This expose also demonstrates that anyone, regardless of credentials, skills, knowledge or motive, can go somewhere to find a pet food manufacturer to produce a food to introduce into the marketplace. Just about any imaginable nonsensical and irresponsible claim can be made to sell the product.
Nutrition is serious business, not a place for sensationalism, fluff, puff, smoke, deception, error, falsehoods, half-truths, fads, prejudice, sensationalism, myth, lore, and fable.
"Let the buyer beware" is an old piece of business advice and we believe it especially applies to the world of pet foods.
"Revolutionized pet food processing"—The company proclaiming this does not even have their own manufacturing facility, but rather uses a private label company that produces products for many different brands.
"We only use "human grade" ingredients"—Click here to learn about this claim.
A picture is shown of fresh grocery store meats, dairy and the like—Do the math and decide whether the picture could actually represent what is in the food. Click here.
"Contains a special LifeSource bit"—"LifeSource" is a trademark of Wysong Corporation and has been for almost 20 years. Any other "LifeSource" is not a Wysong product nor does it have Wysong technology.
"Cold formed"—Upon examination, some of the ingredients that are supposedly cold formed would be quite indigestible and perhaps even toxic in their raw state (such as flax seed and oatmeal). Chicken fat being cold formed would require taking fresh chickens as found in a grocery meat counter and somehow scraping out the raw fat and then somehow incorporating that into a dried nugget. Also, without heating the fat to liquid, antioxidants cannot be mixed with it to prevent it from oxidizing and forming free-radicals—the very thing that cold forming is supposed to prevent. True cold forming is Wysong's TNT processing.
"Contains glucosamine and spirulina"—But as of the date of this company's entry (2004), these ingredients are not approved pet food ingredients and would therefore make the product illegal to sell. This is not to say these may not be beneficial ingredients, but only to throw into question whether the products have even been properly registered for sale to the public.
"Whole chicken and free-range lamb" will prevent cancer—No such evidence can be found in the scientific literature. (If preventing cancer could only be so simple!)
"Rice is superior to other grains in preventing cancer because it has less complex carbohydrates"—No such evidence exists in the scientific literature. (If preventing cancer could only be so simple!)
"Unsurpassed nutrition and cancer prevention"—aside from the fact that this is an illegal claim, the very criteria suggested—rice, chicken, lamb, and fatty acids—could induce cancer if they are heat processed (which all conventional pet foods are). Additionally, grains such as rice are not a natural food for pet carnivores and could also cause cancer if fed continuously.
"Preserves nature's delicate balance"—No explanation is ever given for how this is done.
"Only premium natural ingredients"—No explanation is given for what is meant by "premium" or "natural."
"Ensures optimal wellness"—Optimal wellness cannot occur by exclusively feeding a heat processed grain-based diet to carnivores.
"Absolutely no toxins"—However, cooking foods and not protecting them with preservatives—some products claim no preservatives—creates toxins. Additionally, toxins, both natural and synthetic, are ubiquitous in nature. It is impossible to find any food without them.
"No post-use pollutants"—It is not clear what post-use means, but all foods contain some pollutants.
"Up to 3% of retail sales goes to charity"—But up to 3% could mean anything up to 3%. Consumers should make nutritional decisions based upon health, not the possible charitable giving of a pet food producer.
"Developed by animal nutritionists, veterinarians, kennels, breeders, groomers, pet food experts, etc."—All in the above list, with the exception of nutritionists (if they are indeed degreed in the field), have little or no scientific knowledge of nutrition. Veterinarians, at most, usually have only one course in nutrition during their schooling. This is not to say a person cannot be self-taught, but then their expertise should be evidenced by written materials and actual experience in the health and nutrition fields.
Even PhD nutritionists do not automatically have competence in natural nutrition and health. After all, it is schooled dieticians and nutritionists who feed instant potatoes, Jell-O, canned meat, and diet soda to people in hospital beds. Nutritionists are also behind the myth of 100% complete pet foods that have caused immeasurable death and suffering in animals.
So, the claim by pet food companies that they are backed by this or that expert provides very little assurance. Also, it is a simple matter for any producer to talk with professionals in some field, or pay them a fee, and then say the product is endorsed or developed by the expert.
The proof of competence lies in the product itself and the competence of the producer as evidenced by their written materials. The most important credentials are those of the person(s) who are in charge of the company and who make the final decisions as to how the products are made. Anything else is just name-dropping.
"Pets need life stage diets"—This is no more true than animals in the wild needing life stage diets.
"100% complete"—No heat processed food can be perfect because heat destroys and alters nutrients and no scientist has perfect and complete knowledge of nutrition. See The Myth of the 100% Complete Diet.
