Note: this contains graphic information, and feel free to skip if you have a weak stomach or would rather not read the details.
According to the Earth Island Journal,
“The rendering plant floor is piled high with ’raw product’: thousands of dead dogs and cats; heads and hooves from cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses; whole skunks; rats and raccoons—all waiting to be processed. In the 90-degree heat, the piles of dead animals seem to have a life of their own as millions of maggots swarm over the carcasses.”
Cooking raw animal material to eliminate moisture and fat is known as rendering. The rendering plant functions similarly to a large kitchen. The chef, or cook, combines the raw product with “extra materials” to preserve a ratio of pet carcasses, cattle waste, chicken waste, and supermarket rejects.
The material is then moved to another auger for fine shredding once it has been chopped into little bits. It is then baked for one hour at a minimum of 280 degrees Fahrenheit. This mixture can be cooked at high temperatures up to eight times!
The non-stop batch cooking procedure melts the meat away from the bones in the hot ‘soup’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The soup produces a yellow grease or tallow fat that rises to the top and is skimmed off throughout the heating process.
The cooked meat and bone are placed in a hammermill press, which squeezes out any leftover moisture and grinds the result into a fine powder. Excess hair and big bone pieces are sifted away using shaker screens. All that’s left after the batch is yellow fat, meal, and bone meal.
This recycled meat and bone meal is used as a source of protein and other nutrients in the food for chickens, pigs, and pets. It is also used in smaller amounts to feed cattle and sheep. Animal fat is also used as a source of energy in animal feed. Each day, hundreds of rendering plants across the United States deliver millions of tons of product to poultry ranches, cattle feed-lots, dairy and hog farms, fish-feed plants, and pet-food manufacturers, where it is mixed with other ingredients to feed our animals.
How Odd Toxins Get Into Pet Food
The dead animals (the “raw” component in pet food production) are served with a whole menu of things that people don’t want. Pesticides get into the rendering process through animals that have been poisoned and fish oil that has been tainted with illegal organophosphates that have built up in the bodies of West Coast mackerel and tuna.
Since animals are often thrown into the pit with flea collars still on, insecticides with organophosphates are also mixed in. Dursban is an insecticide that comes in the form of insecticide patches for cattle. Antibiotics given to livestock leak pharmaceuticals, and so do drugs used to put down pets. Heavy metals can come from a lot of different places, like pet ID tags and medical pins and needles.
Even plastic eventually ends up in the pit. Meats, chicken, and fish that aren’t sold at a store come in Styrofoam trays and shrink wrap. No one has the time to unwrap thousands of meat packs that were sent back. When cattle ID tags, plastic insecticide patches, and green plastic bags with pets in them from vets arrive, they add more plastic to the pits that eventually create our dog’s kibble.
Make Your Own Decision
Of course, not every rendering plant is like this, but unfortunately, the majority are. Before we learned about the rendering process, we wondered how all of these weird toxins were involved in pet food recalls. Now, it makes more sense. If you would still like to feed kibble, it’s important to do your research and determine the sources of your dog’s food. Is it made at a rendering plant? If so, what type of plant is it? If not, where is the food sourced from and what is the process from start to finish?