Monday, February 21, 2011

Rendering - Pet Food Processing

The Rendering Industry – Exposing Pet Food Processing (taken from a Harvard Law Student's study)

The processing of many ingredients used in pet foods, a practice known as rendering, adds another layer of complexity to the confusion surrounding the common or usual names found on pet foods. By including the word “rendered” in the official ingredient definitions of such items as meat and bone meal, AAFCO has approved the rendering industry’s participation in the manufacturing of pet foods. But if AAFCO intends to permit the inclusion of rendered products in pet foods, they bear the responsibility of assuring pet owners that such ingredients will not harm their pets. This section shows that such assurance is not provided, and that the FDA, AAFCO, and rendering industry share the blame.

Webster’s dictionary defines rendering as “to extract by melting; to treat so as to convert into industrial fats, oils or fertilizer. Basically, rendering separates the fat soluble ingredients from water soluble and solid materials. The process kills most bacterial contaminants, but the valuable natural enzymes and proteins contained in the raw materials are also destroyed or altered.

Rendering dates back to the days of the early Egyptians, but today it has been reduced to operating in the “shadows of polite society.[159] The rendering process begins with a large machine slowly grinding a vat of raw materials.[160] After the materials are shredded, they are cooked at 220 degrees F to 270 degrees F.[161] Cooking times vary depending on the raw materials and their intended use.[162] Once the material is cooked, the grease rises to the top where it is removed and used as a source of fat in pet foods, soaps and personal care products.[163] The moisture is eliminated from the remaining material by putting it through a press, and the finished product is sold to pet food manufacturers as meat and bone meal.

What goes into the rendering vat? The pet food (and rendering industry for that matter) would have consumers think the rendering plants are full of plump chickens, fresh fish and healthy cows. Such images are routinely depicted on pet food packaging. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be less accurate of the true contents of a rendering vat. In fact, rendering persists because it provides an essential service: disposing of millions of pounds of dead animals.[164] Proponents of rendering claim that there is no other way to dispose of these dead animals. Dr. William Heuston, formerly associate dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, argues that disposing of animals via landfills would create a “colossal public health problem,” because dead animals are the ideal medium for bacteria.[165] Cost and potential air pollution problems preclude burning the animal carcasses.[166]

Instead, United States rendering companies pick up 100 million pounds of “waste material” every single day. This “waste material” includes: heads, feet, stomachs, intestines, spinal cords, tails, restaurant grease, feathers, bones, and dead or diseased animals rejected from slaughterhouses.[167] Remember that under FDA and USDA regulations half of every cow and at least one third of every swine is not consumable by humans. Cancerous tissue, tumors, contaminated blood, injection sites and any tissues treated with a substance not permitted by or in excess of FDA or EPA limits is also rendered.[168] The inclusion of such items in pet food violates the FDA’s requirement regarding unadulterated food. Recall that foods containing “any part of a diseased animal” is deemed adulterated. [169] With an understanding of the rendering process and its ingredients, it is then unclear how AAFCO (and thereby the FDA) approves ingredients such as meat and bone meal for use in pet foods.

In addition to the “waste material,” six to seven million dogs and cats killed every year in animal shelters make their way into rendering vats.[170] The city of Los Angeles alone sends 200 tons of dogs and cats to a local rendering firm every month.[171] Road kill that is too large to be buried roadside, expired grocery store meats, and dead zoo animals are also thrown into the mix.[172] Recall from the discussion of the AAFCO ingredient definitions that meat and bone meal must exclude hair and stomach contents “except as may occur in good manufacturing processes.”[173] Considering that a 40 lb bag of dog food costs only $15-$17, that price cannot possibly cover the amount of time necessary to remove all the hair and stomach contents from the thousands of diseased and euthanized animals thrown into the rendering vats, not to mention the Styrofoam and saran wrap packaging from expired grocery store meats.[174] In fact, it seems downright impossible. The rendering industry readily admits that meat wrappers are mixed in with its raw materials, their inclusion betrayed by the presence of polyethylene (used to make saran wrap) in rendered products.[175]