"Low protein will prevent kidney strain"—There is no scientific evidence that protein causes kidney strain in healthy carnivores. Animals in the wild eat virtually all meat and do not get kidney disease. See High Protein Kidney Disease.
"Meat meals are the best for optimal health"—But meat meals come to pet food plants already processed, cooked, and dried, and then must be processed, cooked, and dried again when the food is extruded. That is double cooking which doubles the chance of nutrient degradation and toxin formation.
"Reduced fat reduces weight"—A steady diet of sugar (grain and other starches convert to sugar) is the more likely cause of obesity and a host of other chronic degenerative diseases in pet carnivores.
"Brewers rice and brewers yeast provide optimal nutrition"—Both of these ingredients are inferior food fractions compared to whole brown rice and whole yeast culture.
"No preservatives in pet treats"—This would make the contained fats vulnerable to oxidation and toxin formation.
"Rosemary as an antioxidant"—This herb is not approved (as of this writing) by AAFCO for such listing on a pet food label.
"Ascorbic acid is a fat antioxidant"—Ascorbic acid is not fat soluble and therefore cannot serve as an antioxidant in processed food—it would be like trying to mix water with oil.
"Beta carotene as an antioxidant"—This carotenoid is not approved as an antioxidant, or even as an ingredient by AAFCO, and even it were it is of limited effectiveness in processed foods.
"Garlic oil"—Not an approved pet food ingredient.
"The only per food with three meat proteins as the first three ingredients"—By this statement people are being led to believe the product has more meat than all others. But on the label are fifteen major ingredients, only three of which are meat, and four being sources of starchy carbohydrates. Also, a food could list only one meat source and have more meat than one with three, or list eight meat sources and have less meat than a product with three. The number of meat ingredients has nothing to do with anything other than describing which meats are in the food. Moreover, there is an upper limit to how much meat can be incorporated into an extruded starchy product. This "three meat" product is starchy and extruded and thus cannot incorporate any more meat than any other product. In fact, it likely contains less since several other brands in the market have more protein than this brand's 24%. (If the amount of meat in a food is the ‘game,' then Wysong wins since it produces several 100% meat diets.)
"All 5 food groups"—Pets don't require the five human food groups in a meal. This plays to the incorrect assumption that pets are like humans and therefore can benefit from the incorrect rules of human nutritionists and dieticians. Humans are omnivores, pets are carnivores. Carnivores not only do not need a dose of starch, vegetable, fruit, and dairy at every meal, but such a diet can lead to food sensitivities, allergies, and a host of diseases. (See The Truth About Pet Foods) Also, in an extruded cooked product, all these foods can react together and decrease or destroy nutritional value and even form toxins.
"10 fresh ingredients"—This claim is made about a cooked food and as such ingredients cannot be considered fresh. Additionally, chicken meal, which has already been cooked, is in this same product. In fact, in the final product this meat is cooked four times: at the meat meal producer it is cooked twice, then it is cooked during extrusion at the pet food plant, then it is baked in the drying oven. That does not equal "fresh."
"Just like raw"—This is claimed about a food that is cooked in an extruder, bake dried in a drier oven and contains the four times cooked meat meal. That is "just like" raw like a junk yard is "just like" a rocket ship.
"6 balanced proteins"—Proteins are not "balanced," they are what they are. Carnivores get the amino acid balance they need by eating predominantly meat-based diets.
"No beef, corn, wheat, soy"—The implication is that there is something wrong with these ingredients and that what the company making this claim has in their stead is superior. No evidence or proof is cited, just a scary caveat that plays to currently popular pet food myths. People like to be able to identify a demon they should avoid. Presumably beef is omitted because of public concerns about mad cow disease. But that is a Red Herring since pets are not getting mad cow disease any more than they are getting bird flu from the chicken in this product. Corn, wheat, and soy are presumably omitted because they "cause" allergy. But any ingredient, such as the barley and rice in this company's product, can cause allergy if fed exclusively.
"No processed flours"—The company making this claim grinds, cooks, and bakes barley, rice, and potato. All of these are sources of starchy flours. Milling them into powders to extrude with the other ingredients is processing. Starch is used to extrude a formed dry nugget. Whether the starch is from barley, corn, rice, potato, or whatever, makes little difference. The implication is that their products do not contain carbohydrates, but primarily meat. But that is misleading since starches make up the majority of the product.
"No glutens"—That is only important if a pet is sensitive to glutens. But virtually no pets would be sensitive to glutens if pet owners would not exclusively feed processed pet foods as this company recommends. Variety and true freshness are the keys to health and freedom from food allergies and sensitivities.
