Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Canned Beaver as Dog Food?

Would you feed your dog canned beaver?

That's the gimmick of "Canine Caviar" Gourmet Beaver All Meat Diet for Dogs and Cats.

The web site says it "uses only beaver designated for population control."

In short, it uses wild beaver which are are full of round worms, flukes, giardia, salmonella and tularemia. No harm there -- the canned beaver is pasteurized, no doubt.

That said the cans are supposed to be filled (according to the label) only with "Ground Beaver and Water sufficient for processing," but the FDA recalled the food in March of 2007 due to rice gluten from China being inside the can.


How could such a thing happen? No vegetable matter of any kind is supposed to be in this can!

The simple answer, of course, is that Canine Caviar does not make its own food.

Like so many "boutique" dog and cat food makers, it's simply a relabeling company that cocks up odd-sounding dog and cat-food recipes in order to get pet owners to think they are feeding their dogs "more natural" foods that are better for them.

Beaver is more natural?


Back when packs of Poodles roamed Canada, they often hunted beaver. Everyone knows that!

Now, to be fair, Canine Caviar is no different from a lot of these silly dog and cat food companies that have sprung up in recent years. They have nice new-age names like "Natural Balance" and "Blue Buffalo."

Yes, it's a bit ironic that television actor Dick Van Patten, the owner of Natural Balance Pet Food company, has Type II diabetes.

But so what? A lot of America is overweight, not getting enough exercise, and lecturing everyone else about proper nutrition.

Hell, Richard Simmons has made an entire career out of it!

And, to be fair, I cannot find any place where Dick Van Patten claims to know anything about nutrition. This dog food company was started as a money-making venture from Day One, and it's been successful at that!

God bless America, land that I love.

Of course not all of this exoic dog food is made from beaver.

There's also "Venison Tripe" (i.e. deer stomach) and "Gourmet Turkey," both of which are produced by Canine Caviar and both of which were also recalled for having rice in them despite labels claiming they were a pure product with "no grains."

Of course what does canned beaver, canned deer stomach, and canned turkey really look like?

Who knows?! Apparently a lot like rice gluten ("mock duck" gluten pictured at right).

Natural Balance Pet Food and Canine Caviar blamed their shared manufacturer, American Nutrition, Inc., calling the rice in their venison, beaver and turkey products a "manufacturing deviation."

American Nutrition disagreed, saying they made food according to formulas specified by their customers who needed the rice in order to have the pet food meet labeling guarantees.

"To set the record straight, American Nutrition did not engage in any deliberate or intentionally wrongful conduct relative to the inclusion of rice protein in certain products it manufactures.

"While rice protein was used to fortify products involved in the recall, many other pet foods manufactured by American Nutrition (including their own house brands and products manufactured for several other companies) were not affected. The unaffected products rely on soy, corn and wheat as their primary non-meat protein sources. Conversely, the products affected by the contaminated rice protein recall had customer-driven formula specifications for non-soy, non-corn, and non-wheat ingredients... Those customers specifically required rice-based formulations, which necessitated certain fortifications to meet label guarantees. As such, American Nutrition selected a fortification source from the same family of ingredients already incorporated into the formulation (in this instance, rice).

Wow, isn't that ironic!
It turns out that the stuff made from good old American corn and soy was fine, but the stuff made from exotic meats and rice was not.


Of course, Natural Balance and Canine Caviar are not just making dog food from canned beaver, canned deer stomachs, and canned turkey.

They are also make dog food from rendered chicken fat, bits of chicken and lamb not suitable for human sale, bird food (millet), grass ("sun-cured alfalfa"), and agricultural waste products (beet pulp shreds).

The result is a dog food just about identical to every other dog food on the market.

That should come as no surprise as almost all dog food companies are using the same core formulae: meat byproducts, grains, vitamins, and rendered fats.

Push-comes-to-shove, it's all fats, proteins and carbohydrates, and one type is just about the same as the other.

Some proteins are more easily absorbed than others, of course, but in the real world of dog foods, there's really not that much of a difference. Everyone is trying to clear the AAFCO hurdles, and everyone is trying to make a profit.

