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:
- Most of the boutique dog food companies are not making their own food;
- Many have no idea what is actually in their food or where the ingredients come from;
- Exotic ingredients are not necessarily better than non-exotic ingredients and may, in fact, be worse;
- 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;
- 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.