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  • #184848 Report Abuse

    What is “beefcheek”? In the cooking world, beefcheek is the masseter muscle, the main chewing muscle from the cheek of the cow. Beefcheek rolls for dogs are obviously not muscle, the rolls are white, muscle is red, so what are they made from? Beef cheek rolls may differ slightly from brand to brand, but generally speaking they are the full thickness hide and fat from the face and possibly the neck of the cow. They are untanned cattle skin, AKA rawhide.

    The fact that beefcheek is a type of rawhide seems to be information that the pet industry is trying to hide. One store owner told me the roll was muscle, the customer service dept. of the imported chew, in response to an e-mail inquiry, said the same. But the chew was labeled collagen, the protein in skin, When I asked customer service to explain the discrepancy, they stopped responding. At a different store, I was told beefcheek was the inside lining of a cow’s mouth, but when informed that this portion of the cow was relatively small, thin and frondlike, they said they really did not know what it was. Another said it was the “entire” cheek, but when asked if there was bone, muscle, fat and skin in the product, said they were unsure. One thing clerks from stores claiming not to sell rawhide, yet selling beefcheek, agreed upon was that there was no hide/skin in the chew. They would be wrong on that point. It appears they have been misinformed by marketing geared towards selling the product.

    So how can beefcheek rolls be marketed as “hide free” or “rawhide free”? I looked to my state feed control official for answers, this is how I understand it, The FDA regulates consumable chews, including rawhide, as food, but states usually do not regulate the labeling of chews. With no regulation of the label, and no AAFCO definition for the word “rawhide”, it appears manufacturers define words like “hide” or “rawhide” in such a way as to allow them to claim their product, made from hide, is not hide/rawhide. For example, “rawhide” is partial thickness skin and “beefcheek” is full thickness skin, therefore beefcheek is not rawhide.” This seems to be a common tactic in the pet industry and why other chews made from rawhide, like collagen chews or corium chews also claim to be hide/rawhide free. And while most beefcheek brands seem unwilling to disclose that the product is skin, some do. Lennox, for example, lists the ingredient in their beefcheek rolls as “beefcheek skin” HydeOut brand reports it is made of “skin above the neck”

    Knowing what happens at the slaughterhouse and tannery is the key to understanding beefcheek. The hide is removed at the slaughterhouse and sent to the tannery. At this point the hide has hair on it and a fat layer attached to the bottom of it. At the tannery, the hide is cut, leaving two flaps, one at each end of the shoulder area. These flaps are called the “cheeks” of the hide. Some tanneries trim the “cheeks” off the main hide before tanning. If these pieces are trimmed before hair removal, the beefcheek roll manufacturer may dehair with a different method than a tannery would use. If they are trimmed after dehairing, which I suspect is more common, beefcheeks may receive the same treatments as other rawhide chews. In either case it seems this is usually done before the fat layer is removed. Therefore, most beefcheeks are full thickness skin with attached fat. You can find an explanation of beefcheek sourcing in the comments section of this youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0A8PpBrdcQ Taking a look at so called Rawhide Alternatives – today:Cheek Rolls

    It has been claimed that beefcheek rawhide chews are more digestible than traditional rawhide chews This appears to be marketing based on wishful thinking for the purpose of making a sale. Rawhide digestion models in the lab have reported “digestibility” up to 99.5% for rawhide, but it can vary based on the digestion model used and the size of the pieces tested. After inquiries to multiple companies, I only found one that actually tested the digestibility of their product in dogs. That company said they would expect traditional rawhide to have the same digestibility as their product. I’d agree! And because beefcheek skin, like other skin-based chews will not fall apart when swallowed it would be expected to have the same risk of choking and obstruction as any other rawhide chew.

    Bottom Line: Beefcheek rolls are made of untanned cattle skin and are a form of rawhide with the same pros and cons of other rawhide chews. They are marketed as a rawhide free product, which in my opinion is a shameful misrepresentation by the pet industry. Pet parents deserve to know what it is they are offering their dog.

    #184882 Report Abuse

    Interesting, who knew? It’s too bad that companies will lie to the customer to make a sale when it could cause harm to our pups!