Canine Caviar Chicken & Pearl Millet Dry Adult Dog Food, for example, is 26% crude protein as compared to 25% for Purina's "Original" Beneful formula.

Both brands have 4% crude fiber.

The main difference between the two foods is fat: the Canine Caviar formula is 16 percent rendered chicken fat, while the Purina is just 10% rendered beef fat.

Certain fatty acids are dietary essentials, of course, but once those fatty acid needs have been met, the rest is pure calories -- the kind of calories that can lead to obesity in a sedentary dog.

Obesity, of course, kills more dogs than any food additive by a factor of 1,000 or more. But you will find no mention of that on the Canine Caviar web site!

So what's the difference between Purina (for example) and the boutique foods like Canine Caviar and Natural Balance?

Well, price for one. Another is what we really know about the foods.

You see Natural Balance and Canine Caviar could not be bothered to put their foods through actual feed trials.

Instead, these labeling companies (they cannot be called manufacturers), meet the requirements of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) by simple calculation.

Companies that meet AAFCO requirements through calculation say something like this: "(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (Dog or Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles for (specific life stage)."

Food that is actually tested on live dogs are foods which have met a higher standard of real-world testing. These foods will carry a statement along this line: "Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of product) provides complete and balanced nutrition for (specific life stage)."

So, to recap, here's what we know about most of the fancy "boutique" dog food companies now crowding the shelves:

  1. Most of the boutique dog food companies are not making their own food;

  2. Many have no idea what is actually in their food or where the ingredients come from;

  3. Exotic ingredients are not necessarily better than non-exotic ingredients and may, in fact, be worse;

  4. Boutique dog food companies almost never do actual feed trials on their dogs, and only know about manufacturing problems after a sizable number of dogs and cats turn up sick or dead;

  5. Boutique dog food companies generally do not have trade names to protect, and so when problems do show up, they are less likely to be responsive. If a company like Canine Caviar goes out of business, no one would even notice. In fact, this company cannot even put up a fully working web site

Which brings me back to that Canine Caviar labeling thing with the "pure" beaver, venison and turkey.

Remember when American Nutrition Inc. said it was not to blame: it was simply following the formula "specified by customers who needed the rice in order to have the food meet label guarantees?"

I will bet they were not lying.

You see the "labeling guarantee" a pet food manufacturer needs to get AAFCO certification through calculation (rather than actual feed trials) requires a certain amount of fiber and crude protein.

Can pure "canned beaver" and pure "venison stomach" meet those requirement? Can canned Turkey? I bet not.

So what do you do if you are a pet food labeling company relying on marketing gimmicks and a gullible public to begin with?

I suspect you shrug your shoulders, add rice to the mix, and you don't sweat the labeling thing too much.

Who is ever going to know? No one.


Anonymous said...

I can't say how they feel about beaver meat, but my dogs simply ADORE beaver poop. There's a damn dam in the creek right below our house - it's right in our (literally) stinkin' back yard (OK, it's down a hill, through the woods and across a bramble - but still in our 'yard'). Anyway, when we head for the creek I have to watch the little b**tards like a hawk (the dogs, not the beavers) or they BEELINE for the beaver poop.

In case you were not aware of this, beaver poop has the *exact* smell and texture of an obscene mixture of used motor oil, crap and dead fish. It permeates dog fur and you can smell it from 30 yards down wind.

If there's beaver anus in that food IT WILL NEVER COME INTO MY HOUSE!

Anonymous said...

Beaver and venison are favorite meats for sled dog afficiondos, for availability, and for performance. I have fed fresh beaver meat supplied to me by trappers--it is extremely rich stuff! Grocery store brands may be okay for most pet dogs that rarely get adequate excercise, but you learn very quickly if you run sled dogs that corn-based foods lead to bloody squirts when you take your team out for a training run! Kibble is fine, and you can live on it, but it is highly processed, and nothing takes the place of real, fresh food--IF you can afford it! Some of the overpriced kibbles like Science Diet(the biggest rip-off in the pet food industry, in my opinion)--you might as well buy real meat and mix it with a cheaper kibble, a tactic I have done with good results. All kibbles ARE NOT equal--if the first ingredients listed are not meat-based, expect runny stools and to have to feed larger amounts to get adequate nutrition. And I am not anonymous, I am Lane Batot, and I have finally figured out how to post on this outrageous and irresistable website!

