The HSUS and Prop. 2 in CA: The Big Picture

The NYT Magazine takes an in-depth look at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and their support for Prop. 2 in California. Prop. 2 would require farmers to house chickens, pigs and veal calves in less restrictive conditions. It’s mainly about chickens though as CA has LOTS of chicken farmers and almost no pig or veal producers. Prop. 2 requires that chickens be able to fully extend their wings without touching the sides of a cage:

That doesn’t mean that California chickens will live like the chickens in the final scene of a Proposition 2 commercial, in which a handful of them peck and strut in the grass of an idyllic farm. “Free-range” chickens have access to outdoors — though that may be only a slab of concrete — while cage-free hens live in henhouses and usually never go outside. And depending on the producer, the henhouse may be a comparatively roomy, modern system with plenty of space and sunlight. Or not. The worst-run operations are dirty, dark barns crammed with thousands of chickens that never see daylight.

The article also looks at the toning down of the shock campaigns of previous animal rights efforts in order to appeal to a larger demographic. And specifically, under Wayne Pacelle’s leadership, how HSUS has shifted much of its focus away from pets and baby seals toward farm animals:

That more-palatable mainstream message, coupled with the Humane Society’s political power, is what the animal rights movement in America has needed for a long time, argues [Peter] Singer, the Princeton bioethicist.

This is a well written and thought provoking article. Read it here.

Am I Losing the Kibble Lottery?

UPDATE:  After posting this, I contacted Blue about the problem, explained that although I didn’t have the bag because I had emptied the food into a bin and thrown the bag away, I did have photos and plenty of food to send them if they were interested.  I received a response asking for the codes off the bag.  I reiterated the above and haven’t heard anything further.  Except today they sent me an announcement about a pet photo contest.  Tuh.

ORIGINAL POST:

I have not been a regular kibble buyer in recent years since I feed a homemade diet – either wholly or partially. So it makes me feel particularly unlucky to have bought two different brands of food recently that contain what appears to be grain chaff sticking out the kibble. Last month, it was California Natural Herring and Sweet Potato. I returned a sample of the food to the vendor and that sample was determined by Natura (manufacturer of California Natural) to contain barley chaff.

This month, it’s Blue Puppy Food – Chicken and Rice. I have not yet contacted the manufacturer about the bits sticking out the kibble but they do look similar to the grain chaff I observed in the California Natural.

What bothers me is this: when a grain ingredient is listed on a dog food label, such as barley or oats, the image that comes to my mind is the part of the grain that a human would eat for breakfast – not the entire grain, including the chaff. If (at least some) pet food companies are using the entire grain (stems, stalks, what-have-you), they should make that clear to consumers. For one thing, the advertising leads us to believe the ingredients are real food, like what we might prepare ourselves at home. For another, some parts of the grain are going to be indigestible – just filler basically – and I’d like to know if I’m paying for filler. And lastly, the chaff clearly does not grind down into dust which is why I find the bits sticking out the kibble. When I imagine these pokey bits moving through the intestines of my 10 pound Chihuahua mix – eek.

So am I just unlucky or is having chaff sticking out the kibble the current trend?

Kennel Club Unveils Worst Idea Ever

The Kennel Club has taken a lot of flack in the UK due to a backwards system of rewarding show dogs who conform to breed standards based on looks rather than health, temperament and functionality as a pet (whether that be as a lap dog, sheepdog, hunting companion, etc.). Yup, the state of purebred dogs is quite a mess thanks to the Kennel Club (and other similar organizations including the American Kennel Club). So what should be done? The Kennel Club has come up with a solution. How does this idea grab you?: Take the group responsible for the mess and give them legal authority to shut down dog breeders if they find you don’t comply with their rules. Sounds like a reallyterribleawful idea? Well to be fair, the Kennel Club does say that first, it’s going to review its rules. Then they want the power grab. Yeah, it still sounds dreadful to me too. And a dangerous precedent setting case if it goes into effect. Other kennel clubs may try to follow suit. Additional restricting laws may be enacted in future using the Kennel Club’s legal powers as precedent.

For breeders of dogs not recognized by the Kennel Club, breeders of mixed breed dogs, breeders who rely on experience, personal judgment and veterinary consultation to determine their breeding decisions – this would be the end of your breeding programs. For pet owners who want any of the previously mentioned dogs, you’d be out of luck. And for anyone who values personal freedoms at home – so sorry.

We all want healthy, happy dogs. Starting from there, we need to address the real issues – the problems brought about by closed stud books, popular sire syndrome and dog shows just to name a few. We do not need more restrictions and definitely not more restrictions imposed by the people who dragged us into this hole. You know the saying, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” To which I would add: Do not hand out shovels to the Kennel Club!

A better idea: The Norwegian Kennel Club has a plan which advocates “recommendations, education and cooperation with the breeders and breed clubs. It is our true belief that this is far more beneficial to the dogs’ health and welfare than heavy restrictions. The goal in modern dog breeding is that all dogs shall be functionally healthy, with a construction and a mentality typical to the breed, and will live a long, healthy and happy life.” Well that sounds pretty good akshually. Read more here.

How Much Melamine is Too Much?

The Washington Post reports that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided that melamine is ok in foods in very small amounts:

American consumers first learned of the dangers of melamine when it was found last year in pet food ingredients made in China. The Chinese suppliers of the bulk ingredients had been adding the melamine, officials determined, to boost the apparent protein levels in product testing.