    I was at Walmart the other day looking for dog chews. I saw a bag of “Pork Chomps” that stated they were rawhide – free. When I looked at the ingredients, the first one was pigskin, then chicken and bacon flavoring. Does pig skin not fall under the definition of raw hide? Is pig skin safer for dogs?

    Thanks for your information on this subject. I know you are trying to help us all get to the truth concerning raw hide.

    I remember your posts about the the class action lawsuit against the Earth Animal no-hide company. Any word on that yet?

    #184891 Report Abuse

    Hi Crazy4cats,

    I think this again can relate to the fact that there is no legal definition for the word “rawhide” as it applies to pet food ingredients and chews. In a very broad sense, rawhide means untanned skin and pig skin would fall into that definition.

    Merriam Webster defines rawhide as untanned cattle skin, and while I’ve seen in common use the term rawhide applied to hides of elk, deer, bison and cattle, I have not seen it applied to describe pig skin.

    For me personally, I wouldn’t “ding” the manufacturer for the rawhide free claim especially because they disclose that the product is skin.

    Is pig skin “safer”? IMO no, because I think one of biggest concerns with skin-based chews is attempting to swallow a large piece leading to choking or swallowing a large piece and having it stuck in the esophagus. I do not see a difference between the two in that regard.

    Since it will be 2 years since the filing of the lawsuit. I plan on posting an update on what
    I know. and don’t know.

    #185720 Report Abuse
    Ana W

    Hi! thank you for explain what is beefcheek

    #185724 Report Abuse

    You’re welcome! I was in a shop recently and they had a new form of beefcheek; very large
    sheets. One size was about 8 inches square and the other was about 21×14 inches. I think I gasped a bit and the clerk asked what was wrong. I said nothing wrong but look how cool these are! They have eyelids! You could easily make out the lash follicles and wrinkles around the eye. The piece looked like a cow looking at me. The clerk said that isn’t an eyelid, those are muscle. I informed her that the manufacturer of the brand confirmed with me that they are full thickness skin from the head of a cow. The troubling thing is that I had previously passed that information on to the owner and also manager of the shop after learning they were telling potential customers that the chew was made of muscle. It seems that management is choosing to continue with the deception. One piece was so cool i bought it and I plan on framing and hanging it in my home.

    #190005 Report Abuse
    Madelyn T

    Beef cheek turns white after cleaning, though. Granted, looking into the cleaning process to make sure no dangerous chemicals were used to clean the product is something I recommend with every chew before buying.

    It is important to look for transparency when buying any kind of chew from any company. Redbarn, for example, is a company that provides Beef Cheek Rolls without bleaching, and their product specifically lists “Beef Cheek” as the first ingredient. It is also important to make sure that there is no “hide” listed in the ingredient list.

    Secondly, the AAFCO is very strict about what is allowed to be labeled as “natural.” If a pet company has an all-natural product and wishes to display “ALL NATURAL” on their label, then, by AAFCO standards every single ingredient must be natural.

    There are definitely bad companies out there who take advantage of the super small details that allow them to deceive consumers, but writing off an entire chew as bad because of unethical companies is also not the solution to that problem.

    Making sure that the chews do not have any indigestible ingredients is an important step in the process of finding a reputable product from a reputable company. Second, looking into their process. How do they clean their products? Do they use any bleaches or harsh chemicals to clean or dye their products? How processed are their products? Is it like Rawhide, where leather makers wanted to make money off of product they would otherwise have to throw away? Is the main purpose of that company to create safe and healthy dog chews, is it a secondary goal, or a front to make more money? A huge part of the reason Rawhide is so bad for our dogs is because the skin is turned into something that our dogs’ digestive system isn’t capable of recognizing and digesting due to the intense processing it undergoes to become leather. Rawhide is treated with the same process our leather is up until tanning, so all of the chemicals that go into leather go into rawhide as well. Skin can absolutely be dangerous for dogs, but it usually has less to do with the actual skin and more to do with how the skin was processed before getting into a dog’s digestive system. At the end of the day, I have yet to encounter a chew that doesn’t pose a choking hazard. Evaluating the dog and making sure that they are healthy chewers is incredibly important, as well as constant supervision.

