dead animal carcasses at rendering plant

AAFCO Admits Rendered Pets in Pet Food

UPDATED  03-20-2014: article link via Dr. Patty Khuly on barbiturate trace levels in pets, due to rendered pets and animals in the pet food supply chain.

When I first wrote an article years ago stating that some pet food companies were using the rendered remains of euthanized pets in their food (under the ingredient designation “meat and bone meal”), I got some pretty nasty email from people telling me I was either insane, or a liar.

For those who were still on the fence, here’s a just released video of AAFCO’s president finally admitting, on camera, that it’s allowable (and, in fact, fairly common practice) for rendered pets to end up in pet food.

AAFCO, by the way, is short for The Association of American Feed Control Officials, and is the regulatory body that sets guidelines for pet food and pet food ingredients in the USA. They could quite easily ban the use of rendered pets as acceptable for inclusion in pet food – but they don’t, because pet food companies value the cheap protein count that comes from rendered meat and bone meal.

What else can be rendered and made into “meat and bone meal”? Euthanized pets, road kill, expired grocery store meat (including the packaging), kill floor detritus, dead stock… etc.

Ethical considerations aside (and they are numerous, in my opinion), rendered pets (and horses) bring something else along with them – trace amounts of the chemicals used to kill them.

This is no minor matter – the Veterinary Industry takes this risk seriously enough to have studied barbiturate levels in pet foods, and to have assessed them as a risk to pets who consume them. Trace barbiturates consumed by pets create a tolerance level which has decreased overall effectiveness of barbiturates, making dosing pets increasingly difficult for veterinarians. Additionally, the chemicals used in euthanasia are, obviously, deadly.

Dr. Patty Khuly has an excellent article on this topic here –

As I’ve been saying for years — It really, really DOES pay to read the label.

H/T to the ever awesome Yesbiscuit for the video link

169 replies
  1. Susan
    Susan says:

    I had not read your article, but when I’d read this assertion from others, I was skeptical. But notice how he carefully avoids the issue of whether pet food companies actually use dead pets? He says it isn’t illegal, but he doesn’t say whether or not they do. And we’re supposed to think he has no idea? The head of AAFCO? If he could have said he knows otherwise, he’d have been only too happy to say so.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      Well, here’s what I can tell you.

      Pet food companies DO use “meat and bone meal” – some of them, at any rate. And, it’s legal (and common practice) to use each every nasty animal part you can imagine (and some you’d rather not) in “meat and bone meal”. It comes in to the rendering plant in big truck loads, and it all goes into the mix. Sean confirmed this for me after he’d interviewed for a logistics position at a very large, multinational rendering plant – he told me after the plant tour that he found all of it disturbing, but the fact that they confirmed they sometimes get pets coming with the dead stock to be the most disturbing part of all.

      So, it’s legal to use pets in meat and bone meal – does this mean that ALL meat and bone meal has pets in it? No, but there’s no guarantee either way, and even without the pets, you do NOT want to know the rest of the stuff that goes in there. Seriously. The only real solution is to only ever purchase foods with only NAMED meat ingredients – no ‘animal by products’, no ‘animal meal’, no ‘meat and bone meal’. If you don’t do anything else, simply make sure that all the meat ingredients are named.

      – Carol

      • Susan
        Susan says:

        I knew by now about all the other awful stuff, which is why I will never buy any product that doesn’t name every protein source. But…sigh…I just did not want to believe this was a depth they would sink to. Silly, since they were feeding dead cows to cows which humans would EAT, much less keep as pets. If they thought that was ethical, why not feed pets to pets. Shudder.

  2. Pai
    Pai says:

    I’ll admit I was skeptical of the claim of dead cats and dogs in pet food… I felt for a long time it was an exaggerated risk.

    But now I will admit I was wrong. I’m frankly appalled.

    But when you think about it, in farming it’s a common thing to use rendered dead animals back to other animals of the same species… we do it with cows. It’s how we got Mad Cow Disease. As far as I know, the practice hasn’t been stopped for livestock, so why would they stop it with pet food?

  3. mikken
    mikken says:

    Wow. “Nutritionally, it’s all protein.” Um, yeah, but *poisoned* protein. Cattle and sheep aren’t usually killed with poison the way horses and pets often are. Even if you’re ok with dogs eating dogs, you cannot be ok with dogs eating chemically euthanized dogs.

    And reading labels is no guarantee because in the US, a pet food company has six months to change their labels – that means there could be an ingredient change at any time and you wouldn’t know it until they got around to changing the labels.

    The whole thing is just repellent.

  4. Marie
    Marie says:

    My co-workers didn’t want to belive me when I told them this very thing recently in defense of my switching back to raw again. ( Per the book Food Pets Die For by Ann Martin even though she isn’t a fan of raw she has great how to read pet food label information.)

    SO glad I am back on the raw diet with my dogs! Thanks for the video!

  5. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Pet food companies do not have to list any ingredients they don’t actually put in the food themselves. So if they buy their meat and bone meal from the rendering plant they don’t have to list what kind of meat. Also if they buy meat that is chemically preserved or antibiotics in it, they again don’t have to list the chemicals if they didn’t actually put it in the food.

