A headline in Slate’s story about dog food asks, “Does your pet food contain dead pets?”
It’s a compelling line, but before the story answers the question, it presents some disturbing facts about dog food and its dirty little disgusting secret: rendering plants, who make and sell the meat and bone meal that is often used in dog food.
What is a rending plant? It’s a place that accepts all the parts of cows and chickens and things that are not fit for human consumption under Food and Drug Administration regulations — the hide, bones, brain, feces, udders, the digestive system and it contents, and so on.
It also accepts — now breathe through your mouth — animal parts from “animal shelters and veterinary clinics that euthanize a lot of animals.” In fact, the story says that “the city of Los Angeles alone sends about 200 tons of dead pets to a rendering plant each month.”
Once all this horror arrives at a rendering plant, it is dumped into a huge grinder. All of it. And it keeps going in until the grinder is full with whatever came in on the various trucks, which could be any combination of “parts from slaughterhouses, whole carcasses of diseased animals, cats and dogs from shelters, zoo animals, road kill and expired meat from grocery store shelves (tossed in fully packaged, complete with plastic wrap and Styrofoam).”
After the stuff is pulverized and heated and “most viruses and bacteria are killed,” the fat is skimmed off and packaged as “meat and bone meal,” which goes into fertilizer, livestock feed, and pet food.
“There is essentially no federal enforcement of standards for the contents of pet food,” the story notes.
And your dog maybe eating other dogs isn’t even the worst part of all this. Although “most” viruses and bacteria are killed, a lot of other stuff is not. Meat and bone meal can contain antibiotics, steroids, and even the sodium pentobarbital used to kill pets at shelters.
“Many of these animals died after being medicated for health problems that contributed to their deaths,” the story notes, “and not all drugs are neutralized during the rendering process.”
The writer then shifts his outrage over our dogs eating dogs to outrage over the fact that so many dogs and cats are being dumped in the shelter system to be euthanized. “Perhaps we ought to be more angry about the parade of unwanted carcasses that fuel our need for a rendering industry in the first place,” he writes.
“Go ahead, feed this stuff to your dogs. I’m not kidding,” the story closes. “They have to eat something, and this is what is available. Until we have a better answer for the millions of unwanted pets waiting in shelters for homes that aren’t there, and until we figure out a more efficient means of turning subsidized grain into steak, this stuff exists, and we’ve got to do something with it. Put Lassie on the label, since she’s on the menu anyway. If you don’t like it, adopt a shelter dog and make sure it’s neutered.”
Read “A Dog-Eat-Dog World” over at Slate.