"10 years of feeding excellence"—Although a history of pet feeding is important, it does not prove excellence. Pets can survive for many years on foods that are actually ruining their health. The way the foods are made and the feeding recommendations of the producer are the best measure of whether health will result. Companies making illogical, misleading, and unscientific claims such as in this expose cannot be excellent.
"Human grade ingredients"—click here
"No soy, wheat or corn"—click here
"Holistic"—A heat processed food using a base of grains is not holistic. The natural holistic diet of pets is raw prey and contains virtually no grains.
"Veterinary and nutrition expertise"—If no specific individuals are named, then don't believe it. If they are named, then judge them based upon whether they have a final say about how the products are made, and by their education, inventions, scientific publications, books, etc. Being a veterinarian or a nutritionist does not automatically qualify one as a health, nutrition, and food science expert.
Picture of/Endorsement by a famous celebrity or medical person—If the person is not uniquely qualified in health, nutrition, food science, and processing then the picture does not matter. And remember, about any endorsement can be bought. Being bought includes having money go into some "non-profit" organization controlled by the celebrity that can in turn be paying out salaries in the seven figures.
"No by-products"—One of the companies making this claim uses brewer's rice, brewer's yeast, and egg product, which are all by-products. Also, there is nothing necessarily wrong with some by-products. In fact, some are superior nutritionally to their human food counterparts.
"No rendered meats"—Companies making this claim sell foods that have been extruded or retorted (canned), which renders not only the meats but all the ingredients.
"No digest"—But nobody seems to know what is wrong with protein-rich digest.
"No mill run"—This claim is usually made without describing what exactly is wrong with mill runs. It is a food fraction, not a whole food. But the company claiming no mill run has soy flour and yet that is also a food fraction.
"Patented flavor process"—Without a description of what that is and how it benefits health, what is the point?
"Natural flavor"—That could be MSG or any number of questionable ingredients.
"Vegetable oil"—Most vegetable oils are high in the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids that are already in excess in starch-based pet diets.
"Support family farms"—Although that is a good idea, it is near impossible for slaughter and processing plants to separate pet food ingredients based upon the farm of origin.
"No downer cattle"—Wouldn't using an animal that has died or is dying be more humane than using those that are alive and well? In the wild, carnivores specifically select "downer" animals as food. There is virtually no evidence that using downer cattle in pet foods has ever harmed a pet.
"No recycled meats and poultry"—The company making the claim gives no explanation of what that means, or if there are any pet foods that even use such ingredients.
"Meat is the #1 ingredient"—But that does not mean there is more meat than the other non-meat ingredients. For example, if the ingredient list reads: meat, then ingredient B, C, D, E, F, G, H, meat may be only about one eighth of the product.
"Pure and beyond natural"—Nature is the ultimate; there is no going beyond it. Also, heat processing foods makes pet foods unnatural in the pure sense of the word. By "pure," this could be taken to mean totally free of any contaminant or pollutant. But there is no such thing on this Earth.
"Life stage designed"—Animals in nature do not eat nor require foods according to life stage.
"100% complete"—This would lead people to believe that the food is all that should be fed. That is both illogical and dangerous. See: The Myth of 100% Complete Processed Pet Foods
"No Grains"—When Wysong foods were first formulated in the early 1980s, special attention was paid to ingredients, not just—as was the common practice at that time—percentages of protein and the like. Then Wysong introduced the idea of archetypal feeding, meaning matching foods to the genetic design of the animal.
This concept remains critical for pet owners to understand if health is their objective. Many have become aware, creating demand in the market for more natural products. Where there is a market there will be marketers.
Now it is one thing for producers to actually create more natural archetypal foods. It is another to not do so but mislead the public into believing products are more natural when in fact they are not.
For example, it is clear that carnivores (cats and dogs) would not consume carbohydrates in the wild—except as they exist in the lumen of their prey's digestive tract and as occur naturally in meats and organs. Since Wysong has made this argument, marketers have come up with the "no grains" claim on pet food packages. This leads consumers to believe that such products must be high in meat and free of carbohydrates. Neither is true.
The "no grain" sound bite serves only to mislead consumers away from real issues of health in pet feeding.
To understand why this is so, here is a little background. Grains are added to dry extruded pet food kibble because the starch (carbohydrate) they contain permits the kibble to form in extrusion processing—similar to popcorn popping. If grains are not used, then some other form of starch must be used, such as potato or tapioca.* But if the issue is carbohydrates—and starch is a carbohydrate—then simply changing its source of starch from grains to something else solves nothing. Hiding the carbohydrate by using potato or tapioca does not make a food meatier or contain less carbohydrate than a grain-based pet food. In fact, the nutritional value of grains is superior to all the "no grain" substitutes.
