Science Diet’s “The Truth About Pet Food Ingredients”

The Science Diet website now has a page titled “The Truth About Pet Food Ingredients Pet Food Myths Answered with Facts”.  Here’s what Science Diets says and of course I have some follow up…

The Science Diet webpage starts off like this…

“The TRUTH about pet nutrition.”  They go on to say “It’s important to understand what is myth or fact when making choices about what you feed your pet.”  I agree Science Diet, it IS important for pet parents to understand what is myth or fact when making choices about pet food.  So, let’s see what Science Diet’s myths and truths are…

“Myth 1:  Corn is just filler.”
“Fact:  A filler is an ingredient providing no nutritional purpose.  Corn is NOT a filler.  Corn is a nutritionally superior grain compared with others used in pet food. It contains nutrients not found in other grains and includes:
•    Essential fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
•    Beta-carotene, vitamin E and lutein – nature’s antioxidants
•    Highly digestible carbohydrates for energy
•    Quality proteins for muscle and tissue growth
You’ll be interested to know that protein in corn is more digestible than rice, wheat, barley or sorghum.”

Ok…I agree…with the sentence “a filler is an ingredient providing no nutritional purpose”.  Corn isn’t a filler.  BUT, corn is a cheaper protein source as compared to high quality (Grade A) meat.  BUT, corn is highly prone to deadly mycotoxins which even in small amounts can cause tremendous health risks over time.  BUT 70% of U.S. corn is genetically modified (GM) AND studies have linked GM corn to kidney and liver damage in animals.

“Myth 2 By-products are low-quality ingredients.
Fact: A by-product is something produced when making something else.  For example, a by-product of soybean processing is vitamin E.  Other food by-products include vegetable oils, beef bouillon and gelatin.  Also, Hill’s:
•    Selects those by-products that allow it to add nutrient-rich organ meats
•    Avoids excess minerals from bones found in less expensive meats”

Ok…I agree with part of this too…by-products are produced when making something else.  For example a by-product of the processing of human meat are cut away cancerous tissues and injection sites, diseased organs, downer animals and other waste that FDA Compliance Policies allow pet food to utilize without petsumer knowledge.  Science Diet’s response to Myth 2 does say it selects nutrient-rich organ meats but it does not state if these organ meat by-products are USDA Grade A or if their organ meat by-products are rejected for use in human food.

Bullet-point two from Science Diet doesn’t make sense…“avoids excess minerals from bones found in less expensive meats”.  The factual definition of meat – from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is “the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to that part of the striate muscle which is skeletal or that which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart, or in the esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh.”  No mention of bone.

“Myth 3:  High temperatures destroy nutrients during the pet food-making process.
Fact:  At Hill’s, we prepare our pet food through a “quick cooking” process. Important nutrients are actually more digestible after cooking than before. Also:
•    It is true that cooking can lead to the loss of some vitamins. However, we formulate our products so that we meet our precise nutrient targets after cooking
•    Our Guaranteed Analysis statement on each bag reflects these post-cooking levels”

When surveyed various pet food manufacturers regarding cooking time and temperature, Science Diet told us their dry pet foods are heated to about 194ºF during the cook-extrusion process, however they would not reveal cooking time.  This Science Diet “Myth” isn’t completely resolved; in the first bullet point they agree that cooking “can lead to the loss of some vitamins”.

And…(so many of you out there are going to love Myth #4)…

“Myth 4:  Raw foods help pets live longer.
Fact:  Feeding raw meat, eggs and bones pose dangers for your pet because of excessive levels of nutrients like protein, calcium and phosphorus. These foods also increase the risk of broken teeth, gastrointestinal issues and exposure to bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella.”

Now where do I begin…I don’t feed raw, but I know many that do…including veterinarians.  I’ve never met a raw feeder that haphazardly tosses their dog or cat raw meat, eggs and bones.  Many feed commercial raw (which by the way meet AAFCO nutrient requirements) or they follow raw feeding recipes which meet proper nutrient profiles.  Yes, it is important for a pets’ diet to have a proper nutrient ratio, but wow…hasn’t there been recalls in the past for pet foods (kibble and can) that did not meet the proper nutrient ratio?  I’m not aware of Science Diet having this particular recall concern, but they did recall numerous products during the 2007 recall.

Risk of E. coli and Salmonella?  Well…Dr. Ron DeHaven, Chief Executive Officer at the American Veterinary Medical Association provided a video of safe pet food handling (NOT specific to raw pet food – this video was to guide pet parents in regards to ALL pet food handling) to prevent Salmonella and E. coli contamination.  His advise included preparing your pets food away from the area you prepare human food, and feed your pet “as far away from the human food preparation area as you can”.  So it seems that the real fact, at least according to the AVMA, is that all pet foods – raw, kibble, canned – pose a risk of exposure to bacteria.

Science Diet, if you wish to use corn in your dog foods and cat foods, fine.  Not every pet parent or veterinarian will agree, but if you believe in the benefit of corn provide consumers with mycotoxin testing results and proof of non-GM.  If you wish to use by-products in your dog foods and cat foods, fine; provide consumers with USDA grade information of these by-products.  If you don’t use rejected meat tissues or organs, wonderful news.  Show us that you don’t with evidence AND help pet parents put an end to FDA Compliance Policies that allow any pet food to utilize dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals and animal tissues.

Talk the talk or walk the walk?  Which is it?

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author, Buyer Beware
Co-Author Dinner PAWsible

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  • Enjoyed the article. Thanks, Susan!.
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