    Another important understanding to have about rawhide specifically is that it shrinks to about half its size when it is dried. So, if your dog takes evem small chunks off of a rawhide chew, it will double in size while it is in your pet’s stomach. While this kind of concept is similar to a lot of different chews made for dogs, the biggest issue is the lack of digestibility. When you pair a chew that doubles in size when it sits in your dogs stomach with the lack of ability to digest said chew, you are leaving your dog with a blockage. While Beefcheek Rolls will expand in your dogs stomach, if bought from the right comapny with completely digestible ingredients and no harsh chemicals, your dog will be able to break it down before it starts to move towards the back end of your dog.

    While our research into products and companies shouldn’t have to be as indepth as it is, we live in an industrial economy that does not value our lives or health, and that unfortunately applies to our pets and children as well. Using the resources we have to find the companies who care enough to do it right is very important, and unfortunately that also includes using the research to avoid companies who take advantage of the unawareness of pet parents simply trying to enrich their dogs. That being said, while due diligence is absolutely necessary, faulting pet owners for being in dark is not something I will ever support. Holding these companies liable and supporting our fellow pet owners should always be on the top of the priority list. We are stronger together than we are divided, and where we, as a community, put our dollar can be a very powerful and heavy weapon.

    #190018 Report Abuse

    Hi Madelyn,

    I agree beefcheek is white after cleaning just as it is before it is cleaned. If you do not want to offer hide as a chew, then do not chose a chew that lists beefcheek as an ingredient since beefcheek is hide.

    AAFCO does not address the labeling of dog chews. Manufacturers can make whatever claims they want, it is only if the chew claims to be food that an AAFCO definition can be enforced by the state, but enforcement is virtually nonexistent.

    I agree that transparency from a company is desired, unfortunately inquiries regarding processing are often unanswered. For example, Redbarn replied to my inquiry saying they use “proprietary manufacturing procedures” and a “proprietary process”. I did not find that helpful.

    It is understandable that people are concerned about the processes used at the tannery.
    Fearmongering is rampant. For example, lye (NaOH) is a compound a tannery may choose to dehair the skin. Understandably the knee jerk reaction to that is that AWK!. But did you know is that pretzel dough is dipped in lye before baking to get that nice brown carnalized crust. “Scary” processes can become less scary when put into context. Rarely do I see it discussed that the same material from the tannery that is used to make rawhide can be used for human food production if the tannery has USDA oversite.

    Rawhide and beefcheek are untanned skin; leather is tanned skin. I suspect leather is less digestible than rawhide, because tanning crosslinks the collagen. Prior to tanning, the processes used make it easier for tanning compounds to penetrate the skin. I suspect this may also increase the ability of digestive enzymes to penetrate. Who knows, it could be that skin that has been prepared for tanning is more, not less digestible than skin that hasn’t undergone these processes.

    If I wanted to get someone to buy a traditional rawhide over beefcheek I could capitalize on that point and spin it further by saying beefcheek is full thickness skin from an area on the cow that has the thickest and densest skin. The collagen fibers are tightly packed together limiting the penetration of digestive enzymes. Rawhide is not only thinner than beefcheek which makes digestion easier, but that dense top layer has been removed allowing for better penetration of digestive enzymes. Combing those attributes with the human food production process used to promote deep penetration of digestive enzymes is what makes rawhide digestibility much higher than that of beefcheek and makes it a far better and safer chew than beefcheek…. It is all marketing spin.

    Reality is rawhide is digestible; Beefcheek is digestible. Taken as a group neither is more or less digestible than the other. If the statement that “skin[rawhide] is turned into something that our dogs’ digestive system isn’t capable of recognizing and digesting ” was true there wouldn’t be multiple published studies reporting digestibility of rawhide as high as 99%.

    Both digest slowly which is why if a large piece of either product is swallowed an obstruction may occur. To state that one is more digestible or safer than the other is IMO without basis and can endanger dog’s lives. Heck some beefcheek chews state right on the label that the product can cause an obstruction.

    I personally only use skin based chews that have been sourced from and produced in the Unted States where processes may be more stringent than other countries. And I only use large flat flexible sheets to minimize chance of tooth breakage and my dogs only have access under direct supervision.

    I completely agree with your final paragraph.

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