    • Susan
      Susan says:

      Even scarier is that human food is not always different. Several months ago the NY Times did an expose piece on how ground beef processors were adding this “sludge” made of scraps and other crap that had been treated with ammonia to the meat to lower the cost of the product – and it was being sold to the School Lunch Program. They had massaged the USDA into ruling that they didn’t have to list the ammonia as an ingredient, but without the ammonia, the salmonella levels would be too high. I really want my own meat grinder, I just have to talk Ken into it.

  6. MadAboutPets
    MadAboutPets says:

    This is beyond disgusting. I knew that many companies use kill-floor animals, etc. in the food but I’ve never ever heard this about euthanized pets. I am simply appalled.

  7. Tess
    Tess says:

    Not that I doubt this is true, but I’d like to see something more current in the way of “evidence”. This looks like it’s from the 1980’s.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      Good luck with that. AAFCO got caught out once admitting it on film – and believe me, they’ve learned from *that* experience. Now they’ll just ignore the whole issue and hope it goes away, or that the public is too gullible to believe it.

      What’s most frustrating is that AAFCO holds all the cards – they COULD say “no rendered pets in pet food, starting now”, and the companies would have to comply. But they won’t… because money talks, and ethics lose out.

  8. Marie
    Marie says:

    OK I am pretty ticked that the above site (in comments) decided to steal my WHOLE blog post and not even have the decency to give me author credit. WTH??. How did that link get here anyhow?

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      Which one, Marie? I’ve found TONS of them doing that lately – it usually shows up on my blog comments as a ‘ping back’. It’s the cheapest form of link harvesting by these spam blogs that are all over the place…

  9. Marie
    Marie says:

    Thank you. I removed them as a link on my blog (when I made a post about the theft) because someone told me some sites make money based on the blog links themselves. I have no idea how a spam site works so this is a new one on me.

    Such jerks! I think I’ve figured out a way to protect future training posts. Or at least get credit for them. We’ll see if it works.

  10. EJ
    EJ says:

    Not that I’m refuting your claim, or ignoring what I just heard on that video, but I have to ask- how old exactly is that clip? it looks like this interview first happened in 1990. Personally, anything without update in 20+ years, to me, is useless. Any number of policies could have changed, including who the head if the AAFCO is currently.

    I just need to know how recent this clip is before I decide to incite a riot.

  11. Lis
    Lis says:

    This is, as EJ points out, at least twenty years old, which means that even taken at face value, it’s not any kind of evidence of what is happening NOW.

    Moreover, the AAFCO pres does NOT “admit” there’s pets in pet food; he concedes it’s not actually impossible that it could happen–and then the clip is cut at a really ODD spot. TV news does not generally cut a video clip in a way that SCREAMS “cut in interviewee’s mid-statement” the way this one does. This does not sound like it was the original cut.

    Which suggests that the person who posted it to Youtube cut to what she thought was the Really Good Stuff. It makes me wonder, “what was said next?” Did he go on to explain some recommended or typical precautions to avoid rendered pets winding up in pet food? Did he go on to gloat about how cheap it is to use pets in pet food?

    We’ll probably never know for sure what he did say, but we can bet it wasn’t the second thing–because then our helpful Youtube poster wouldn’t have cut it where she did.

    There are lots of reasons to avoid any product that lists “meat and bone meal” or “animal fat” without naming the animals. It’s the lowest possible quality, not really fit for consumption–but there’s still zero evidence that dead pets are a normal part of cheap pet food. Does it happen occasionally due to screw-ups? I bet it does. Does it happen routinely? The only actual evidence is AGAINST that idea–tests for the remains of cats and dogs in pet foods have come up negative.

    The fact that you can’t prove that something is absolutely impossible doesn’t mean it’s happening. Can you prove that Congress is not entirely made up of pod people? No? Does that mean you believe Congress IS entirely made up of pod people?

    • Jeanne
      Jeanne says:

      Surely by now you all know not to believe everything, or even most things, that FDA and other agencies and labs that do studies and tests. Results are never fully disclosed, statistics are always made to show what the tester wants and is trying to prove, and we are being deceived on a daily basis by many arms of the government and various big corporations, all the way down to city governments. Believe what you want, but it’s your pets that will and are suffering, whether you see the effects yet or not. Very few situations have improved over the years in regard to healthy and nutritious foods and food items, whether animal or human, that simply cannot be disputed. Hence, the age of that clip is really irrelevant in my opinion. If anything the chance of pets being in pet food is higher now than ever. Do the math, look at the number of dead pets shelters are now accumulating, the increasing cost of proper disposal of said pets, the opportunity to turn a higher profit for the pet food companies by using “cheap” ingredients, and the fact that they do not have to disclose these ingredients. The writing is on the wall, you only have to read it. By waiting to have positive, unquestionable proof of this before feeding alternative higher quality foods to your pets is just hiding your head in the sand. Better to err on the side of caution, knowing that in this country in this era the emphasis is on profit, not quality, in most areas. Buyer beware.

