The most commonly used pet food ingredient – by almost a million tons (almost 2 billion pounds) is: Corn.

What ingredient is it?

The most commonly used pet food ingredient – by almost a million tons (almost 2 billion pounds) is: Corn.

The Institute for Feed Education and Research, the North American Renderers Association, and the Pet Food Institute recently published an interesting report; “Pet Food Production and Ingredient Analysis“. The report brags the pet food industry stimulates “the overall agricultural economy through the purchase of ingredients, labor and services from related industries“.

“Overall, the report found that U.S. pet food manufacturers use roughly 8.65 million tons of animal- and plant-based ingredients for dog and cat food to provide the complete nutrition that pets need, at a value of $6.9 billion. More than 500 safe and nutritious ingredients are used, demonstrating the diversity of options available to shoppers at various price points to fit their budgets. Often using leftover ingredients made from the production of human food, such as bakery or brewery items or parts of the animal that humans don’t eat, the report also highlighted the pet food industry’s commitment to reducing agriculture’s environmental impact.”

It’s quite startling to see the charts compiled in the report of the most commonly used pet food ingredients, listed by tonnage used (both cat and dog foods):

Corn is the most commonly used pet food ingredient – almost 1 million tons of corn is included in cat and dog foods than ANY other ingredient. In July 2019, 98% of corn samples tested in the US were “positive for at least one mycotoxin“, “74% of samples have more than one mycotoxin“. Even low levels of mycotoxins in pet food can result in serious illness.

Chicken is the second most commonly used pet food ingredient – but knowing that chicken in pet food can be only chicken skin or only chicken bones (little to no meat), it provides little comfort being the second ingredient. As concerning as corn being the most commonly used cat food and dog food ingredient – the third ingredient Meat and bone meal – is just as concerning. FDA testing determined the pet food ingredient meat and bone meal to be associated with pentobarbital/euthanized animals.

Separating the commonly used ingredients into pet food categories, for dry cat foods only the chart looks like this:

A corn ingredient is the number 1 and number 2 most commonly used ingredient in dry cat foods. Chicken by-product meal and Poultry by-product meal (both ingredients have the same legal definition) make up the 3rd and 4th commonly used dry cat food ingredients. Chicken and poultry by-product meals are rendered ingredients – that can include bits and pieces of poultry left over from the human food chain (necks, feet, undeveloped eggs or condemned chicken/chicken parts) or it can include whole poultry that died other than by slaughter (including diseased poultry).

For dry dog food only, ingredients provided in the trade report:

And again…corn is the #1 ingredient used in dry dog foods, more than twice as much corn is used than any other ingredient. Meat and bone meal – the rendered ingredient that can include any type of mammal, or diseased/non-slaughtered animals – is the second most commonly used dry dog food ingredient.

Personal opinion: Statistics like these are heartbreaking. The pet food industry should NOT focus on “the overall agricultural economy” – the industry should focus on ingredients that promote pet health.

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton

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