It's time to address the "eeew!" factor that I often hear about - and that I am very sympathetic to.
Vegetarianism as a nutritional choice for humans is magnificent. Cats have no choice. We bring obligate carnivores into our lives and feeding them other animals is a necessity and a responsibility. A cat cannot survive long without eating other animals. The protein in a vegetable does not supply what a cat needs to live. There is plenty of room for debate on how to best feed a cat. But there is no debating that cats are obligate carnivores. Cats rely on nutrients in animal tissues to meet their specific nutritional requirements.
Plant tissue doesn't cut it. Period. It never has. It never will. It never CAN for carnivores.
I understand that it can be difficult to handle raw meat. Believe me, the first time I got an order of whole rabbits delivered to my door for making cat food I nearly wept and it was everything I had to get through chopping and grinding. But it got easier because I kept in mind that my carnivore friends would have the best shot at longer, healthier lives if I did it.
And when I focused on what goes into the manufacturing of many commercially-prepared cans or bags of cat food, I realized that the raw material that went into them was infinitely more gross. Slaughterhouse waste, meat unfit for human consumption, toxic chemicals, questionable preservatives, animal entrails fermented into sprayable liquid mixtures with acid, and on and on. It didn't take long to face the fact that what I was assembling in my kitchen for my carnivores was certainly less offensive than almost anything I could scoop out of a bag or a can.
As Ann Martin discovered when she conducted her long, detailed, and thorough investigation into the pet food industry, "companion animals from clinics, pounds, and shelters can and are being rendered and used as sources of protein in pet food. Dead-stock removal operations play a major role in the pet food industry. Dead animals, road kill that cannot be buried at roadside, and in some cases, zoo animals, are picked up by these dead stock operations. When an animal dies in the field or is killed due to illness or disability, the dead stock operators pick them up and truck them to the receiving plant. There the dead animal is salvaged for meat or, depending on the state of decomposition, delivered to a rendering plant. At the receiving plants, the animals of value are skinned and viscera removed. Hides of cattle and calves are sold for tanning. The usable meat is removed from the carcass, and covered in charcoal to prevent it from being used for human consumption. Then the meat is frozen, and sold as animal food, which includes pet food."
So to my mind, whenever I can source my meats from small family farms with plenty of pasture space, fresh air and sunshine for animals to roam, a policy of feeding animals that are not caged or fed lousy food, and that is committed to humane slaughtering practices--it feels infinitely more bearable to ponder than what's in most bags and cans of cat food.
Remember, most of the commercial pet food industry is an extension of the food waste industry: it's the way they turn trash into profit. It may make good business sense, but it sure doesn't offer optimal nutrition for our carnivore friends.
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