If people wish to achieve health for their pet, the trick is not finding that one food with or without this or that ingredient and then feeding it meal after meal. Use the same common sense feeding pets as feeding the family. Fresh foods, carefully chosen processed foods, and intelligent supplements all rotated in variety is the only way to optimal health.
*There is now an exception to this rule. Wysong has developed a method at its processing facilities to extrude high meat kibbles (70+%) without the use of any added starch or carbohydrates.
"No grains, tapioca instead"—Although tapioca (cassava root, manioc) is being used in "no grain: pet foods, it is first and foremost a source of carbohydrates, and very little else. Since carbohydrates are the issue (pets should not be consuming large quantities of them on a steady basis), substituting tapioca for grains solves nothing. It does, however, create additional problems—like jumping from the pan into the fire.Tapioca is actually a nutritionally poor substitute for grains. Due to its poor nutritional quality, special attention must be given to formulations to compensate for this problem. Tapioca contains very little protein, and the small quantity that is naturally present is of inferior quality to grains. This necessitates the addition of ingredients to supply the amino acids methionine and lysine. Meat naturally contains these amino acids, but formulating with tapioca rather than grains and legumes effectively robs the meat of these essential amino acids. This creates a net deficiency of them as compared to the same formulations if they were to contain grains.
In pet food kibbles, the "no grains" claim is almost assuredly made to imply that the grains have been replaced by a superior ingredient. However, the idea that ridding the food of grains creates a superior product is not supported by the facts. [see "No Grains" article and Tapioca/Grain comparison chart. The truth is that tapioca poses some unique and very serious health risks.
The high carbohydrate concentration in tapioca results in high doses of sugar—which is what starch converts to when digested. In terms of sugar concentration, tapioca is second only to sugar cane. Moreover, tapioca carbohydrates have a high glycemic index, meaning they rapidly flood the blood with sugar which elevates insulin and stresses the pancreas. In carnivores, high levels of sugar are toxic over time and lead to a host of chronic diseases, not just dental deterioration.
Tapioca is often chemically modified before formulation in food products and as such, presents a threat to health by binding essential minerals that play key roles in many critical enzyme systems. For example, tapioca can bind the essential element zinc, leading to the skin disorder, parakeratosis.
Most noteworthy is the fact that natural tapioca contains cyanogenic glycosides (specifically linamarin and lotaustralin) which yield hydrocyanic acid upon acid hydrolysis (as occurs in the stomach). Hydrocyanic acid (hydrogen cyanide) is highly toxic to humans and animals. It has been used as a chemical warfare agent, in Germany's gas chambers, and is used for execution today in the U.S. The toxicity is dose-dependent and therefore animals or humans fed a steady diet of any food that yields hydrogen cyanide are at risk.
Cyanide is an irreversible enzyme inhibitor in cellular respiration pathways. In effect, it stops the body's cells from "breathing." (Technically, cyanide ions bind to the iron atom of the enzyme cytochrome c oxidase (also known as aa3) in the fourth complex in mitochondrial membranes. This denatures the enzyme, and the final transport of electrons from cytochrome c oxidase to oxygen cannot be completed. As a result, the electron transport chain is disrupted, meaning that the cell can no longer aerobically produce ATP for energy.)
Tissues that mainly depend on aerobic respiration, such as the central nervous system and the heart, are particularly affected. Acute poisoning with high concentrations of cyanide causes coma with seizures, apnea and cardiac arrest, with death following in a matter of minutes.
Exposure to lower levels of cyanide over a long period of intake, as occurs in people in tropical Africa subsisting on tapioca, and could occur in pets fed "complete and balanced grain-free" tapioca-rich extruded foods, results in increased blood cyanide levels. This may lead to weakness of the digits, difficulty walking, dimness of vision, deafness, decreased thyroid gland function, and Tropical Ataxic Neuropathy (TAN). TAN is characterized by lesions of the skin, mucous membranes, optic, auditory, spinal, and peripheral nerves resulting in myelopathy, bilateral optic atrophy, bilateral hearing loss, and polyneuropathy. Stomato-glossitis, motor-neuron disease, psychosis, and dementia are diseases prevalent in humans who regularly consume tapioca (cassava) products.
Although many of these maladies have thus far only been described in humans, this is because only humans have been consuming large quantities of tapioca in lieu of grains. That could certainly change if pets are converted from grain-based to tapioca-based pet foods.
Birth defects were seen in rats that ate diets of tapioca. Effects on the reproductive system were also observed. Moreover, when tapioca is ground into flour with milling, the powder has been reported to produce ulcerogenic effects in the gastric mucosa. Personnel working in pet food plants compounding tapioca based pet foods could experience skin irritation and sores from exposure to tapioca dust.
