Best Dog Food – The By Product Debate

When one of my dogs started to have health problems at the age of six, I got pretty serious about dog health issues. I don’t watch TV much anymore, if I have any free time I’m usually doing research to try and improve and extend the lives of my dogs.

Those of you that know me also know that I believe the number one cause of health issues with dogs is commercial dog food. That is why I have been on a mission to spread the word about the best dog food, and I am a big believer in homemade dog food.

The truth is most people, even if they do switch to a homemade diet, will need to supplement with some brand of commercial food. That is why I spend so much time on the best dog food subject.

During my research I come across many debates on different ingredients, and one such ingredient is meat by-products. This could be listed as chicken, poultry, beef or just about any type of meat followed with the word by-product.

So what is it and is it good for your dog? If you do research on the subject you will find two groups, one defends by-products as good, and the other saying it is toxic for your pet.

The truth is, it depends… let’s take a look at the definition of Poultry by-products.

“Poultry by-products consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of slaughtered poultry carcass, including necks, beak, feet undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, “except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices”

The problem is you don’t know what is in a by-product ingredient at any give time. There is no standard that says there are so many feet and so many intestines or any consistency of nutritional value what so ever. The truth is none of this stuff is fit for human consumption.

Some will argue that a dog in the wild will eat everything included in a by-product ingredient and that is what makes it okay to feed it to your dog. That might be true enough but, that is like saying a homeless person eats out of dumpsters and garbage cans, so so should we. People and dogs do what they need to do to survive but, does that make it the best things for either of us to eat garbage?

I want to feed my dogs the best dog food, and therefore I’ll be leaving the by-products where they belong and that’s in the dumpster and out of my dogs bowl.

Growing Global Population Can Be Fed But Only With Radical Reforms of Food Production

As the global economy struggles to recover from the financial crisis of 2008 it is becoming increasingly evident that something radical has to change if food scarcity and skyrocketing prices are to be prevented.

It is suggested in a number of recently-published studies that leaving food production and distribution in the hands of a small number of global agribusinesses in the private sector and at the mercy of commodity price speculation helps no-one from the small farmer right through to the consumer.

According to Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, there has been chronic underinvestment in agriculture for the last 20 years alongside trade liberalisation, which together have resulted in low productivity and a reliance on cheap food imports in the developing world.

The result has been local farmers struggling to get a decent price for their produce in the face of competition from often subsidised cheap imports. Local farming declines, more people leave the land adding to urban populations and governments try to maintain political stability by keeping food cheap.

It is a vicious circle that leaves developing countries at the mercy of global commodity price speculation – and leaves huge numbers of people either starving or malnourished. Where profit rules, people, especially those on low incomes suffer.

Paul Polman, boss of Unilever recently gave a speech in the UK in which he argued that the focus on subsidising producers of biofuels may have been well-meaning in the context of finding alternatives to the carbon-based technology that is contributing to climate change. But he called the policy misguided in diverting land and food crops from use for food to use for biofuels.

The Foresight Report (UK) and the Agrimonde Study (France), both recently published scientific studies, suggest that it is possible to feed the 9.2 billion people expected to be the world population in 2050, but both say only if there is a revolution in food production and distribution, alongside increasing yields sustainably and reducing waste.

That might mean encouraging changes in diet in the developed world, away from the production of high-energy foods such as meat, which requires more land and diverts grains from people to animal fodder. It also means eating and throwing away less food.

It may also mean governments intervening to create larger reserve food stocks to try to cushion people from the effects of commodity price speculation on prices

The Foresight Report, particularly, says that the current system must be radically and urgently redesigned and calls for governments to put food much higher up their political agendas, co-ordinated with action on climate change, water and energy supplies.

The authors of the report contend that new research and innovative technology, including GM technology, should not be ruled out and that GM technology should be moved from the private sector to public funding to take it out of the “stranglehold” of large agribusiness companies.

Biopesticides Developers have long argued that getting their innovations, like biopesticides, biofungicides and low-chemical yield enhancers, through the testing and licensing regimes in various parts of the world can take years and involve huge costs.

Arguably this pushes these small, innovative organisations into the arms of agribusiness, which has the resources to cover the development and licensing costs. However, that could mean the end products are also beyond affordable reach for the small, developing world farmers who could most benefit from them as well as the training they would need to use them properly.

Copyright (c) 2011 Alison Withers

The Benefits of Agroecology for Increasing Food Production

In a new report the UN’s special reporter on the right to food says that agriculture is at a crossroads and suggests that the way forward to increase yields depends not on industrial-scale farming but on sound ecological farming.

Olivier de Schutter says that food production and farming are in need of a revolution on the scale of the 19th Century Industrial Revolution if food production is to be increased and food prices are to be kept under contro.

But increasing food production to meet future need will not be enough without also making progress in improving the income levels for the poorest, particularly small-scale farmers, as well as making progress on reducing malnutrition.

