The problem with cat food is that most of it is made from rendering by-products. I could explain why this is nasty, but I already have under rendering.

Mind you, some human food also comes from rendering plants. I'm pretty sure most lard, beef tallow, and gelatin is still produced using this ghastly process. But let's talk about cats...

Cat (and dog) food generally contains "by-product meals," which on the label will be represented as "chicken meal" or "fish meal" or "fish by-products," etc. Just because they say "chicken meal" doesn't mean the "meal" ingredient is 100% chicken. (Again, see the other writeup). Cows, brains and all, often end up in the rendering plants, and guess what -- extreme heat does not destroy prions. Nor does it destroy the barbiturates that are present in the many dead cats and dogs that end up in your "fish meal."

Cancer is becoming more and more common in housepets. Cats can be infected with foreign prions, and they do develop their own form of spongiform encephalopathy. There are various reasons for one to feel bad for feeding their pets pet food, as absurd as it sounds.

"They" say the main reason that Mad Cow disease exploded in Europe was because of cannibalistic feeding processes. Cows were fed by-product meals that contained the rendered brains of infected cows. This is now illegal. The practice is banned here as well, but little is done to enforce the regulation. Many farmers still pork their cows up on meat by-products, because they're so much more effective at fattening them up.

Prions that lead to Creutzfeld-Jakob disease naturally occur in about one in a million people. I'm not sure what the ratio is in cows, but it's probably similar. Since whole animals are rendered (including road kill), these prions can easily spread throughout the rendered goop and eventually infect other animals. This means that any by-product meal is potentially dangerous, whether beef, chicken, or fish.

Currently there is no real way to "kill" prions, because they aren't alive. Heat sterilization is completely ineffective. Recently, a local story ran about six people "potentially" infected with CJD after undergoing neurosurgery. Two people actually died after having had been operated on, and the culprit may have been prions from other infected patients that were clinging to the very-sterile surgical equipment.

So what does this mean? If you're avoiding beef because of Mad Cow fears, you should probably also avoid:

  • Lard, beef tallow, and gelatin. Lard and tallow aren't too popular anymore, but a lot of snack cakes and pies contain them.
  • Cosmetic makeup. It's based on rendered by-products, and one can be infected by inhaling dust infested with prions. This is probably more of a longshot for infection than eating them.
  • Bone meal and blood meal fertilizers. These are made in rendering plants, and can spread prion diseases.
  • Cat food and dog food. If you're avoiding beef out of fear for your health, why force your pets to eat rendered food?

Unfortunately, it's difficult to feed your pets when you don't buy pet food. My cat loves canned tuna, so for while I stuck with that. But I soon realized that I was probably depriving him of many vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients like taurine (which is very important for cats). I searched long and hard for a cat food that wasn't by-product based. I couldn't find one anywhere, even at Health Food stores. Luckily, I found some "real meat only" moist foods, and he seemed to like them. But he's got dental issues, and needs to eat crunchy foods to keep his teeth healthy.

I have found it impossible, so far, to find a dry food that isn't based on rendered by-products. His old favorite is "Iams" Ocean Fish Formula, which contains, as the first ingredient, real fish. The second ingredient is chicken meal. He loves it so much that I feel forced to buy it. So I eat the occasional Arby's or Wendy's just to avoid being a hypocrite.

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