Here is an excerpt from Dr. Jeannie Thomason's article, "Kibble is Kibble is STILL Kibble" which explains how commercial foods are made and why none of them really provide for the nutritional needs of dogs. To read the entire article, go to www.thewholedog.org (highly recommended).
Let's be perfectly clear right here, that processed pet food, (no matter what brand, no matter how much it costs, if the ingredients are organic, or nothing more than road kill and euthanized animals) all ends up the same way - nutritionally DEAD and void of any true nutrition. That's right, it does not matter what "raw materials" you start out with; whether it is premium, grass fed, organic beef, lamb or what have you, the final product is pretty much the same as the cheapest kibble you can buy at the grocery store.
How can this be?
First of all let's see what the pet food industry really means when they label their ingredients as "natural" or "organic".
Because our United States government has never bothered to define "natural" for human foods, this word essentially means anything the manufacturer says it does, especially when it comes to pet food.
AAFCO's official definition is:
NATURAL: A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as may occur unavoidably in good manufacturing processes.
Did You GET THAT?? You can render or extrude a pet food into mush, but its still considered "natural" if you haven't added anything synthetic, unless you had to. AAFCO also says that labeling some thing "natural" must not be misleading; but even AAFCO knows this is impossible. Pet food companies may in reality NOT add anything synthetic in the main raw materials for the food. However, typically they buy bulk mixtures of vitamins, minerals and other additives to spray on the finished product from factories overseas, where, as we all learned in the 2007 pet food recalls, quality controls are for the most part more nonexistent then they are here.
Officially, the word organic refers to anything that is now, or ever was, alive. Your dog is. Your lawn is. Your salad is. Your newspaper is, you are! Yes, this means that without any real quality control over pet food manufacturing that they may say their food is organic if they use once live meat or veggies in the "raw materials" they start out with for their unique formula.
Now, to even begin to understand the pet food industry we need to look at the "raw material" as it is received at the plant. Typically, the slaughterhouse for animal carcasses is one of the main suppliers of material to the rendering industry. To prevent condemned meat from being re-routed and used for human consumption, government regulations require that the meat be "denatured" before being sent to the rendering plants. Nice word, but what does that mean? Basically it means that first it must be contaminated in some way that would make it virtually unusable for human consumption. Some of the materials used to accomplish this task are: carbolic acid, creosote, fuel oil, kerosene, citronella, etc. Once this stuff has literally soaked into the meat, it's then fit to be sent on to the rendering plant.
Rendering plants are piled high with "raw product/material" consisting of a mixture of whole bodies and animal parts, plastic bags, Styrofoam packages, metal tags, pet collars-anything and everything that is considered to be "waste"- but suitable for recycling.
"Rendering" is the beginning process of cooking the raw animal material (truly organic range free chicken or rendering plant carcasses) to remove the moisture and fat. In the processing of pet food, all the raw materials used to make the pet food are first blended in order to maintain a certain ratio between the contents e.g. animal carcasses and supermarket rejects. Then, the carcasses are loaded into a 10- foot deep stainless-steel pit or hopper with an auger-grinder at the bottom that grinds up the ingredients into small pieces. These pieces are then taken to another auger-grinder for even finer shredding. Once shredded fine enough, the shredded material is then cooked at 280 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes (the amount of time and temperature the U.S. uses, those in Britain and Europe may differ slightly but, remember the high temperature and the amount of time it is cooked). This part of the processing /cooking causes the meat to melt off of bones to produce a soup or slurry.
The cooked meat and bone slurry, along with any metal, pesticides, etc. that may have been in what was rendered down are then sent to a hammermill press, which squeezes out the remaining moisture and pulverizes the product into a gritty powder. Once the batch is finished, all that is left is yellow grease, "meat" and bone meal. Depending on the dominant ingredient of a particular run, the product now becomes: beef, chicken, lamb, meat meal, meat by products, poultry meal, fish meal, fish oil, yellow grease, tallow, beef fat, chicken fat, etc. You will never see on the label any signs of using dog meal, cat meal, skunk meal, rat meal, or any of the other "goodies" but "its in there". If the raw materials came from a slaughter house then it is mixed in with the everyday batches of "raw material".