Although pet food companies claim they don’t buy meat and bone meal from rendering plants that accept cats and dogs, the rendering industry acknowledges it would be impossible for a manufacturer purchasing products from rendering firms to know the exact raw materials of what they’re buying.[176] An employee of the rendering industry points out that cats and dogs can easily be included in chicken by-product meals because of the similar protein content.[177] Moreover, a rendering executive claims that Ralston purchased meat meal from his rendering facility for years, which included dogs and cats.[178] Although somebody at the rendering plant finally revealed the true contents of the meat meal, the industry executive is quick to point out that only Ralston stopped purchasing from them, implying that the facility continues relationships with other pet product manufacturers.[179]

The exact proportion of cats and dogs to cows and pigs in any given rendered production batch is difficult to determine. One rendering company estimated that it “rendered somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 pounds of dogs and cats a day out of a total of 250,000 to 500,000 pounds of cattle, poultry, butcher scrap and other materials.”[180] Some states have attempted to establish precautions against this quasi-cannibalism. For example, California law requires that rendered dogs and cats be labeled as “dry rendered tankage,” a product which is rarely used in pet food.[181] However, due to the uncoordinated efforts of the pet food regulation system, such precautions are practically useless when pet food manufacturers operate on a national and often global scale. Consider that it is perfectly legal for tankage shipped outside of the state of California to be labeled as meat and bone meal.[182] Moreover, California does not inspect meat and bone meals imported from outside the state.[183]

While the rendering industry and even FDA officials defend the practice of rendering deceased pets as the most effective way to dispose of the animals and just another form of recycling, [184] it is telling that none of the celebrated “benefits” seem to include nutrition for our pets. In fact, the exact opposite appears to be true. Despite claiming that the “pets probably constitute a very small percentage of a day’s production at a renderer and an even lower percentage of the ingredients in a package of dry food,” the practice of the rendering industry (grinding the materials as soon as the vat is full) ensure that production batches vary significantly. Furthermore, although the actual percentage in each individual bag of pet food might be low – the industry ignores the impact of its promotion of feeding pets the exact same product every day, 2-3 meals a day for its entire life. How much, then, is a “small percentage” when considered cumulatively?

Although “most scientists say the high temperatures and pressures used in rendering kill any viruses and bacteria,”[185] this is not a risk that should be taken lightly. In 1996, an outbreak of paralysis in cats in Sweden and the Netherlands was traced to poultry intestines used in commercial pet foods. Since poultry livestock is often fed medications (overseas as well as in the US), the intestines contained all chemicals recently fed to the chickens, including Salinomycin which often causes severe heart problems in other animals.[186] Despite high temperatures and other cooking processes, the Salinomycin had not been sufficiently eliminated. Most alarmingly, sodium pentobarbital, the drug used to euthanize dogs and cats, has also proven resilient to the cooking process. A study done by veterinarians at the University of Minnesota proved that the drug survived the rendering process.[187] Despite their conclusion that the amount of residue would be too small to have an impact on animals eating the rendered product, the veterinarians based this deduction on the assumption that renderers mix the euthanized pets with other ingredients throughout production.[188] The reality is that rendering companies mix whatever ingredients they have on hand, and the unregulated industry has no incentive to follow formulas. This means that the amount of sodium pentobarbital in any given batch of meat meal will fluctuate based on the particular number of euthanized animals included within the raw materials. In 2002 the FDA acknowledged that they have found “’very, very low levels’ of sodium some brands of dog food.”[189] Rest assured though, the FDA is investigating whether the low levels are of any “significance.”[190] Pet owners should find it troubling that experts see little health risk because “temperatures in the rendering process kill most agents of disease,”[191] just not the agent directly responsible for euthanizing pets. It is difficult to see how the FDA can continue to allow AAFCO and the pet food industry to self-regulate when they encourage pet owners to buy their products because most of the disease causing agents are dead. Shouldn’t the standard at least be a food that contains no agents of disease? If they’re not going to sell the most nutritious product, it would be nice if they adhered to consistent quality control regulations that protected our pets from disease.

Let me assure you that is horrid practice is not used in the process of making Life's Abundance Pet foods.

No comments: