It no secret that some pet food can achieve higher quality standards than some fast food or processed deli meats. However, that's only true if you believe what's put on the label. A new study has proven that many European pet food companies 'lie,' and they do it more than you'd think.
The study, recently published in the journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, details how researcher's from the United Kingdom's University of Nottingham investigated what kind of animal DNA was present in 17 leading dog and cat wet foods commonly found in UK supermarkets. They then compared their results to what the label claimed the product contained.
In particular, the researchers looked for the presence of cow, chicken, pig, and horse DNA, and while (thankfully) they did not find horse meat in any of the brands, they did find that the other three meats were often very disproportionate, compared to what the labels claimed.
"It may be a surprise to shoppers to discover that prominently described contents such as 'beef' on a tin could, within [industry] guidelines, be a minor ingredient, have no bovine skeletal muscle (meat) and contain a majority of unidentified animal proteins," the study's lead author, Kin-Chow Chang, said in a statement.
According to the study, seven products that boasted containing real beef or with the description "with beef" only contained up to 56 percent cow DNA. Some of these cans even contained a measly 14 percent, while only two of the seven contained more cow DNA (from assorted parts) than pig and chicken DNA combined. Three samples contained more pig than cow - a fact that arguably made them pork products, not beef.
Chicken cans did a little better, with some actually boasting 100 percent chicken meat. However, two of the six cans analyzed again contained more pig than any other animal DNA, while one sample boasted a stunning one percent chicken DNA.
The researchers are quick to point out that their assessment is limited to what they were looking for - that is, if other animal DNA was present that they were not looking for, their data may be skewed. Still, they press that this is a prime example of how pet food labeling is a lot more misleading than was expected under current industry regulations.
"There is a need for the pet food industry to show greater transparency to customers in the disclosure of the types of animal proteins in their products," Chang pressed. " Full disclosure of animal contents will allow more informed choices to be made on purchases which are particularly important for pets with food allergies, reduce the risk of product misinterpretation by shoppers, and avoid potential religious concerns."
Under both US and UK standards, pet foods have to be safe for human consumption even if labeled "not for human consumption" or "pet food only."
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