Thursday, March 22, 2007

One Other Thing I Bet You Didn't Know About Pet Food Processing.

Re: Food Recall Worries Dog and Cat Owners

Were you surprised to hear that Western Family dog food is made by the SAME company that also makes Iams and Eukanuba? Those premium brands cost...what, about 4 times as much as the generic stuff?

I don't know whether Menu Foods uses different ingredients for each brand it manufactures. But I did hear, a long time ago, that different brands and different products are sometimes processed on the same factory line.

About 15 years ago, I worked in Tillamook with a man who told me that he worked in a factory that made canned chili.

The factory made chili on some days...and dog food on other days.

I accept this man was telling the truth. On some levels, this information is revolting. But is really all that bad? Let's consider:

First of all, canned chili is pretty bad stuff. Maybe the fact it can be made on the same line as dog food shouldn't be too surprising.

Next, well-run factories should be scrupulous about cleaning and sanitizing equipment in between uses. (Keyword: should)

Any canning operation has to bring their product to such high temperatures during processing, that contamination is not all that likely.

Is this a case of what you don't know won't hurt you?

I've heard all sorts of mass production stories that would make your stomach turn. But we tend to accept that if a product comes in a shiny can, or a crisp plastic wrapper, the contents must be safe. Think about that practice (or law, in some states) of food handlers wearing latex or vinyl gloves. The New York Times reported recently that handlers sometimes touch money, their faces, cash registers and goodness knows what else, as well as food. They can't FEEL when the gloves are dirty, whereas they would most likely have washed bare hands once they felt a certain degree of "ickiness."

Time for consumers to look past packaging, be truly discerning....and hopefully, prepare food from scratch, with their own hands, as often as they can.

Read Michelle Tsai's article in Slate for more on what's in a can of dog food.

Meantime, the ingredient in the Menu Foods products causing the problem is said to be wheat gluten, though the exact nature of the problem has not been disclosed by the company.

If you want to feed your pet something homemade, here's what I do for my dogs, from time to time: mix brown rice with any of these: eggs, simmered pork or beef liver (cook the brown rice in the liver broth, your dog will be thrilled!), baked chicken or turkey, raw ground beef, cooked lamb offal, canned mackeral or tuna. I also throw in a little bit of finely chopped vegetables or fruit.

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