To try to decrease the risk of hydrocyanic acid, cassava (tapioca) chips are sun-dried on the floor. This increases the risk of contamination by microorganisms, including molds which can produce aflatoxicosis, a potentially lethal mycotoxin disease.
The problem with microbial infestation can be avoided by using fresh cassava root. However, cassava root, either fresh or parboiled, has resulted in deaths due to the high degree of cyanide toxicity found in the fresh root.
As it stands, appropriate measures have not been taken to produce tapioca products of guaranteed quality that will meet the nutritional requirements of pets. A pet owner is well advised to ask any producer of tapioca-based pet foods for answers to the following:
- Nutrient levels: energy, protein, fiber, and mineral levels
- The exact amount of tapioca used in the formula
- Levels of anti-nutritional factors: hydrocyanic acid, phytates, and oxalates
- Microbial counts: levels of Aspergillus and Eschericia species
- Levels of other contaminants: those introduced during the drying process
- Moisture content
A 60 lb. dog eating an average amount of a "no-grain" tapioca-based pet food could be ingesting 17.6 mg of hydrogen cyanide per day. Considering that this dog is about one third the weight of an average human, on a per weight basis it would be receiving 52.8 mg (3 X 17.6 mg) of hydrogen cyanide—which is within the lethal dose (50-60 mg) range. Even if this calculation is on the high side, lower hydrogen cyanide levels would at the least put the animal at risk of chronic toxicity.
The above is not to say that moderate levels of tapioca cannot be consumed by animals and humans without ill effect. However, eating it as a mainstay, or as a substitute for grains that have been proven safe and nutritionally beneficial for thousands of years, is not only unwarranted, but potentially dangerous.
"Real Chicken"—Thisis contrasted with chicken or poultry by-products to lead consumers to believe that "real chicken," (whatever that is), is superior to by-products. No definition of "real chicken" is usually made by producers making the claim. If it is just chicken meat, as implied, it is far inferior to the meals.
In fact, in the wild, which is the model we should be looking at if health matters, carnivores eat the entire bird, other than the feathers. That is in fact what chicken and poultry meals are made of (minus heads, beaks, feathers, and legs).
The ideal pet food ingredient is fresh whole chicken, next best would be meals, last would be "real chicken" (assuming that is chicken meat only).
"Precise balance"—For a producer to claim they are precisely balancing a food would require that that they have precise knowledge of nutrition and health. The fact is that nobody on planet Earth possesses such precise knowledge, let alone the heads of most pet food companies who have no nutritional or health expertise whatsoever. Claiming precise ratios, balances, and the like is designed to build confidence in the notion that a food is complete and balanced and should be fed exclusively. That is a sure path to health disaster.
The only precise balance is that which nature provides. Follow the Optimal Health Program to achieve that.
"Allergen Free"—No natural food is allergen free. All foods contain proteins and other organic molecules that can potentially elicit an allergic response. The trick to reducing allergic reactions is to feed natural foods in variety, not seek a silver bullet "allergen free" food that itself can cause allergic reactions if fed continuously.
"Cold-Processed Canned Food"—The following is an exchange of emails between a pet owner (O) and a pet food company (PFC) claiming to be producing cold-processed canned foods. The letters were sent to Wysong asking assistance in evaluating the claims.
O: "I noticed your canned dinners are cold processed? What does this mean for our dogs?"
PFC: "That means that the protein is cooked at the lowest temperature possible for the shortest amount of time to kill any bacteria yet without killing the enzymes. It helps the dogs actually simulate (sic) the protein instead of passing it."
O: "I am thinking of recommending your canned food to some of our customers. But before I do, if your patience still persists with me, I still need to understand your explanation of the protein being cooked at the lowest possible temperature to kill the bacteria … Please tell me what that temperature is that does not destroy enzymes yet makes it safe to eat canned food without the bacteria. It is still not clear."
PFC: "The food goes through an emulsifier where the product reaches a temp of 180 for 3 minutes which kills all of the bad bacteria and stimulates the good stuff (sic). The product then goes into the can where it is cold processed at 90 degrees."
Comment: Several errors are made by PFC—
- The lowest temperature to kill bacteria is in the hundreds of degrees. Enzymes are destroyed above 118 degrees F.
- Dogs do not "simulate" one cooked protein any more than another rather than pass it. If the food is heated sufficiently to kill bacteria, then it is the same as any other retorted (cooked) canned food.
- An emulsifier does not cook the food. It is an intense mixer, not a cooker. It also does not "stimulate the good stuff."
- Going into a can to be cooled after cooking is not "cold processing," it is cooling the product after cooking.
