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Pet Food: Processed to Death?

Many thanks to Susan Thixton at TruthAboutPetFood.com for letting us reprint her excellent article here, which applies 100% to cat food as well as dog food. The multiple rounds of heat processing that pet food undergoes causes many deleterious changes that can harm our pets. And it’s worse than most people even imagine.

How many times are Ingredients cooked in Kibble Pet Foods?

Do you know the processing involved in the manufacturing of kibble pet food? How many times are the ingredients cooked? The answer might surprise you.

Pet food kibble was invented in 1956 by Purina; that is Purina was the first to produce an extruded kibble pet food as most are made today. Prior to kibble, the greatest majority of pet food sold in the United States was canned pet food. But shortly after Purina’s introduction of Purina Dog Chow, (within two years), kibble became the leading style of dog food in the US.

1960s Purina advertisement. Source: http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/animals-ads-1960s/7

1960s Purina advertisement. Source: http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/animals-ads-1960s/7

And that popularity has continued…

Statistics for 2013, U.S. dry dog food sales were $9.2 billion as compared to U.S. wet dog food sales $2.4 billion.

No doubt about it, kibble pet foods are the most popular style of feeding pets, but are kibble pet foods the healthiest style of feeding pets? With this question, we are not going to consider quality of ingredients – only processing. What processing is involved to make kibble?

kibble ingredientsQuoted text below is from MadeHow.com.

Emphasis added in the following for heat or cooking of ingredients…

Kibble is a cooked dough-type pet food (comparable to dough used to make a cookie or a cracker – with meat). Because it is made from dough, all ingredients in a kibble pet food need to be ground fine before mixing. Raw ingredients are“brought together in a mixer” with added supplements (mixer can hold 10,000 pounds or more of ingredients). Next the dough “is heated in the preconditioner prior to introduction to the extruder.” “The extruder, essentially a giant meat grinder, is where the primary cooking phase for dry extruded pet food products occurs. The dough is cooked under intense heat and pressure as it moves toward the open end of the extruder.” At the end of the extruder the dough is forced through a “shaping die” and cut into desired shape. “Kibble is dried in an oven until its moisture content is low enough to make it shelf stable like a cookie or cracker.”

kibbleingredients2bIngredients are cooked or heated 3 times during the manufacture of kibble pet foods.

But wait…

There is more processing to consider; some ingredients are cooked or processed prior to arriving at the pet food plant such as rendered ingredients like beef meal and chicken meal.

meatmealMeat meals are commonly used in kibble pet foods. Meat meals are made by finely grinding meats (and often bone), cooking the material, and separating the remaining moisture from the solids. The solids are dried into a powder like substance (above – meat meal). All of this processing occurs before ingredients arrive at the pet food plant (where it is cooked again in the pet food).

Similar processing can be used for vegetable ingredients too…

peaproteinTo help kibble keep its shape after drying, multiple starches are included. One commonly used starch is pea protein (especially in grain free pet foods). As you can see in the image above, this ingredient is processed into a dry powder prior to its inclusion in the pet food manufacturing process (where it is processed again in the pet food).

So…what is the total? How many times are pet food ingredients cooked during the process of kibble manufacturing?



Note: This explanation is for extruded kibble pet foods. Baked kibble pet foods are not processed the same as extruded kibble pet foods (but most pet foods are made by extrusion). Baked kibble pet foods are processed/cooked less. [Note from Dr. Jean – baking temperatures are more than 500 degrees F, making such foods as bad or worse than extruded kibble!]

If you feed kibble, consider the processing involved to make it. Please add some real food to their diet each day (replace some kibble with real food). Added meat can be raw or lightly roasted, vegetables lightly cooked.

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
Association for Truth in Pet Food

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