The term "meal" on a pet food label simply means that the materials in the meal have been rendered. The quality and content of the meal may be variable across batches. In the USA, this means that some question the nutritional value of the by-products. James Morris and Quinton Rogers, two professors with the Department of Molecular Biosciences, University of California at Davis Veterinary School of Medicine, felt there was a lack of information on the bioavailability of nutrients of pet food ingredients. The pet food labels give the supposed nutritional adequacy, but think about it, there are no true nutrients left from the processing so all that you can really look at is the vitamin mixture and additives they spray on at the end of processing. Not only this but these "nutrients" are no good if they are in a form indigestible by the pet which is normally the case since these vitamins, etc. are synthetic/man made.
Once the meal is made or sent to the pet food manufacturing plant, they then add their own "enhancers" (i.e. preservatives, food dye, synthetic vitamins, etc.) and put it through an expander or extruder. It is then pressure-cooked (steam, pressure, at very high temperatures again) and becomes a paste which is extruded through pipes which shape the blobs of paste into small biscuits or other uniform shapes. These are then puffed like popcorn and baked or dried again before being sprayed a final time with fat, digests, and the synthetic vitamins and flavor enhancers. In some cases, the cooked meat and bone go directly into a press, which squeezes out the remaining moisture and pulverizes the product into a gritty powder. The grit is then sifted to remove the excess hair and large bone chips; although, at times larger bone chips and hair do get past the sifting process as some owners can attest to finding in the resulting kibble. This is then added to cereal fines (processed grains) and any cooked, ground vegetables they will be using; which may then be made into paste, baked and broken into pieces and then sprayed with fat, digests, vitamins and flavor enhancers.
Facts regarding the effects of heat during processing.
The processing effectively kills off any beneficial enzymes, amino acids, etc. It does NOT kill off or get rid of the sodium Phenobarbital in the carcasses of any euthanized animals that may have been used.
At 110 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 43 degrees Centigrade), two of the 8 essential amino acids, tryptophan and lysine, are destroyed.
When food is cooked above 117 degrees F for only three minutes or longer, the following deleterious changes begin and progressively cause increased nutritional damage as higher temperatures are applied over prolonged periods of time:
*high temperatures denature protein molecular structure, leading to deficiency of some essential amino acids
*overly heated fats generate numerous carcinogens including acrolein, nitrosamines, hydrocarbons, and benzopyrene (one of the most potent cancer-causing agents known)
*natural fibers break down, cellulose is completely changed from its natural condition: it loses its ability to sweep the alimentary canal clean
*30% to 50% of vitamins and minerals are destroyed
*100% of enzymes are damaged, the body's enzyme potential is depleted which drains energy needed to maintain and repair tissue and organ systems, thereby shortening the life span.
Remember, the rendering process alone takes place at 280 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes!
When proteins are subjected to high heat during cooking, enzyme resistant linkages are formed between the amino acid chains. The body cannot separate these amino acids. What the body cannot use, it must eliminate. Cooked proteins become a source of toxicity: dead organic waste material acted upon and elaborated by bacterial flora.
According to the textbook Nutritional Value of Food Processing, 3rd Edition, (by Karmas, Harris, published by Van Nostrand Reinhold) which is written for food chemists in the industrial processed food industry: changes that occur during processing either result in nutrient loss or destruction. Heat processing has a detrimental effect on nutrients since thermal degradation of nutrients can and does occur. Reduction in nutrient content depends on the severity of the thermal processing.
So, it is easy to see that no matter what wonderful (or not so wonderful) ingredients the pet food company may start out with, the rendering, cooking, drying, canning and baking (at high temperatures) destroy vitamins, amino acids and enzymes while rendering the proteins a source of toxicity.
In my opinion, it is no coincidence at all that since 1950, as processed food proliferated for both humans and pets, that not only have cancer rates steadily increased to the highest point in history but, we are seeing an increase in liver disease, diabetes, IBD, chronic skin ailments and other once un-heard of dis-eases in our pets today.
The un-healthy effects of consuming overly cooked food into a digestive system never designed to eat cooked food in the first place, is stretching it to even be considered minimal nutrition. The body is forced to raid its dwindling supply of nutrient reserves and enzymes which in turn, causes it to remain hungry for quality nutrients after a typical meal. This leads to further hunger even though the stomach is full. The result can be chronic overeating and the rampant obesity now seen in our dogs as well as ourselves nationwide
I am often berated for recommending a raw diet as being best for our carnivorous pets however, after all my research, education and the experience of feeding my own pets a raw meaty bone diet for over 20 years now, I can have seen first hand how much healthier and longer lived our pets can be if fed a species appropriate, fresh, raw meat and bones diet. All the nutrients are there - alive, naturally balanced and complete. Unlike Kibble that is all the same in the end - it is still kibble, still no live, real nutrition no matter what great ingredients it started out with.