There is a lot of discussion regarding the safety of feeding processed pet food. I've heard many claims about the fact that there aren’t many clinical studies conducted connecting pet food with health issues of dogs and cats. Some argue that if you can't see the "smoking gun" conclusive connection, then it's fair to say that the foods are safe for feeding.
Personally, I don’t believe in this type of thinking. And for me, the connection between the consumption of processed food and health ailments is clear.
I'm not writing this in order to intimidate you; Because you anyway hear every day how some food ingredients are not healthy. Rather, I'm here to provide you with information that will enable you to make educated nutritional choices for your four-legged family members.
You are free to think for yourself and find what you believe in and what is right for you and your pet.
Let's examine the available data in a logical way
Known information –
1. Pet food (canned and dry) is processed using extreme heat temperatures.
2. Pet food contains proteins and sugars (from carbohydrates).
3. Heat processing of proteins and sugars produces cancer-causing compounds.
Logical conclusion –
1. Heat treatment of proteins and sugars in pet food produce cancer-causing compounds.
2. Therefore, pet food contains toxic cancer-causing compounds.
Now, allow me to elaborate and explain in detail about each point.
Pet food (canned and dry) is processed using extreme heat temperatures
The most common pet food is dry kibble which underwent extrusion. The extrusion process leads to the formation of a dense food pallet, almost completely dry (mostly with under 10% moisture), and with a long shelf life.
The extrusion process includes mixing the wet and dry ingredients together in a heated food blender until the formation of dough. You can think of the extruder as a giant heated meat grinder (a few meters long).
The dough travels using pressure and under the intense heat of between 120-160 degrees Celsius. At the end of the machine, the dough passes through cutters which give the desired shape. Finally, the kibble is quickly chilled and sometimes sprayed with fat combined with flavors and a nutrient premix.
The second most common pet food is canned or pouched food. First, the base is made by boiling liquid stock with nutrient premix, oils, and different synthetic additives. While mixing and cooking, meat and vegetables are added. The mixture is then moved and the cans and pouches are filled, sealed, and undergoes cooking and sterilization which is called retort. Retort is cooking under pressure at temperatures ranging from 121-250 degrees Celsius for up to an hour.
As you can see, the most common manufacturing processes of pet foods involves using extreme temperatures.
Pet food contains proteins and sugars (from carbohydrates).
All dog and cat foods contain proteins and carbohydrates. Proteins can be from animal origins, such as chicken, fish, or beef; Or from plant origins such as peas and soy.
In addition, in order for the kibble to keep their form and the ingredients to bind together, manufacturers have to use starches. Hence, pet food contains carbohydrates such as rice, corn, and potatoes.
As opposed to kibble, in most cases, canned pet food won't contain carbohydrates. And if it will, they will be in very small percentages. Canned food is almost completely based on proteins with little vegetables.
The digestive system of cats and dogs break the proteins into their building blocks, amino acids; And carbohydrates into theirs, sugars.
Heat processing of proteins and sugars produces cancer-causing compounds.
According to the NCI (national cancer institute), using high cooking temperatures creates chemical reactions among amino acids, creatines, and sugars. These reactions produce dangerous carcinogens and mutagens that may damage DNA (human and pet alike).
Some of the compounds include:
· Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) –
Created when creatine and amino acids (both found in meat) react together with heat at temperatures over 212 degrees F (100 C). Basically, the hotter and longer meat is cooked, the more HCAs and PAHs are created. Raw foods or food cooked at low temperatures, don’t contain HCAs or PAHs.
· Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) –
Formed by what is known as the Maillard reaction, which occurs when sugars and proteins in the food react together to heat. Diets with more raw foods typically contain minimal AGEs.
· 2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) –
A heterocyclic aromatic amine (HAA) that is formed by the reaction of creatine and phenylalanine during high-temperature cooking of meat, poultry, and fish.