Heat processing of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and other nutrients that naturally occur in raw foods causes them to be lost, unavailable, or converted to toxins.
As the health benefits of raw and whole foods are recognized by consumers, some pet food companies are advertising cold-processed pet products, but, as can be seen from the above, buyers must be alert: it is not possible to cold process a canned food that is safe and has any shelf life.
Canning requires high pressure and heat at temperatures of 240-250 degrees Fahrenheit in order to sterilize the product. Such processing conditions are necessary for meats, seafood, poultry, dairy products, and most vegetables. Canned foods not processed in this way are highly dangerous since living bacteria in the cans can proliferate and produce toxins, such as lethal botulism. This is why canned foods with swollen lids—caused by bacteria within producing gases—should never be used.
The only foods that may be safely canned in a boiling water bath without high pressure are highly acidic foods with a pH below 4.6, such as fruits, pickled vegetables, or other foods to which acid has been added.
Despite the constraints that canning and heat-processing in general place on the retention of nutrients and enzymes in foods, and despite the fact that it absolutely eliminates the feasibility of delivering a cold-processed food in cans, some pet food manufacturers (as noted above) have laid claim to producing a cold-processed canned food. This reflects either a gross misunderstanding of food processing or a deliberate attempt to deceive.
As part of the Optimal Health Program it is acceptable to feed pet companions a canned food as long as it is given in rotation with fresh, natural foods and other properly designed processed foods and supplements.
"Breed Specific"—All pet owners would like to believe their pets are very unique and special. We think of them like our children. Pet food companies know this and try to profit from it by claiming each breed needs a special diet. That way, when the pet owner buys the special breed-specific diet, they can feel like they are doing the right and responsible thing. It's kind of like buying a suit for a special friend. You can just go to the rack and buy one, or you can have a tailor custom fit one to your friend.
That all sounds good in theory. But the reality is that all breeds come from the same stock that in the wild eats essentially the same diet. That would be prey—including "4D" meals of the dead, dying, diseased, and disabled. Their health thrives on such foods.
Thus, the positioning of commercial diets as "breed specific" is done to create a marketing niche and has no basis in scientific fact. Even cats and dogs naturally eat the same foods. Yes, the feline has certain needs that exceed those of a canine (higher protein, taurine, vitamin A, etc.) but that would only be important if a food is formulated to achieve minimal nutritional levels. If the diet is varied and includes whole natural ingredients the animal would normally eat in the wild, such individual nutrient concerns vanish.
The proper goal for health, therefore, is to seek optimal nutrition, not tailored diets that presume to know how to shuffle individual nutrients.
"No added vitamins or minerals"—The premise here is that because vitamins and minerals are manufactured, they are harmful. Although we are usually benefited from getting as close to nature as possible, it is wise and even life-saving to get on a manufactured boat when crossing the ocean, seek shelter in a heated manufactured home in the winter, and consume manufactured vitamins and minerals when consuming manufactured foods. This claim denies the last 100 years of research, the conclusions of thousands of scientists, doctors, and nutritionists, tens of thousands scientific articles, and the proven dramatic impact fortifying and supplemental vitamins and minerals have had on the health of humans and animals. And think about it, if making a food better and safe were a mere matter of omitting, not adding, vitamins and minerals, every pet food company would do it and save themselves the bother and costs. One should expect for such a breakthrough innovation there would be scientific articles, research data, and beneficial results that have been proven. There are none. Vitamins and minerals are a seat belt in these modern stressful times. Just because a marketer says the seatbelt is a danger, is no reason to unfasten it.
"No potentially toxic supplements"—It is not clear what the "toxicity" is that all pets experience using supplements, and no evidence is provided that pets consuming properly formulated supplements experience anything but benefit. The primary toxic danger to pets is from the exclusive feeding of heat processed foods—and this would particularly be true with any heat processed foods that are not supplemented with vitamins and minerals.
"No chemically synthesized minerals"—Minerals are basic elements of the Periodic Table. Any beginning chemistry book will show that they are not "chemically synthesized." It takes nuclear physics to synthesize new elements—and they are usually radioactive—and no pet food company is adding radioactive elements to their foods.
"No mineral proteinates"—Mineral proteinates are highly bioavailable forms of natural minerals and natural proteins. No proof is provided that this form of mineral is dangerous to pets. On the contrary, the scientific literature amply demonstrates the benefit of chelated minerals, such as proteinates. In fact, all minerals in the body are chelated with proteins and other biochemicals in order to be functional. Additionally, when any food (including the brand making this claim) is heat processed, the minerals in the ingredients are ‘synthetically' complexed to the proteins in the ingredients—and often in a non-nutritional or even toxic form. That's one of the reasons why supplemental minerals are critical.