At that time of course, the FDA said that melamine did not belong in foods and any food found to contain melamine was considered adulterated. Now:

The FDA set 2.5 parts per million as the maximum “tolerable” amount of melamine that could be safely consumed in other foods [besides baby formula, which is the exception to the new FDA rule]. [bracketed addition=mine]

Hmm, call me unconvinced as to the safety of daily melamine consumption – in any amount. Some consumers in Thailand seem equally suspicious and question their FDA’s handling of the melamine situation:

Public Health Minister Chalerm Yubamrung did little to convince consumers otherwise when, seeking to downplay the milk scandal last Wednesday, he spoke more on the health of trade relations, than of, well, health.

[…]

Minister Chalerm’s position was echoed by FDA deputy secretarty-general Narangsan Peerakit, who then evaded further questions from reporters, saying that “the minister’s policy is that news reports should not have a negative impact on Chinese products”.

That has a familiar ring to it! Those FDAs must share the same playbook.

A newspaper in Taiwan noted that the new US FDA rule on melamine allows significantly higher amounts of the toxin than last year’s ruling which came after it was discovered that some feed animals had been fed melamine tainted pet food:

In the case of the US, the FDA said on Friday on its Web site that “in food products other than infant formula, the FDA concludes that levels of melamine and melamine-related compounds below 2.5 parts per million do not raise concerns.”

But Hsieh Yen-yao, vice superintendent of the Koo Foundation Sun Yet-Sen Cancer Center, said the US FDA had set a level of 0.05ppm for pork, chicken, fish and eggs.

That restriction is stated in the FDA’s risk assessment from last May.

Again, hmm. Perhaps the FDA document being referred to is this one but in any case, there appears to be some disagreement over “safe levels” of melamine in foods. Fluid risk assessment to fit current circumstances? I don’t know but I tend to agree with Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D – CT), chair of the FDA Appropriations Subcommittee:

While other countries throughout the world, including the European Union, are acting to ban melamine-contaminated products from China, the FDA has chosen to establish an acceptable level for melamine in food in an attempt to convince consumers that it is not harmful. Not only is this is an insult to consumers, but it would appear that the FDA is condoning the intentional contamination of foods.

I hope Rep. DeLauro and her subcommittee fund the FDA to advance food safety inspections, especially on imports which have proven to be very risky. Domestically, the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank is currently shutting down due to lack of funding. The program tested meat, eggs and dairy products for environmental contaminants, pesticides and drugs.

Don’t Forget the Calcium, Mom

For a healthy adult dog being fed a home prepared cooked diet, it is important to understand the ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus and to create a proper balance. Opinions vary on what the ideal ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus should be in the canine diet. This veterinary article recommends a Calcium:Phosphorus of 1.2:1 while this one recommends 2:1. The first article also recommends against feeding a home prepared diet. It is from a website which sells its own brand of processed food. The second article is by Dr. Pitcairn whose pioneering book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, recommends feeding pets a balanced homemade diet. If you search the web, you will likely find other recommendations on the proper ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus with one thing in common – the amount of Calcium in the diet should be at least slightly higher than the amount of Phosphorus.

If you want to be all scientific-y about the Calcium:Phosphorus in the foods you feed your dog, you can research the Calcium and Phosphorus content of specific foods at the following pages:

Calcium supplementation to the home cooked canine diet is an important consideration when diet alone does not provide the proper Calcium:Phosphorus – which is usually the case. If we look at a sample dinner of 1 cup of cooked broccoli, 1 cup of cooked long grain white rice, and 1 cooked chicken thigh (bones removed), we get a Calcium to Phosphorus ratio of approximately 1:3.2 which is not at all balanced for dogs. (Remember, we are aiming for more Calcium than Phosphorus.) Meat is high in Phosphorus and low in Calcium and so an all meat diet is not balanced for dogs either.

At the other end of the spectrum, excess Calcium in the diet may be dangerous for some dogs. Large breed puppies for example are at increased risk for skeletal abnormalities when fed diets high in Calcium. And pregnant bitches who consume too much Calcium may experience eclampsia – a life threatening veterinary emergency. But for a normal adult dog, excess Calcium is probably not a concern.

So, in short, if you’re cooking for your dog, you probably need to add a Calcium supplement. (Geez, couldn’t I have just said that to begin with?)

By the numbers:

Minimum Daily Requirements for Calcium (Canine)
per National Research Council (NRC) 1985 Guidelines:

(Note: The 2006 NRC guidelines don’t have these same numbers by dog’s body weight and are calculated differently. I’m just using the 1985 numbers as a reference.)

Growth: 320 mg/kg body weight
Adult: 119 mg/kg body weight

You can do your own math for your dog’s weight using this customizable table for converting pounds to kg but here are a few samples:

20# dog needs 1079mg Ca per day (roughly half tsp eggshell powder per day)
50# dog needs 2699mg Ca per day (roughly 1 heaping tsp eggshell powder per day)
60# dog needs 3213mg Ca per day (roughly 1 and 1/2 heaping tsp eggshell powder per day)
70# dog needs 3778mg Ca per day (roughly 2 tsp eggshell powder per day)

***

Personal note: Sorry to have been absent recently but I’ve been down with a cold and so my online time has been limited. I need more MEs!

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