|January 18, 2016|
By Tracey Hatch-Rizzi, LAc, MAcOM, Co-Founder
I’m going to be truly honest: I have never been excited about high pressure processing or using this process on our poultry or any of our meats. But, the FDA has always had a problem with raw pet food and they claim how unsafe it is due to potential bacterial contamination. They even launched a campaign this last summer where they are continuing to test hundreds (thousands?) of raw pet food samples for pathogens, which has resulted in a number of recalls.
But the reason why we started using HPP isn’t because we’re scared of a recall. Seriously, it must be terrible to have one and I feel very fortunate and grateful that at the time of this writing, after almost eleven years on the market, we have never had to venture into that storm. I feel for every company that has been forced to recall their products – I never want to see that happen to anyone in the industry. When one raw company has a recall, it hurts us all.
I believe, like so many others, that cats and dogs are able to handle even moderate bacterial loads without harm. The FDA is concerned about humans handling potentially “contaminated” food and having it sitting on dishes for their pets to eat. Truthfully, there should be more concern about a cat that has just left the litter box, jumping on the counter or sauntering across your pillow.
There is a terrible double standard when it comes to raw poultry and meat and the FDA. Many people don’t realize that it is acceptable for pathogens to be present in meat and poultry intended for human consumption. Yep, it’s fine for that lovely chicken breast you take home to eat to have salmonella or E.coli. In fact, those parts are not even treated for pathogens at the poultry slaughterhouse. Nor are they tested. Whole birds are and maybe chopped fryers, but the boneless, skinless parts we love so much are not even monitored. But, if we use those parts in a wholesome, natural pet food, we – the manufacturer – are held accountable for pathogens in the food. If they’re found in our products, no matter how some of us have fought, we recall and our reputations suffer for ingredients that may come to us, the manufacturer, already tainted. Sure, we test, and rinse and do everything we can to make the cleanest products possible – all of us. But sometimes, bacteria slip by all of the processes we have in place. Every single chicken thigh can’t be tested. We can test the raw materials when they arrive at our plants, but when you have a truckload delivered, how anyone can be sure? Even if the poultry is organic, free-range and the best quality one can find, all it takes is one person at the slaughterhouse to make a mistake and contaminate the entire line (yes, contamination comes from improper evisceration). But mistakes happen, because no one is perfect. For human food, this contamination doesn’t matter. For raw pet food, that’s a very big deal and it’s my job, as the manufacturer, to make sure my products are safe.
But, for now, the FDA is targeting raw food manufacturers - even those that use HPP. It is the goal of several of us that have adopted this process to petition the FDA to recognize HPP as an official kill-step for pathogens, like it is for other ready-to-eat foods.
Many folks don’t realize how much of what we purchase has potentially been HPP’d: fruits, vegetables, guacamole, salsa, smoked salmon, packaged lettuce, jam, hummus. . . I could go on and on. It’s used not only to kill bacteria, like its use for juice (“cold pasteurized”), but to extend the shelf-life of many products.
We have always had processes in place to make sure our products are safe and free from pathogens. For almost eleven years, we have sold a raw cat food that has saved many cats’ lives and we are very proud of it. Even though we now use HPP on our poultry thighs and organs, cats still absolutely love our food and it will continue to save cats’ lives.
The changes to the poultry are truly minimal. There is a change in color – it’s a little lighter, and the grind is slightly smaller. For some reason, which I can’t explain, the flavour is enhanced! I have four cats and two aren’t poultry eaters. As soon as I dished up the HPP’d chicken, they all inhaled it – the plates were licked clean. We did a test with about 24 cats and the HPP’d chicken and every single kitty absolutely loved it. Some of our customers’ “test kitties” loved it so much, their pet parents wanted to purchase the rest of our HPP’d product over the non-HPP’d.
My hope in writing this post is to instill a greater understanding of why we decided to use this process on our poultry ingredients. Our products still contain organic and free-range ingredients and are the exact same quality they have always been.
We have enhanced our website with many new pages which includes information on our Safety and Quality, about the HPP process itself, and more detailed feeding guidelines. Please visit our site and use the contact us page with any questions, comments or feedback.
Thank you for reading this, for your support of our little cat food company and for feeding your felines like the carnivores they are.