Thomas Dock, CVJ, Vet. Technician  
Male, 53
Indianapolis, IN

Interests: animals, Reading (sci-fi and fantasy)
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"A rose by any other name..."

Jul 14, 2009 - 12 comments

by products


pet food

William Shakespeare wrote "What's in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet".  This quote hit me today as being applicable to our next topic of pet food myths.

I am not sure if I will get more comments on today’s blog than I did on the last one in which we reviewed the myth of corn allergies and corn being bad for pets.   Today, we are going to tackle the infamously and unfortunately named “BY PRODUCTS”.  (Cue intense music soundtrack).  So, to paraphrase William "what's in a name, would by proudcts cause as much disgust by any other name?"

People hate the term “by-products”.  It conjures up disgusting and gory images straight out of some low budget horror film.  The truth of the matter though is that by products simply refers to the parts of the poultry or meat source that the human food industry is not using.  Before we go any further, let’s look at the two definitions of by products from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO):

Meat By-Products: 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.

Poultry By-Products: must consist of non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I see some pretty nutritious stuff in these definitions.   Weren’t you told as a kid that you should eat liver to help you grow?

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies (The Highlander) has Christopher Lambert describing haggis to Sean Connery.  After Connery questions what haggis is, Lambert replies “sheep’s stomach stuffed with meat and barley”.   Connery replies “how revolting” and dumps Lambert into the lake.   I bring this up because it is not uncommon in human culture to also partake of these “by-products” yet other cultures may find them less than palatable.

What we have to remember when dealing with our pet’s nutrition is that our aesthetics (what seems tasty or pleasing to us) is in no way associated with how nutritious the ingredient might be.  

As I mentioned to a poster in our other forum, pets need NUTRIENTS, not specific ingredients.  The most important issue is can the food (and the ingredients within the food) deliver the appropriate type and amounts of amino acids, fatty acids, carbohydrates, etc to the pet in a form that is highly digestible and the pet finds acceptable?

Millions of pets and pet owners have determined, meat and poultry by-products can provide their pets with a great source of protein and they are often as palatable, sometimes more so, than “true” meat sources (i.e. skeletal meat).  In other words, it really doesn’t matter what the label says is IN the food, it matters what the animal gets OUT of the food (digestibility and quality of life).

Even if the above arguments don’t convince you, maybe this one will.   We know that many cows, pigs, chickens, etc will go to slaughter each year to feed humans.   What should be done with all of the “by products” if they aren’t used in pet food?   If we don’t use the “by products”, will we need to slaughter even more animals to feed our pets?  To me, and this is my opinion, we are better off using as much of each individual animal as we can in order to save waste and other animals’ lives.

So, now it’s your turn…tell me what you think.

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535822 tn?1443980380
by margypops, Jul 14, 2009
This is a hard one for me as I am one of the 'almost' vegetarians, I still eat chicken and turkeys, I was brought up in England and my mom cooked liver and kidneys for her Family, ,, she even cooked the same things for her dogs... I liked  haggis by the way, ... I have a cat recently adopted me and I do get her regular cat food which I know has all the Inards' in it.This is undoubtedly hypoctritical of me as I do not eat the bigger animals,My answer to you is that it is okay to put that into animal food ...

483733 tn?1326802046
by TrudieC, Jul 14, 2009
I am in favour of using the by-products for our pet food.  I am not a vegetarian but do hold animals in high esteem.  If we are going to follow our natural inclinations and eat meat then we must honour the animal who is giving its life for ours by not wasting any part of it.  I really learned this lesson when we lived for a few years on a hobby farm and raised exotic chickens.  I so enjoyed having them free range and providing such tasty and healthy eggs.  But, when raising these chickens you do need to cull the roosters as they end up fighting and abusing other chickens.  My husband insisted that I be involved in this process so that I would appreciate the food I eat.  We did this as humanely as possible and then used the roosters to make soup stock.  I cannot waste meat any more.  It breaks my heart when I see waste as I consider it a lack of respect for the animal from which it came.

389974 tn?1331018842
by swampcritter, Jul 14, 2009
Brain and spinal chord parts should not be used in cat food as they are vulnerable to prion disease. There have been no cases in the US but it happens in other countries.

For some reason though, dogs have no known vulnerability to this.

306867 tn?1299253309
by allaboutmary, Jul 14, 2009
I'm all for it, if it keeps them healthy and happy.  With my dogs it seems the smellier the better. lol

swampcritter...you are right.  In fact, I think brain and spinal material from any cow over 30 months of age is prohibited in pet food per the FDAs recent ruling.