Anonymous said...

I have been enjoying this most recent rant.

The only thing I would add: I prefer to stay away from your recommended kibble (I feed Purina, currently) that is dyed for (human) eye appeal.

We have a dog with a stomach/skin sensitive to these dyed kibble, and I figure it won't do the others any good, either.


PBurns said...

Its pretty hard to feed a team of 20 dogs on beaver, Lane. Believe it or not, there actually are folks who read this blog who are real sled dog mushers, and I believe a suprising number feed fish on the trail.

As for kibble, the first ingredient on the bag does NOT tell you very much. The reason for that is that feed manufacturers have figured out how to shatter out and lump ingredients so that meat appears first even when it is a minor part of a bag. The thing to look for on a bag is a real AFFCO feed trial and a company that makes its own food.

"Runny stools" are not a sign of low nutrition in a bag in any case; that's generally a sign of giaria, which is (ironically) also called "Beaver Fever."


PBurns said...

Yes, beaver castoreum is some pungent suff, eh? It's used by most trappers as a form of scent attractant as ALL predators love to rub against the stuff. The Camera Trap Codgers uses it as a key ingredient in his scent concoctions (check out his blog for amazing photos). Oddly beaver scent seems to works to attract every predator in the world no matter whether beaver are native to the area or not. It also attracts women and is an ingredient in some perfumes.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear gawd. I am a woman (pretty sure about that) and I most certainly am not attracted to that vile stench.

Actually I have heard that castoreum and other strong stenches make good base notes for fine perfume, but not many modern perfumes use those kinds of high end natural ingredients any more.

Fine perfume is on of the few luxuries I enjoy (with my job I can't dress up or wear jewelry and I can't afford to get drunk on the kind of booze I like.) One has to look very hard (and in places other than box store shelves) to find 'real' perfume these days.

(now wondering if the reason the dogs like that rare italian scent I got last fall so much is because of castoreum, not vetiver...)

Caveat said...

Haven't had the pleasure, but it sounds as though beaver musk is a contender to beat pogey oil.

In Gloucester, where we spent our summers in my youth, the fish processing plant use to have barrels of pogey oil, as the natives called it, sitting around.

You could smell that from a long way away if your dog managed to find some and roll in it.

Worked for me, though. My Mum used to pay me with a fifty-cent piece to wash my Lhasa in the public showers. Barnold! Pogey Oil! Seek!

Man, I'm getting old now...

Carol said...

Strict AAFCO feeding trials? Please. The AAFCO trials only mean that 6 out of 8 dogs must survive and not lose significant weight over the period of 26 weeks. Their blood must be monitored for deficiencies, which usually take much longer than 26 weeks to show up properly. I have no faith in feeding trials. At least the nutrient guidelines set out are more specific than "must not kill dogs".

Other than your view on dog foods, I really do enjoy your blog so far!

PBurns said...

Strict? Where did I say that? Not there that I can find. I could be wrong, but I cannot find it. Also, you left out the blood work requirements. That said, you are right that the AAFCO feeding trials are not nearly rigid enough and are not hard to meet. Doesn't that make it AMAZING that so many companies do not even do that?

For the record, Purina and Pedigree have very large kennels that far exceed the AAFCO minimums, and Purina has done a 14-year life span study on their foods which has shown a core point made here and elsewhere: lean dogs live 15% longer. See >> http://www.longliveyourdog.com/TwoPlus/Default.aspx and >> http://www.intownvet.com/intown/newsevents/purina.pdf

Bottom line: another reason not to go with the "we-just-created-our-company" dog food relabelers selling exotic stuff (often imported from foreign countries.


cj said...

I've always enjoyed this blog...
But the dog food rant really gets my "goat" (good dog food?).
I've been involved with terriers for over thirty years, and am currently using BLUE BUFFALO pet food. This food is the best readily available food on the market, and has helped MANY terriers in my care.
Not happy with your lumping BLUE with poor quality food. You seem to dismiss BLUE because of the name alone. No other investigation of the quality of this food is mentioned anywhere in your blog.
FYI – the name comes from the owner of the company’s Airedale terrier, Blue – and buffalo is an American Indian symbol of “animal protection”.
The quality and effectiveness of dog food continues to be a hot button topic. People need to research canine nutrition, do their homework, read labels, and make their own informed decisions.