"Spray dried blood plasma"—This ingredient is said to provide all the vitamins and minerals a pet needs. But heat processed pet foods are taken to temperatures of hundreds of degrees and subjected to hundreds of pounds of pressure. When they are dried they are cooked again. These conditions leach, alter, complex, and destroy vitamins, enzymes, minerals and other important nutrients. That is why supplements are added to such diets. Plasma does not make up for this.
"Natural"—No processed pet food is truly natural. Brands making this claim always have ingredients that have been processed, and then they are processed again when the pet food is made. For example, meat meals are cooked, then dried, then shipped to the pet food manufacturer, then cooked again when extruded, then cooked again to be dried. A product that is cooked four times is not "natural."
"No antioxidants"—Any packaged food that has essential fatty acids and other lipids in it, such as fish oil, vegetable oil, animal fat, and cod liver oil must have antioxidants in order to be safe. But no approved antioxidants are listed on some pet food labels that have such ingredients. If toxicity is a consumer's concern, this should most certainly raise a red flag. That flag should be raised even higher if the product has not been purged of oxygen and packaged in oxygen and light barrier bags. Without antioxidants and proper packaging a product would generate toxic oxidized cholesterol and fats that become free radicals that can in turn lead to ever manner of disease and compromise of the immune system.
"Dusted on chicken liver for taurine"—Dried chicken liver has been heat processed and that greatly reduces taurine content. Also, there would be insufficient taurine in a little dried chicken liver dusted on the outside of a product. Thousands of cats died of taurine deficiency until concentrated taurine supplement was added to commercial foods. No processed food without it should be trusted.
"Montmorillonite for natural minerals"—Montmorillonite is not adequate to appropriately balance heat-processed foods.
"Does NOT meet AAFCO adequacy for completeness"—Although such regulatory standards are not perfect and should not be used to justify feeding any single food meal after meal, they are at least a start. Brands that use the scare tactic of toxic vitamin and mineral fortification that then ask for trust from consumers that such "diets will be proven to supply more than adequate nutrition for all life stages" is a lot to ask, particularly when well over a century of research has proven the benefit and essential nature of proper supplementation to heat processed foods.
"First natural dog food"—Just calling something natural does not make it so. A natural food is the food which matches the genetic expectation of the species. Amaranth, millet, barley and stone-ground brown rice, ingredients in the brand making this claim, are not natural foods for dogs or cats.
"Other Pet food grains are ground by steel hammer mills, not "stone" grinders like ours"—Stone grinding sounds quaint and more gentle than a hammer mill, but the net effect would be the same—the production of a flour.
"Food allergies cause chewing the root of the tail"—Food allergies usually cause digestive disturbances. Chewing at the root of the tail is normally a sign of flea allergy dermatitis.
"No animal fat"—Animal fat is the natural fat consumed by carnivores. The only way to avoid it in a food would be a totally vegan formulation, and that could not be considered a natural diet for carnivores.
"All animal fat is rancid."—This would only be true if the fat were not properly stabilized. Highly unsaturated vegetable oils are much more susceptible to rancidity than animal fat. Flaxseed oil is so unstable it should only be eaten as freshly ground seeds or as a separate supplement in light impervious, nitrogen-flushed glass bottles kept in the freezer. Putting flaxseed oil in pet food paper bags (as the company making this claim does), which are then stored on shelves, is a sure formula for rancidity.
"Animal fat contributes to heart disease and cancer"—This plays to popular misconceptions and the "low fat," "low cholesterol" fads, but does not reflect current science. There are nutritional factors within animal fat that are even cardioprotective and anticarcinogenic. Moreover, pets do not get heart disease as humans do regardless of their fat and cholesterol intake.
"Vegetable fats, not animal fats, are good for the immune system"—This cannot be true since animal fats are the natural fats carnivores consume. They contain important essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins and other fat-soluble nutrients valuable to carnivores not found in this company's canola and flaxseed oils.
"Hexane is used to extract flaxseed oil by all companies but ours"—Hexane is not used in the manufacture of nutritious flaxseed oils by most companies. If it is used, it is then removed from the final product in good manufacturing methods. This is an attempt to create a boogieman where there is none.
"Hexane extracted flaxseed oil (as supposedly used by other pet food companies) causes cardiomyopathy in pets"—There is no evidence whatsoever for this claim. Cardiomyopathy in pets has been caused primarily by deficiency of the amino acid taurine.
"Our flaxseed oil decreases the incidence of epilepsy"—There is no proof for this. If the FDA sees this unsubstantiated claim they will remove the products from the market.
