Coatings on Pet Food – Or, How Companies Get Pets to Eat Stuff They Don’t Want to

20th Feb 2015

“Whole chickens, choice cuts of beef, fresh grains and all the wholesome nutrition your dog or cat will ever need,” begins the article Pet Food- What’s Really in It. “This is what the $10 billion per year U.S. pet food industry wants consumers to believe they are buying when they purchase their products.”

Even with all the recalls and increase in general knowledge of the pet food industry’s tactics, some pet owners haven’t been told just how bad many commercial foods are. And even those who do have a good grasp on the shortcomings of pet food may not know every detail – the industry hides or puts a positive spin on a lot of what it does.

What we will discuss today concerns why many pet food companies have to trick dogs and cats into eating their food.

Human Food Prices Remain Low at the Cost of Pet Health

Many in the pet food industry have never had animals’ best interests at heart. For example, the reason a guaranteed analysis must be listed on a pet food product was because companies were adding sand or other materials to food to increase bag weight. Companies are cheap. They want to see big profits, and big profits come from keeping expenses low. Low-quality ingredients are just the ticket for that.

“What most consumers are unaware of is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food industry, also known as the agriculture industry,” continues the API report. “Pet food provides a place for slaughterhouse waste and grains considered ‘unfit for human consumption’ to be turned into profit.

“We’ll ‘Trick’ Pets into Eating Our Food!”

Besides being poor quality, the ingredients are not something pets would naturally eat.

In 2013, Popular Science ran a piece called “The Chemistry of Kibble.” The author, Mary Roach, visited the offices of pet food palatability company AFB International, which exists to help companies make better-tasting (not better-quality) pet food through additional coatings sprayed on food.

She says of her findings on the making of pet food: “To meet nutritional requirements, pet food manufacturers blend animal fats and meals with soy and wheat grains and vitamins and minerals. This yields a cheap, nutritious pellet that no one wants to eat. Cats and dogs are not grain eaters by choice.”

Pat Moeller, the then-vice president of AFB, explains to her: "So, our task is to find ways to entice them to eat enough for it to be nutritionally sufficient."

As Long As It Smells Good…

Remember how your parents would disguise broccoli with a hearty topping of cheese? You liked the taste of the covering, so you ate the vegetables too. Many pet food companies do the same type of thing: They spray palatants on unpalatable kibble to get dogs to eat it.

“Dogs rely more on smell than taste in making choices about what to eat and how vigorously,” says Roach. “The takeaway lesson is that if the palatant smells appealing, the dog will dive in with instant and obvious zeal, and the owner will assume the food is a hit. When in reality it might have only smelled like a hit.”

So, What is in the Coating?

Coatings are made with animal plasma, digest, or fat, etc.

“You may have noticed a unique, pungent odor when you open a new bag of pet food – the smell of restaurant grease from a hundred fast food restaurants,” says the report. “What is the source of that delightful smell? It is refined animal fat, kitchen grease, and other oils too rancid or deemed inedible for humans.

"Restaurant grease has become a major component of feed-grade animal fat over the last fifteen years. This grease, often held in fifty-gallon drums, is usually kept outside for weeks, exposed to extreme temperatures with no regard for its future use. The next few times you dine out, be sure to look out back behind the restaurant for a container with a rendering company's name on it. It is almost guaranteed that you will find one. ‘Fat blenders’ or rendering companies then pick up this rancid grease and mix the different types of fat together, stabilize them with powerful antioxidants to retard further spoilage, and then sell the blended products to pet food companies.

“These fats are sprayed directly onto dried kibble or extruded pellets to make an otherwise bland or distasteful product palatable. The fat also acts as a binding agent to which manufacturers add other flavor enhancers as well. Pet food scientists have discovered that animals love the taste of these sprayed fats. Manufacturers are masters at getting a dog or a cat to eat something she would normally turn up her nose at.”

AFB says it makes palatants in a wide variety, "both meat- and vegetable-based and designed to meet wide-ranging needs: grain free, limited ingredients, non-GMO, natural, low fat and more," but even if the spray is "healthy," it doesn't make up for the fact that the food is not. Again, pets are not meant to eat such a diet full of cereal grains and other poorly digestible ingredients. Just because your dog wolfs a food down does not mean it is good for him. 

“The idea of one pet food providing all the nutrition a companion animal will ever need for its entire life is a myth … Cereals are the primary ingredients in most commercial pet foods,” the report continues. “Most people select one pet food and feed it to their dogs and cats for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, companion dogs and cats eat a primarily carbohydrate diet with little variety. Today, the diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the primarily protein diets with a lot of variety that their ancestors ate. The problems associated with a commercial diet are seen every day at veterinary establishments.”

Do you really want your pet coerced into eating his meals, where the food isn’t even good for him? You know the answer to that.