Studies of eco-farming projects in more than 57 countries have demonstrated that average crop yields in poor countries can be increased by 80% by using natural methods for improving soil conditions and protecting against pests, his report says.

Agroecology combines the sciences of agronomy and ecology using a wide variety of techniques, many of which are based on knowledge of local conditions including the predators and indigenous plants that can keep pests and diseases under control.

It is, says de Schutter, a coherent concept for designing future farming systems, strongly rooted both in science and in practice, and has been shown to work well in projects in 20 African countries, where sustainable intensification has been developed during the 2000s.

Projects included crop improvements, integrated pest management, soil conservation and agro-forestry, and average crops yields doubled over a three to ten-year period. The systems used were more sustainable also, because they were not reliant on fossil energy (oil and gas).

His report argues that eco-agriculture is “knowledge intensive” and requires states to devote far more investment and resources that they currently do. It means bringing together the best of what scientists can offer and the valuable experience of smallholder farmers.

De Schutter’s report also makes clear that although agroecology methods are needed throughout food production to farm more sustainably the transition will be harder to make in the developed world which he argues is addicted to an industrial, oil-based model of farming.

Although the report focuses on the benefits to the world’s poorer communities some of the arguments are also applicable to farming methods in the developed world.

The UK’s Food and Drink Federation has just released figures showing that exports of food and drink had reached £10 billion in 2010. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to the economy and this arguably increases the importance of UK farming’s also increasing yields in a way that is sustainable given that there is a limited amount of land available on a small island.

There is an opportunity here for the efforts of the biopesticides research companies to develop a new range of low-chemical agricultural products (biopesticides, biofungicides and yield enhancers) to play a part in removing the dependence on the oil-based faming model in the UK as well as other parts of the developed world.

The science of biopesticides development depends on developing effective plant protection products derived from natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain target specific pests and diseases. They are effective in very small quantities and often decompose quickly so that they leave little or no residue in food or in the soil and water of the ecosystem where they are used.

Perhaps it is time for more state investment in this increasingly important sector of the UK economy to help farmers gain greater access to these new products and the information about how to use them to help them take advantage of this opportunity for economic growth.

Copyright (c) 2011 Alison Withers

Packaging Food Products for More Than Just Shelf Appeal

Packages and packaging machinery serve different purposes for different industries. With the institution of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), packagers for food products must now pay more attention to the package they use as well as how the product gets into that package. For any new food product, each packager must consider at least three general areas when choosing packaging and machinery.

1. Appeal

No matter how sustainable the package and packaging process, a food product that remains on the shelf for an extended period of time will go to waste. Packagers of food, like packagers of any product, must consider shelf appeal. The package and label for any food product can be thought of as an introduction to the consumer. In the most general sense, the goal of any packager is to catch the attention of new consumers and get those consumers to try the product. Once in the store, the package and the label provide the best opportunity to accomplish these goals. Uniquely shaped containers, informational labels or interactive packaging all provide a means to spark the interest of potential new users. The appeal of the product and package, however, must be balanced with other factors.

2. Protection

Obviously, food products have a limited shelf life. But the right package and the right packaging machinery can help extend shelf life and fight against the breakdown of the product itself. For example, different packaging materials might help stave off heat or cold and the effect that the temperature differences can have on a food product. In fact, new packages are in the works that could actually control the temperature of the product while on the shelf, resulting in an extended useful life. Others continue to work on smart packaging, such as a container that will modify the expiration date on food products based on the environment in which the food is kept. Packaging machinery can help to protect the product by extending shelf life as well. Food packagers may often use a nitrogen purge system between a filling machine and a capping or sealing machine. Oxygen inside a food container assists in the breakdown of the product, which in the most general terms is the cause of a limited shelf life. Nitrogen purge systems will replace oxygen inside a container with nitrogen before the container is sealed. This replacement process extends the shelf life of the product because nitrogen will not have the same negative effects on the food as would oxygen. As an odorless, flavorless gas, nitrogen also preserves the taste, color and texture of many products as well.

3. Safety

Closely related to the protection of the product – actually the reason for the protection of the product – is the safety of the consumer. The FSMA referred to above contained major reforms to food safety laws, stemming from statistics showing that literally millions of people in the United States get sick from diseases stemming from food. By choosing packaging that won’t leach chemicals or speed the deterioration of the food, packagers are protecting both the product and the consumer. Of course, packages can also be hazardous to the consumers in other ways as well. Those producing food products need to think about how easy the package is to open, the stability of the container, the possibility of a broken package causing physical injury and other possible safety concerns. Bottom line, the safety of the consumer lends to the safety and reputation of the business.

Each food packager will have other items to consider when choosing a package and packaging machinery based on the individual project at hand. The convenience of the package for the consumer, the sizes of the containers to be used and the cost of the containers, lids, labels and packaging machines. However, the analysis should not stop until the choices made satisfy each of the factors set out above as well. Putting effort into the selection of the package and the equipment before ever producing a single finished product can save time, money and the business itself in the long run.