The infamous 2013 horse meat scandal¹ in Europe inadvertently made a lasting impact in the pet food industry. Despite the amount of time that has passed since this incident, many people still feel suspicious or wary of horse meat being inside dog food. Rest assured, American pet food companies do not put horse meat in their products.
However, there’s still a small possibility of finding traces of horse meat in low-quality dog food. The best way to avoid feeding your dog horse meat is to check food labels and to purchase high-quality dog food from reputable brands.
History of Dog Food and Horse Meat
The taboo surrounding horse meat is heavily cultural. In some countries, eating horse meat isn’t viewed as an issue, and some cultures treat horse meat as a delicacy.
Up until the 1940s, many pet food companies in the US used horse meat as a main ingredient in pet food. However, people’s attitudes towards horses changed as they started to become viewed as pets. The era of westerns and cowboys¹ could have also reinforced the strength of the taboo of consuming horse meat in American culture.
In 2007, the last remaining horse slaughterhouses in the US were shut down2. Today, you won’t be able to buy horse meat legally in the US because the USDA doesn’t inspect it. It’s illegal to sell meat that hasn’t been inspected by the USDA
However, horses can still be exported to other countries. These horses can end up being used for consumption in these countries. Horse meat and by-products may then be included in meat meals or by-product meals used for animal feed. Therefore, some foreign pet food companies may have traces of horse meat in their dog food.
Preventing Your Dog from Eating Horse Meat
Many people don’t want to feed their dog horse meat for ethical reasons. The Humane Society argues that due to the horse’s nature, there’s no way to humanely slaughter3 them. If you want to prevent your dog from eating horse meat, here are some suggestions.
1. Buy from American Companies
If you want to avoid purchasing dog food containing horse meat, it’s best to shop from reputable American pet food companies that develop high-quality recipes with locally sourced ingredients. Pet food companies that have very transparent websites with information on traceable ingredients are a great place to start.
2. Check Ingredient Lists
Also, make sure to check ingredient lists for ambiguous ingredients. Some key items you want to watch out for are unspecified meat meals, by-products, animal digests, and natural flavors. If a recipe contains meat meals, make sure that it lists the specific animal, such as “beef meal” or “chicken meal.” This ensures that the meal only uses a single source of animal product and omits horse meat.
If the ingredient list just states “animal meal” or “animal by-product meal,” then there’s really no knowing what’s included in it. It’s best to avoid dog food with these ambiguous ingredients regardless of whether it contains horse meat or horse by-products.
Animal digests and natural flavors are other ambiguous names that low-quality dog food will contain. These ingredients typically come in grounded or powdered form and have concentrated flavors to help to enhance the taste of the food.
However, components that make up digests and natural flavors can be very unclear. If a pet food company uses natural flavors, make sure that you can locate information that clearly states what goes into them and how they’re made. Natural flavors also shouldn’t be too high up the ingredient list.
3. Purchase from Exclusive Manufacturers
An extra safety measure is purchasing from pet food brands that have exclusive kitchens and manufacturing facilities. When pet food brands don’t share their facilities with other companies, it significantly reduces the risk of cross-contamination and mixing unwanted ingredients.
While horse meat in dog food isn’t quite a myth, it’s not as widespread as people may think. It’s extremely rare to find traces of horse meat and by-products in dog food produced by American pet food companies.
To avoid any accidental consumption, shop from trusted pet food brands that source their ingredients from local farms that use ethical and humane practices. Also, read through ingredient lists and watch out for ambiguous ingredients. Doing these things will prevent you from worrying about discovering traces of horse meat in your dog’s food.