Mother Nature's Diet for Pets
Pet Food Industry Secrets
|Posted on October 31, 2013 at 9:31 PM|
The 2007 Menu Foods recall brought to light some of the pet food industry’s dirtiest secrets. Most people were surprised — and appalled — to learn that all Iams/Eukanuba canned foods are not made by The Iams Company at all. In fact, in 2003 Iams signed an exclusive 10-year contract for the production of 100% of its canned foods by Menu. This type of deal is called “co-packing.” One company makes the food, but puts someone else’s label on it. This is a very common arrangement in the pet food industry. It was first illustrated by the Doane’s and Diamond recalls, when dozens of private labels were involved. But none were as large or as “reputable” as Iams, Eukanuba, Hill’s, Purina, Nutro, and other high-end, so-called “premium” foods.The big question raised by this arrangement is whether or not there is any real difference between the expensive premium brands and the lowliest generics. The recalled products all contained the suspect ingredient, wheat gluten, but they also all contained by-products of some kind, including specified by-products such as liver or giblets. It’s true that a pet food company that contracts with a co-packer can provide its own ingredients, or it can require the contractor to buy particular ingredients to use in its recipes. But part of the attraction of using a co-packer is that it can buy ingredients in larger bulk than any one pet food maker could on its own, making the process cheaper and the profits larger. It’s likely that with many of the ingredients that cross all types of pet foods, those ingredients are the same. Are one company’s products — made in the same plant on the same equipment with ingredients called the same name — really “better” than another’s? That’s what the makers of expensive brands want you to think. The recalled premium brands claim that Menu makes their foods “according to proprietary recipes using specified ingredients,” and that “contract manufacturers must follow strict quality standards.” Indeed, the contracts undoubtedly include those points. But out in the real world, things may not go according to plan. How well are machines cleaned between batches, how carefully are ingredients mixed, and just how particular are minimum-wage workers in a dirty smelly job going to be about getting everything just perfect? Whatever the differences are between cheap and high-end food, one thing is clear. The purchase price of pet food does not always determine whether a pet food is good or bad or even safe. However, the very cheapest foods can be counted on to have the very cheapest ingredients. For example, Ol’ Roy, Wal-Mart’s store brand, has now been involved in 3 serious recalls. Menu manufactures canned foods for many companies that weren’t affected by the recall, including Nature’s Variety, Wellness, Castor & Pollux, Newman’s Own Organics, Wysong, Innova, and EaglePack. It’s easy to see from their ingredient lists that those products are made from completely different ingredients and proportions. Again, the issue of cleaning the machinery out between batches comes up, but hopefully nothing so lethal will pass from one food to another.