I really think “natural flavor” (or “natural chicken flavor”, “natural beef flavor”, etc.) should be listed in red as a controversial ingredient. I know I won’t buy food for myself that has “natural flavors” in the list because MSG is a natural flavor (it is a salt, not a pertro-chemical, so it is not “artificial”–but it is still an excito-toxin/nervous system agitator.)
“For an idea of what a natural flavor is, the FDA website says:
With respect to flavors, pet foods often contain “digests,” which are materials treated with heat, enzymes and/or acids to form concentrated natural flavors. Only a small amount of a “chicken digest” is needed to produce a “Chicken Flavored Cat Food,” even though no actual chicken is added to the food. Stocks or broths are also occasionally added. Whey is often used to add a milk flavor. Often labels will bear a claim of “no artificial flavors.” Actually, artificial flavors are rarely used in pet foods.
According to current labeling rules, dog food companies are allowed to consider these natural flavors proprietary, and are not required to disclose exactly what is used to make the flavoring nor how it is actually made (i.e., via a chemical process).”
Merrick recently changed the ingredient list for “Merrick Classic Real Chicken + Green Peas Recipe with Ancient Grains Adult Dry Dog Food” to read “natural flavor” instead of “natural chicken flavor”, so I called to ask why/what was in their “natural flavor”.
They said it was just flavor “derived from chicken or beef livers, or whatever the main meat ingredient of the particular food is.”
“Well, it comes from the livers.”
How? <I was put on hold>
“Well, it’s just boiled down livers.”
So why don’t you just say ‘chicken or beef or whatever concentrate’?
<put on hold>
“Well, it’s derived from the livers. Like when you make a gravy.”
So, it’s just ‘boiled’ livers?
So why don’t you just say ‘liver concentrate’?
“Well, it’s like when you make gravy.”
When I make gravy I add seasonings for more flavor. MSG is considered a ‘natural flavor’ — do you add MSG?
“It’s derived from the livers.”
And it’s derived only by boiling?
“Well, it’s from the livers.”
And it is only liver–that’s the only ingredient?
“Well it’s the liver of whatever the main meat is.”
I told Merrick customer service that I wanted to voice my disbelief that “natural flavor” was a simple concentrate, and that I believe it is a smoke-screen for additives and chemical processes they would not want to list separately because people would know how unhealthful it is.
“OK, I’ll pass that along. Have a nice day.”
I do think that Merrick can be a tricky brand because some of their formulas are great and some I wouldn’t feed. I do like the Classic Chicken, Peas with Ancient Grains formula though.
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