PBurns said...

Sorry CJ, but I actually know quite a bit about Blue Buffalo dog food, and so would you if you bothered to take a minute to "use the Google."

For starters, Blue Buffalo dog food was recalled as part of the pet poisonings last year.

Point two is that Blue Buffalo, like Canine Caviar and others, does not actually make its own dog food -- it is simply a relabeling company. They have no manufacturing facilities whatsoever. The company simply "phones it in" like so many of these new "holistic" dog food companies do.

For the record, Blue Buffalo dog food is made by C.J Foods, Inc., as well as American Nutrition, Inc. Both companies were making toxic dog food, and Blue Buffalo blamed their manufacturer, which is about par for a contract dog food maker that does not make its own food, does not know what is actually in the food (they have to rely on the manufacturer) and who cannot be bothered to even subject their food to AAFCO feed trials (in fact, I do not think Blue Buffalo even submits their food for a nutrient profile analysis).

Also for the record, Blue Buffalo dog food is mostly made of agricultural products and waste meat products, same as most dog food. In the case of Blue Buffalo, they have substituted corn and soy (perfectly good grains) with brown rice, barley and oats (also perfectly good grains). As for "meat," the Blue Buffalo company mostly relies on chicken meal, turkey meal and fish meal. They stack up and divide the meal types to hide the fact that food is moslty meal. Nothing wrong with meal, but don't kid yourself that this is a high-grade product. Meal is generally made from the bottom of the barrel scrapings from the human food line, run through a grinder, and then extruded into nuggets. Blue Buffalo dog food's primary claim to fame, as with most other "premium" dog foods, is that it is loaded with rendered chicken fat, which adds calories and nothing more. One of their dog goods also brags that it contains Fish Meal. Under US Coast Guard regulations, all fish meal not destined for human consumption must be conserved with Ethoxyquin, a preservative banned from use in human foods. "Fish meal" almost certainly means Ethoxyquin is present in the food that lists fish meal, even if it is not listed on the bag. Just a warning ...

In short, this if food that will make your dog fatter, quicker, but it will not make your dog healthier.

As for 30 years in terriers, pardon me if I am not too impressed; that's all of two dogs. I have owned terriers for 45 years, and did not know my ass from a turnip seed for 20 of those. Tell me you dig on your dogs (and more than once a year!) and I will be impressed. Maybe. Of course, the easiest way to impress is simply to DO YOUR RESEARCH. If you are paying for Blue Buffalo foods, and don't know what I have written here, then you clearly have not begun that little journey.


dodo said...

Given the lax standards of the feeding trials, I think it is debatable whether trials or chemical analysis would be a better gauge of food quality.

As to rice being added to supposed pure beaver, I think it is more a measure of cost cutting. I've seen similar products from other brands and they are never labeled as AAFCO compliant. On the contrary, the label will indicate that it is not nutritionally complete and should only be fed as a supplementary diet.

swamp4me said...

Interesting read, but I have one small correction. It appears you have posted a picture of a nutria instead of a beaver.

PBurns said...

They are pretty similar, and you might be right, but the image comes from >> http://web.extension.uiuc.edu/wildlife/directory_show.cfm?species=beaver and I will assume they are right unless you have a specific differentiating point. Looking at the feet, those look more like beaver feet to me (they have more webbing than nutria feet).

Both nutria and beaver have the same orange teeth. Size and tail shape is the main difference.


Labella said...

I have often joked I am going to raise rats to feed my dogs.. Since that IS a true part of their natural diet, doubly so, as most of my dogs are terriers of some kind (house terriers, not diggers.. Not too sure that the yorkies could take on a live rat, but they were game enough on the possums and raccoons that run through my yard, even if they are greatly outweighed, lol).
Well, the rat thing probably isn't going to happen, but I will be raising rabbits soon, and I think the dogs will appreciate the change/addition to their diets.