Over the last four to five years, you may have seen such headlines as “Kroger Recalls Pet Foods Due to Possible Health Risk” and “Pet Food Recall: Melamine Found in Tainted Food”. Many people’s pets died or became ill before the contaminated foods were recalled.
Pet food manufacturing is often an offshoot of human food processing, serving as an efficient way to make use of by-products that might otherwise be discarded, but that means they’re using parts that aren’t “fit for human consumption”. This may sometimes include dead or diseased animals, road kill or even euthanized animals that may still contain remnants of the euthanasia chemicals. Yuck! The euphemistic term for this is “meat by-product”. Our pets are like family! How could we ever treat them this badly?
The same safety hazards exist in pet food processing that occur in human food processing. As companies try to “cut corners” in order to make profits in this sluggish economy, they may not be as careful with their safety practices, and as the FDA safety inspectors’ budgets are cut, they are not able to stay on top of every possible infraction at every pet food company.
Besides staying aware of the companies, good and bad, if you want to make sure your pet is getting *quality* food, the most important thing to do is read the label. If “meat by-product” is listed as an ingredient, you probably want to drop that package and move on to the next. If the list includes simple words that are recognizable, like chicken, liver, rice, or oat bran, this is a good choice for your pet.
There are many organic pet foods out there also. Yes, they may cost a little more now, but a few cents spent now will probably save you many more dollars in vet bills later!
If you want to try a new brand of food, you should do some online research about the company to see what their website (if any) says about them, if they use sustainable practices for obtaining their ingredients, and whether people have had good or bad results when using their products.
An alternative to buying pre-processed pet food, if you have the time and energy to do it, is to make your own. This can give you peace of mind in knowing *exactly* everything that’s going into it. This is also a green solution, better for the environment, as you could buy locally and thereby avoid huge shipping costs. There are many resources online devoted to this practice, as well as cookbooks and recipes available.
HOWEVER, keep in mind that each pet is different. For example, I have one cat with kidney problems who needs a high-carb/low-protein diet and another one who tends to be overweight, so she needs just the opposite, a high-protein/low-carb food. If you are trying to be a green family and trying out different foods, or think you might try making your own, be sure to consult your veterinarian who is familiar with your pet’s metabolism. They may be able to make recommendations specific to your animal’s breed and weight. One tip my veterinarian gave me was that pumpkin or squash baby food is a good *supplement* or treat for both my cats’ diets, because it is high in fiber and good at “cleansing” their digestive systems. I found an organic option, and guess what? They both love it!
If you want to have a healthy family, remember that unhealthy foods for humans, like sugar and high-carb foods, are just as unhealthy if not more so for your pet. Sure, they may LOVE to share a bag of cheetos or lick up some ice cream, but they are just as prone to diabetes or tooth decay as we are.
For more ideas on going green, not just with pet care, but in ALL aspects of your life, be sure to take theEcoQuiz at GoingGreenToday and receive a list of ideas for a healthier and more cost-effective lifestyle!
recycling one cat food can could save 5,450/7 btu’s of energy, 4,033/3,270,120 gallons of oil, over 4,033/476,000,000 tons of CO2 a year, 4,033/8,720,320 tons of green house gases, enough energy to power a 109/476,000 bedroom house for an entire year, 327/26,600 homes for a year, a 60 watt light bulb for 13/588 weeks, one car to travel 4,033/218,008 miles, 4,033/476,000 power strips
recycling one dog food can could save 2,725/2 btu’s of energy, 4,033/1,868,640 gallons of oil, 321/4 watts of energy, 395,900/4,023 tons of air pollution per year, 321/80 kilograms of limestone, 321/5,000 pounds of coal, 321/140 kilograms of Pb, 535/32 pounds of waste, 107/17,280 cubic yards of landfill space, 321/5,000 gallons of H2O, enough energy to power a 109/272,000 bedroom house for an entire year, a 60 watt light bulb for 13/2 hours, one car to travel 4,033/124,576 miles