Avatar universal
by JoyRenee, Jul 14, 2009
Very, very interesting. I don't really have a take on it. I haven't really given a whole lot of thought to what I feed my cat. I just buy Cat Chow.

746512 tn?1388811180
by Tammy2009, Jul 14, 2009
The other problem with meat by products is that you do not know what kind of meat is in there.  I don't mind by products but I want to know the kind of meat.  My older cat will throw up anything that is beef, so meat by products doesn't help, what kind of meat?  vension, beef, pork or what?

I won't even use any beef or lamb anymore because of the prion diseases and the effect they can have.  Especially since I live in Alberta and we had the scare of BSE (the animals didn't hit the human food chain so where do you think they went?).

The problem is the regulation of the food, how can we be sure the companies that are making the food have passed inspections and how thorough are the inspections?  Just because a company isn't allowed to use an indrigent, what is stopping them from adding some in?

675347 tn?1365464245
by ginger899, Jul 14, 2009
Is it verified and true? For certain? OK if it is.....
I don't mind my dog having these things to eat, even though they don't sound very appetizing to humans. I know for a fact, for instance, that offal is outright good for them, and has good vitamin content. (though sometimes liver can be a bit rich for some dogs) Brains, hearts, lungs, kidneys.....all good stuff if you're a dog....likewise even cartilage.

But are these stories about euthanized dogs and cats and other pets being added to pet food, and labelled 'meat by-products' (plus collars, ID tags, and whatever else in the mix) -untrue? I jolly well hope so. If this is untrue, do you know of any good evidence?

Ginger...see my third post.   It has the information that disproves the theory of pets being used in pet food.  I am not sure why this crazy theory continues to persist, but it does.

Beyond that, why would a company willing jeopardize any sort of good reputation/standing they had with pet owners by using something as horrendous (to our sensibilities) as dogs and cats??

Tammy...I am not sure why the allowance for the term "meat" versus the specific type of meat.  I do know that horse meat would have to be labeled as such (even though horse meat is a rare commodity in pet foods in the US).   I think it is just beef, pork and lamb that are lumped generically.   I will look into this and let you know.

675347 tn?1365464245
by ginger899, Jul 14, 2009
I just saw your post on that. Sorry. I missed it before.

But even though I DO believe the evidence you have provided, I still do wonder about what is added to food! I saw a TV documentary tonight (in UK) about the scams about things being added to HUMAN food, and a lot of labeling being misleading (though not illegal) So although I am willing to accept no horrific 'meat by-products' are added to our pets' food I know the loopholes and clever wording that CAN disguise unpalatable facts. (Gosh! If it can happen to human ready-meals, it can certainly happen to pet food, I am thinking!)

(Some of the eggs which have been added to mass-produced cakes and pastries were not fit to be looked at, never mind eaten. Some of them were crawling with maggots, and the yolks had turned brown...)

Also large companies don't only employ advertising and 'spin' technicians to make things sound different to the actual reality of what is in the food (check out that 'country-fresh chicken pie' you have in the freezer.....is it really what you think it is? Or is it really made from re-constituted meat/connective tissue/fat, etc?) -But when a large and well-respected company like Iams has history of the kind that they had to defend themselves against animal cruelty accusations, for dreadful experimentation on dogs, and evidence to support this,....and no-one knew about it!! Then I am aware they don't mind so much about their reputation. (The spin-doctors will take care of that), and a lot of things which are done the public knows nothing about!
Of course, once out, those facts were quickly defended, and a spokesman for Iams said those practices no longer go on. (Thank heaven for that, but they lost my trust as you can imagine.)  

506791 tn?1439846583
by Piparskeggr, Jul 19, 2009
My current 4 princesses (and all prior kitties) eat (ate) regular dry and canned food; no health problems as the majority made it to 16 years and beyond.

Innards are quite healthy for them; obligate carnivores and other predators in the wild will usually go for the soft tissue first before eating the skeletal muscle.

Modern man seems to be the sole predator on the planet that discards the offal as a matter of course, especially us in the more "civilized" nations.  I'll admit I'm not too fond of organ meats other than liver, kidney and heart; do like natural casing sausages...  ,-)

675347 tn?1365464245
by ginger899, Jul 19, 2009
I agree. Offal is generally good meat. Wild carnivores often eat the stomach contents of prey too. We wouldn't like that if it were described on a label. But if I find good fresh roadkill to cook up for my dog I always include the offal if it looks healthy. Nothing wrong with these kinds of things. They're natural enough.

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