comprised of the state officials who regulate the pet food industry, and representatives from Canada.)

In 1985, the NRC updated their minimums. Unfortunately, those NRC recommendations made scientifically sound assumptions which were difficult for industry and government regulators to translate into the real world.

AAFCO decided to stick with the 1974 standards. A pet food manufacturer could meet the standards either through a feeding trial with dogs done in accordance with AAFCO protocols, or through nutritional calculations to make sure the food met the NRC standards.

Much has been learned about canine nutrition in the last decade, and those 18 year old standards were replaced, starting in 1992. The new standards were developed by the Canine Nutrition Expert Subcommittee of AAFCO.

The Subcommittee, made up of three respected university scientists, three from industry, and one from the Food and Drug Administration, took the 1974 NRC recommendations as a starting point. They modified the nutrient requirement levels to reflect current nutritional thinking, and accounted for differences in availability of nutrients in commonly-used pet food ingredients. The new standards are readily usable by both industry and the regulators.

The new and old standards differ in some important ways. First, there are now two standards, not just one. The old NRC recommendations were designed as nutritional requirements for all stages of a dog’s life. No matter what food was fed, it would take care of the dog’s minimal nutritional needs, whether the dog was a puppy or senior citizen, adult or pregnant mother.

The AAFCO standards recognize that their are important differences in nutritional needs, depending upon the life stage of the dog. So one nutritional standard, or profile, has been designed for the adult dog to maintain health long term. This is the adult maintenance diet standard. The other profile is for growth and reproduction, to handle the extra nutritional needs and stresses of the growing puppy, and the pregnant or nursing mother.

Second, it was decided that too much of a good thing may not be so good. So maximums have been set for minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc iodine, and selenium, plus the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. Because there are now maximums, the phrase “meets or exceeds” is no longer appropriate on dog food labels.

The AAFCO Subcommittee used the 1974 standards as a starting point. Some of the nutrient requirements were increased, some were lowered. For example, the minimum requirements of zinc and iron were raised in both growth and adult nutrient standards. The minimum amount of fat required in the diet was raised for the growth and reproduction standard.

 Meanwhile, the levels of calcium, phosphorus, and salt (sodium chloride) were lowered, especially for the adult maintenance foods. Minimum and maximum ranges were also set for the important calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.

In addition to setting minimums for protein and fat, there are also minimum requirements for the essential amino acids, which are the components of proteins that the body cannot produce by itself. This means that dog food manufacturers now have to pay closer attention to their sources of protein to insure that the amino acid requirements are met.

Meeting these standards is now one way a manufacturer can still make the claim of “complete and balanced” for his food. Any label guarantees of a specific nutrient level must be expressed in the same units of measure as used in the AAFCO Nutrient Profile. Chemical analysis in the laboratory determines whether the nutrients are present in sufficient quantity to meet the Nutrient Profile requirements.

The other method of substantiation of the “complete and balanced” claim is an actual feeding trial based on AAFCO protocols (guidelines). If this is done, it is not necessary for the product to meet the AAFCO Nutrient Profile. The feeding trial is the preferred method for determining whether the food meets AAFCO standards.

While AAFCO as a group has accept-ed the new Nutrient Profiles, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine concurs, it is up to each state to decide when to implement the new labeling requirements. Watch for these changes in the way dog food is labeled and sold.

Are Pets Being Recycled Into Pet Food?

Tim Phillips, DVM
The headline read: “How dogs and cats get recycled into petfood” (San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 20, 1990). Similar headlines appear regularly. The belief is dead pets are rendered and the resulting product finds its way into petfoods.

Not true, according to Fred Bispling-hoff, DVM, Consultant for the Animal Protein Producers Industry (APPI). “I believe I have as much information on this subject as anyone,” says Dr. Bisplinghoff. “I have spent much time talking to reporters, renderers, petfood manufacturers and pet owners for the past twenty years. Adverse publicity has dictated that renderers get rid of small animals or make arrangements to sell their end products into markets other than the petfood market.”

Rendering pets for petfood is not harmful to pets consuming such petfoods. Nevertheless, emotional reactions over-shadow any rational discussion of this issue. Pet owners tend to be appalled by the idea. The rendering industry is well aware of public disapproval of the practice.

Rendering is an economical, environmentally sound way of disposing of pets. The alternatives are to bury or incinerate them. However, these alternatives have economic and environmental disadvantages. Still, because most renderers will not accept pets, humane societies and others have increasingly turned to incineration.

The following is the breakdown of producers of animal proteins by type of raw material processed:

♦    Independent renderers process raw material from small packing houses, supermarkets, etc. There are 182 in the U.S.
♦   Packer renderers process raw material from only the species they are slaughtering. There are ninety-eight of this type in the U.S.
♦    Poultry processors process poultry by-products. There are fifty-six nationwide.
♦    Protein blenders purchase dry rendered tankage from the preceding processors. There are twenty-four in the United States.

Of these, says Dr. Bisplinghoff, the only group that might process dead pets are the independent renderers. He estimates that of the 182 independent renderers, only five to seven process pets. However, this number does not include the “small country processors who may occasionally take a pet from a livestock producer.” Generally, these small feed companies do not manufacture companion animal diets.

Petfood manufacturers have demand-ed guarantees that their animal protein suppliers do not process dead companion animals. Since petfood makers are large volume, valued customers, says Dr. Bisplinghoff, no renderer would chance losing this profitable business.

Furthermore, dead pets are not desirable raw material for rendering. Therefore, there is no economic incentive for renderers to seek this type of raw material.

“Some renderers may process a small volume of dog pound animals,” says Dr. Bisplinghoff, “but they do it to get along with local health authorities who have the responsibility to dispose of these animals in an economic and sanitary manner. But, these renderers do not sell their products to petfood manufacturers. The few renderers who handle large volumes of dead pets either export their animal proteins or sell them to integrated poultry operations.”

Tim Phillips, DVM is Editor of Petfood Industry Magazine.

Reprinted with permission from Petfood Industry Magazine, March/April 1992.