Burton's BlogRachael Ray’s pet food has hit the news. The media (not surprisingly) seized the wrong talking point. They said the reason for a class action suit against the brand is that Nutrish claimed that it was all-natural. It was also stated that the manufacturer used Roundup herbicide. I don’t believe that. The class action suit brought against Rachael Ray’s Nutrish confirms what we already know about manufacturers and their “all natural” claims.

There were some herbicide residues on the grains used in Nutrish. That is true of most grains going into all manufactured foods. I have long told people that there is no such thing as a truly all-natural kibble. Some kibble manufacturers just exaggerate their wholesomeness more than others. In the case of Rachel Ray’s Nutrish, some of their foods contain soybean meal. This is the real problem. I would not feed soybeans to dogs for a couple of reasons.

Soybean production relies on Roundup to clean the fields of weeds. Because soybeans are a low-lying crop, weeds easily overtake the fields. RoundUp has been used for decades. The chemical found in food grown with Roundup is glyphosate, which also happens to be the chemical popping up in analysis of Nutrish kibble. Any foods using Round are bound to show traces of the chemical.

As far as I know, we’re still not aware of the possible health hazards caused by residues of this herbicide. I believe the class action suit will find it hard to declare and prove damages, but in my mind that is not the issue. I don’t trust contaminants, which is why I wouldn’t feed an animal a food containing soybean meal as a protein replacement. Being wary of the potential hazards of contaminants and awarding specific damages in a lawsuit is an entirely different matter. We need to make it clear to manufacturers that we won’t tolerate the contaminants. The only language big manufacturers speak is money. It is time that people became familiar with misrepresentation in the foods they buy. You’ve got to question everything on the package. Speaking of which, I wonder if tofu has been examined for herbicide residues.

I do not take “residues” seriously (in terms of legal ramifications) until we have evidence of medical issues resulting from the contamination, but I don’t want them in my food or my pet’s food either. The conundrum is that herbicides are used to grow food more economically. The price of food will reflect whether they’re actually using more organic methods for growing. It’s up to us to determine how we respond. Do we pay a little more per pound for the assurance that we’re not giving our pets traces of herbicide in their daily dish? Buying cheap food grown without herbicides or pesticides involves risk and reward. The reward is a few dollars in our pockets. The risk is the potential ramifications in terms of the long-term health of our pet.

I wouldn’t feed pets Rachael Ray’s Nutrish for a couple of reasons. First, Nutrish is a grain-based food, and I do not believe in feeding a grain-based food to a carnivore. Second, I won’t feed anything made with soybeans. We’ve known for years that soybean meal is a poor protein replacement. Carnivores do not digest soybean very well. Plus, as we’ve learned from this individual case, soybeans are likely to retain traces of the herbicides use to control the inevitable weed growth in soybean fields.

It is inevitable that some herbicides or their metabolites will be present in our food. We’ve known it for decades. It is the reason organic foods have become more popular. Whether we take these herbicide and pesticide metabolites seriously depends on their effect on us. How will we know for sure? How can we gauge their long-term effects?

I don’t want them in my food or my pet’s food, but many people have fallen victim to the claims by some manufacturers that their food is “all natural.” Some foods claim “real chicken.” None of this means anything. Food labeling will never catch up with what we know about food because the manufacturers won’t let it happen. They need to keep people in the dark, keeping them buying food and thereby keeping their margins up so that they can continue to create new and innovative ways to lie to the public. Research into long-term food safety doesn’t pay. The best-case scenario is that they prove what we already know – that good food doesn’t come in a cheap bag. Let’s consider the biggest lie of all. If a food is processed, there is literally no such thing as “all natural.” Do you believe that dogs of yore wandered the fields and prairies in search of the elusive wild kibble?

Consider soybeans since they’re on my mind. In order to be put into a kibble as soybean meal, almost all of it is solvent-extracted to remove the oils. That is as far from “all natural” as you can get. Let’s look at the big soybean picture: Treat fields with Roundup, plant soybeans, harvest soybeans, process soybeans with solvent extraction. Anything left becomes the mean in our pets’ food, herbicides and all. As Rachael Ray would say, doesn’t that sound absolutely delish?

I believe Ainsworth (now General Mills) has done what all major brands do to sell their product. They blatantly misrepresent the quality of their food, and sometimes I think I’m the only one that thinks this needs to stop. Regarding the specific danger of Nutrish? I can’t begin to guess. We just don’t know what kind of damage this contamination could cause our pets. This is really an exercise for researchers. Even then we still need to question whether they’ve done a study to reflect the long-term exposure of ingesting trace amounts of herbicide day after day, year after year.

For now I’d recommend Ainsworth stop using ingredients grown using RoundUp. This would result in a price increase for the consumer or a lower margin for the manufacturer. The shareholders won’t like that, and you’re smart enough to know what’s probably going to happen in that case.

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