  12. Pai
    Pai says:

    Well, the fact that pets are rendered is not arguable. However, rendered animals end up in other places than food (cosmetics, for example).

    It’s the fact that this AAFCO guy admits there’s no way to tell where dead pets go is the most upsetting part. The question could be easily put to rest by the plants themselves, but the fact that they keep quiet really doesn’t do much for consumer confidence.

  13. luke
    luke says:

    Jeez this is crazy. We definitely need to check out the products we buy, that’s for sure. I’ve always been skeptical of cheap or weird pet foods. And that guys got some huge shades.

  14. Adam Daly
    Adam Daly says:

    Seriously? “What else can be rendered and made into “meat and bone meal”? Euthanized pets, road kill, expired grocery store meat (including the packaging), kill floor detritus, dead stock… etc.” Gross. I think from now on I’m going to read more labels.

    • John Foster
      John Foster says:

      Chicken feathers have little use today (we no longer use them for bedding). But we consume a lot of chicken. What happens to the feathers? Land fill? NO THINK AGAIN. It is milled into a meal and added to guess what – PET FOOD. So in the bag of food you are paying good money for is food waste of no nutritional value. But the label will read contains chicken. Yes it is legal.

  15. Kiana
    Kiana says:

    King 5 news in Seattle, WA is the producer of that video. You can check out their website at king5 dot com .

    You may have to contact them to discover when the video was made. They perform investigative reports on many different topics.

    Another website on your same topic posted something back in January 2009. It could be around that time.

  16. stuart
    stuart says:

    Please dont let your readers forget about the Criminals that own this company

    Employees of Evangers Pet Food wins Lawsuit
    Written By: Susan Thixton9-19-2010Categorized in: Pet Food News
    Employees of Evangers Pet Food wins a $495,000 lawsuit against the pet food company; judge finds employees were not paid for overtime wages.

    The Northern District of Illinois Distric Court, Case: 1:09-cv-00227, filed 9/15/2010, Final Approval Order Francisco Barragan and Liberto DeLaRosa, on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated persons (Plantiffs) versus Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Co., Inc., Holly N. Sher and Joel Sher (Defendants) states:

    “Ordered and Adjudged as follows:
    3. The Court finds that the strength of the Plantiffs’ case on the merits, weighed against Defendants’ defenses, and the complexity, length, and expense of further litigation support approval of the Settlement; the total Settlement Amount of $495,000.00 as set forth in the Settlement Agreement, is a fair, reasonable and adequate settlement of Plaintiffs’ individual claims and the Classes’ claims; …”
    To read the Final Approval Order, click here

    In the original Complaint filed January 13, 2009, “1. This lawsuit arises under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, et seq. (“FLSA”), and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, 820 ILCS 105/1, et seq. (“IMWL”), for Defendants’ failure to pay all overtime wages to Plaintiffs and other similarly-situated persons for all time worked in excess of forty (40) hours in individual workweeks.”

    The original complaint also states Evangers “refusal to pay Plaintiffs overtime wages for time worked in excess of forty (40) hours per week…”(Item 31).
    To read the original Complaint, click here

    The judge agreed; Evangers was ordered to pay almost half a million dollars in the Settlement order.

    There have been no updates on the existing lawsuit against Evangers owners Joel and Holly Sher accused of stealing $2 million in electric and gas services. For more information on this case, visit

  17. Cat Games
    Cat Games says:

    It is disgusting to think of the things that pet food companies are putting into our pet food. We have started feeding our cat a lot of frozen wild caught salmon so we know what he is eating.

  18. Beth
    Beth says:

    Can I make a suggestion? It’s obvious that you’ve done some research, but you’re grouping the big name companies with other, smaller companies who do NOT use meat and bone BYPRODUCT. If you’re using bone meal, you’re using all of the bone sparing nothing. BYPRODUCT is the dead animals, scraps off the floor.

    Like I said, it’s clear that you’ve done research. And with big name foods, I have no doubt that the meal is crappy because of where it is sourced. But there are a lot of small name companies that are actually all natural. They don’t find loopholes so they can advertise that way. They aren’t found in big chain stores and grocery stores. But the meat and bones they use, and the meal that comes from them, are all high quality.

    It’s a little confusing when there are so many articles out there that aren’t clear or don’t get it right. It’s tough to educate people when they are misled.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] a link to the 1st article that led me to the one posted above from PetMD. AAFCO Admits Rendered Pets in Pet Food – Bullmarket French Bulldogs […]

  2. […] [3][4] [5] [6] […]

  3. […] AAFCO Admits Rendered Pets in Pet Food Share and Enjoy: […]

  4. […] Perhaps time to rethink feeding kibble….. AAFCO Admits Rendered Pets in Pet Food AAFCO Admits Rendered Pets in Pet Food | Frogdog Blog – A French Bulldog Breeder's Blog […]

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FrogDogZ, fbdog. fbdog said: RT @FrogDogZ: New blog post: AAFCO Admits Rendered Pets in Pet Food #dogfoodingredients […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.