Black Foot Raw

Food Factory

Understanding Pet Food Labels


I was having a gourmet sausage making competition with Stark, our production director, meat extraordinaire. He claimed there was no way his handcrafted wagyu sausages would lose out to mine in flavour. He claimed his beef had been made from cattle that had been massaged by Thai masseuses and fed on a diet of beluga caviar and French truffles. These cattle listen to Mozart to sleep at night and wake up in the morning for a health spa and some water mixed with Cognac.


Never to be outdone, I told him about my Kurobuta pork, made from Berkshire pigs that had been taught to recite Shakespeare and use slaughtering knives to perform seppuku – the dignified, Japanese way of dying by disemboweling oneself. Dignified pigs rock because they taste better.


In truth, I knew I’d never beat Stark, regardless of the meat, so when he was not looking, I tossed into my meat a sprinkle of MSG.


Award winning sausages


He admitted the porkers looked pretty good, took a bite, eyes widening in surprise as the umami punch hit, then narrowing in suspicion as he asked, ‘All natural?’ Stark is a bit of a Sausage Snob and using natural meats and spices without artificial flavourings is his gold standard.


‘All natural,’ I said. ‘Cross my heart.’


I wasn’t lying. FDA does not define the term ‘All Natural’. Food labelled ‘All Natural’ could be injected with fructose syrup since it comes from corn. Therefore, it is not wrong to label sausages with MSG as ‘All Natural’ for the reason that MSG is a naturally occurring substance. Right? Right?!


And that is how pet food labels can sometimes be equally misleading as well.


Any product containing the word ‘dinner’, ‘nugget’, ‘formula’, ‘platter’, ‘entrée’, and ‘recipe’ requires only 10 percent of stated ingredient (e.g. chicken formula needs only have 10 percent chicken of total product weight)


10% chicken


A product labelled ‘with…’ such as ‘with salmon’ needs only 3 percent of stated ingredient

3% salmon


A product labelled with the word ‘flavour’ (e.g. tuna flavor) can contain little to no meat

No meat, all carbs


Also, we know dogs and especially cats require high protein content but protein content on labels do not really state whether the protein is animal based or plant based.


Who makes up all these stuff? AAFCO – the Association of American Feed Control Officials, a non-governmental organisation that many people think regulate products like pet food but are, in actual fact, a body that helps the pet food corporations confound pet owners.


AAFCO claim to regulate pet food ingredients, labelling, and packaging. For a start, they hold a meeting every year to determine the ingredients that can be allowed into pet food. But it is not an independent meeting, as members of the pet food companies are allowed in as well. That means their voices can be heard regarding what can go into pet food.


And that is why the definition for something like, say, ‘organic chicken’ would mean ‘organic chicken’ as we understand it but, in pet food food, would mean:




It could also contain non-organic chicken meal and non-organic chicken fat. FDA has also stepped in to say that they are the actual regulatory authority for pet food. That is why you find this under compliance laws for animal feed on their website.



All kinds of contaminated and poisonous food unfit for human consumption is allowed to be turned into pet food.


Finally, ‘natural’ on pet food means…




Yes. Rendered meat is considered natural. Here is what an employee has to say about rendered meat:


Having been in the industry and seen what goes on, I can see why people are alarmed…we have sheep heads come through. They have a new tag. They go into the pit. There would be plastic, I mean butchers would be getting rid of their material and they don’t care what they are putting in the bin, so it would be plastic, cans, all of those sort of things you would see….


A roller door goes up, a truck backs up, tips it in and tonnes of offal fall into the pit. It goes through a mincer. So it is ground up and crushed up and then goes through to the cooking process. So the ear tags with the heat effectively melt and then when it is going through the drying process effectively become a pin head.


There is a reason rendered meat isn’t fit for human consumption. It’s made of meat not used for human consumption in the first place, diseased meat, rotting carcasses from road kills, and mixed with inedible plastic tags, plastic gloves etc, and dead pets! That’s right! Your pet may be engaging in cannibalism unknowingly!


Directly from the FDA website: “Pet food consisting of material from diseased animals or animals which have died otherwise than by slaughter, which is in violation of 402(a)(5) will not ordinarily be actionable, if it is not otherwise in violation of the law. It will be considered fit for animal consumption.” 


A rendering plant – pet morgue


In fact, a test for cat and dog food revealed a high incident rate of pentobarbital presence, a substance used almost exclusively for euthanizing pets, and it’s hard to know where the pentobarbital came from…


So when you see pet food packaging depicting something fresh and delicious like that…



It may well contain diseased meat, euthanised cats and dogs, rotting road kills… Makes starchy fillers, artificial preservatives, inefficient vitamin supplements and only 3% real chicken seem like small issues in comparison.


So I don’t think Stark has much to complain regarding my phrasing ‘all natural’. MSG or not, I really did use pork from Berkshire pigs in those sausages.


Even if the pigs didn’t really recite Shakespeare.