"Sunflower oil is dangerous in pet foods"—In moderate amounts and in variety, sunflower is actually very beneficial. It provides omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, is quite stable, and has many health benefits. This company attempts to paint sunflower oil and animal fat as the bad guys, and canola and flaxseed oils as the good guys. But this is overly simplistic as well as untrue.
"Sea vegetation works through the thymus and thyroid glands for the immune system"—No credible scientific explanation here or documentation, just a nonsensical assertion.
"We never use chicken because Oriental, Arctic, dogs from England, Scotland, Ireland and water dogs ate fish and sea vegetation"—It is hard not to call this statement what it is, absurd in the extreme. Even if it were true, how would this constitute a valid reason not to use chicken? Are "water dogs" and those from the countries mentioned somehow better than dogs from other locales? No explanation, no logic, no facts or documentation, just a crazy claim to scare people into buying their no-chicken pet foods.
"Chicken and eggs cause cancer in pets"—Simple enough. All a person has to do is feed this company's fish and lamb pet foods and you never need to worry about cancer. Not a bit of proof, logic, or science in support of this wild assertion.
"Ethoxyquin is a hazardous chemical used to make egg yolks yellow and preserve drinking water"—Untrue. It is a food additive antioxidant used to preserve vitamins and prevent fat rancidity. It is not even soluble in drinking water.
"Female growth hormones are fed to all chickens and cause breast development in young boys and early menses in girls"—Another scare tactic to induce people to buy this company's pet foods without chicken. These hormonal changes that have been observed in young people are more likely caused by environmental pollutants which have estrogenic activity.
"Beef and chicken come out of processing plants contaminated by pus, feces, and cancer"—If that doesn't scare pet owners into avoiding pet foods with beef and chicken, what will? But such horror tales can be told about what is seen in every meat processing plant, including those which process the fish and lamb used by this company.
"Chicken by-products contain heads, feet and feathers"—This is not true. Are we to believe that the company perpetrating this makes pet foods containing only prime fish fillets and racks of lamb? How could it, when such meats cost $10 or more per pound fresh in the meat counter? This company's pet foods cost nowhere near this, even including processing, packaging, and shipping. It's a real good bet they use by-products too. But they really don't get into what they use; they just try to create a chicken boogieman which can only be vanquished by their products.
"Digest may or may not contain the full guts"—So what if it does? The natural diet of carnivores is the "full guts" of their prey and that is often the preferred first part of the meal.
"E. coli and Salmonella contaminate chicken and beef and heat does not kill them"—These organisms can be found in any carcass, including this company's fish and lamb. Heat does kill pathogenic organisms.
"Turkeys should be refrigerated to prevent growth of bacteria"—True, but this is true of every other meat as well, including the fish and lamb this company implies needs no such care.
"80% meat protein and grain free"—A company claims: "80% Meat Protein and 20% Fruits and Vegetable" and "grain free" for its dry pet food. An average person would conclude from this that the food contains 80% meat and no starches (sugars) as found in grains. You can bet that's what the writers intended.
However, upon examination of the "nutrition facts," the food is only 34% protein. Since meat meal (as used in this product) is about 70% protein, the numbers don't add up. In 100 lbs. of this food there should be 80 lbs. of meat. If the meat is 70% protein, that means there should be 56 lbs. of protein in that 100 lbs. (70% of 80 lbs. = 56 lbs.). That means the product should be 56% protein, not 34%.
Why does the label not read a higher % protein? For one, producers cannot cheat on the package analysis since this is checked by regulatory agencies. Another reason is because this is a conventionally extruded food requiring starch to hold the nuggets together. There can only be about 35% maximum meat in such products.
But if it is "grain free," isn't the starch eliminated? If one does some detective work, in fourth place out of about 50 ingredients listed, can be found potato. That is the culprit, the source of the starch (sugar) that is used to replace the "bad" grains with their starches. However, the only good reason to remove grains is to remove starch. But starch is starch. Putting it back in with potatoes accomplishes nothing but deception.
At 34% protein, the product probably has about the ordinary 30-35% meat, since some of the other 50 ingredients contribute protein as well. In other words, the product contains less than half the meat the average consumer would assume is there!
So, in spite of the enticing claims about massive amounts of meat and no grains (starches), the product is essentially the same as any other extruded starch and meat meal pet food.
The fundamental idea behind this slight of hand is that upon first read a person would conclude the food is 80% meat. In reality, of the very average amount of protein that is actually in the food, 80% of that is meat, the other 20% is derived from the plant ingredients.
When the company was contacted to ask if their product contained 80% meat, they affirmed that it did. When asked for an explanation of how 80% meat creates 34% protein, they didn't respond for several days. Finally, when questioned again, they admitted that the meat is only 80% of the protein that is in the product.