Rendered Ingredients in Dog Food

August 7, 2012

Many brands of dry dog food contain rendered ingredients.  To understand how bad these can be for pets, here’s the low-down on what they include:

  1. Restaurants collect used fats, oils, and grease in large drums that may have been stored for weeks outside in whatever is the weather before being picked up by rendering company trucks (or independents who sell to rendering plants).
  2. Dead animal carcasses from farms and veterinarians also go to those plants.
  3. Trucks that pick up for the rendering plants also make stops at supermarkets, where they collect the outdated meat – still in the Styrofoam packaging – and the unusable pieces of meat that the butcher can’t sell to customers.  All of this material eventually ends up in the rendering vats.  The plastic and Styrofoam packaging is unlikely to be removed.
  4. Once at the rendering plant, the contents of the containers go into huge vats to be ground up and cooked at high temperatures to pull the meat away from the bone.
  5. The grease is removed and eventually becomes animal fat, or tallow.
  6. The rendering process destroys much of the bacteria, such as E.Coli, but how did that animal die?  Was it by euthanasia?  Did it die in the field and lie there in the heat for days? Was it hit by a car?  When an animal dies, the body releases a bacteria (gas) that supposedly isn’t destroyed by rendering.  No one tests for this.

Tests have been run by various groups, including the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).  Some claim that rendered pet food contains spoiled meats and the  4 D’s of cattle – dead, dying, diseased and disabled.

On the website for Goodness Gracious Treats, I found an article by Van Smith in Baltimore’s “City Paper,” Sept., 1995 about Valley Proteins’ rendering plant.  Valley Proteins of Winchester, VA, operates Baltimore’s only rendering operation.

The article stated that 150 million pounds of rotting flesh and used kitchen grease from around Baltimore are rendered by the plant’s grinders and cookers each year.  This plant produces 80 million pounds of 3 products:  meat and bone meal, tallow, and yellow grease.

“Most is reconstituted as chicken feed for North Carolina and Eastern Shore poultry farmers.  Some goes for dry pet food.”

The author continues with a description of what he saw at and was told by the plant manager.  I urge you to read the article here.

J.J. Smith, President of Valley Proteins, estimates that “A little more than half of the raw material for the Curtis Bay (Baltimore) plant comes from supermarkets and slaughter houses.  The other half is kitchen grease and frying oils from restaurants.”

Officials interviewed in the article didn’t like to discuss the role of dead pets, work animals, and wildlife in the rendering industry.  However, they did emphasize its “limited role” and contend that it is “more a public service than a profitable practice.”

J.J. Smith is quoted in the article as saying “This is a very small part of the business that we don’t like to advertise.”  His concern was about bad publicity from animal-rights activists.

The article also discusses the origin of that rendering plant’s dead animals, saying that most come from the city animal shelter in Southwest Baltimore.  An average of 1824 dead animals per month pass through the shelter’s freezer and onto rendering trucks headed to Valley Proteins’ Curtis Bay plant.

One truck driver said, “Chicken feed, cosmetics, fertilizer, dog food, whatever – the way they cook that bad boy up (meaning the Curtis Bay plant), it don’t make no difference what’s in there…”

And there you have it:  Factual evidence that Fido or Fluffy may be in the cheap pet food you buy.

However, it makes sense that if the origin of what goes into rendered pet food is unknown, caution should be applied. Personally, I want to know what my pets are eating, and rendered dry food – appearing on the label as some kind of meat byproducts, or just byproducts, simply won’t be on my fur-kids’ dinner plates.


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