Slave Labor Supplies Pet Food Fish
July 27, 2015 3:51 AM   Subscribe

If you feed your pet commercial pet food, there's a good chance the fish in it came from slave labor. "In the past year, Thai Union has shipped more than 28 million pounds of seafood-based cat and dog food for some of the top brands sold in America including Iams, Meow Mix and Fancy Feast, according to United States Customs documents."
posted by Yellow (21 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
So the choices for pet food are now either:

- more expensive than the food you buy for yourself, an adult human, OR
- made by slaves

why is capitalism trying to ruin cats
posted by poffin boffin at 6:43 AM on July 27, 2015 [17 favorites] the chicken flavor?
posted by gueneverey at 7:11 AM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

...and an insatiable global demand for seafood even as fishing stocks are depleted.

Look on the bright side - the problem will solve itself as soon as the fish run out!

(In Part 2 of our series, former slave fishermen are kept alive with the former pets of North Americans...)
posted by clawsoon at 7:19 AM on July 27, 2015

" the chicken flavor?"

THE FA: Mr. Long’s crews trawled primarily for forage fish, which are small and cheaply priced. Much of this catch comes from the waters off Thailand, where Mr. Long was held, and is sold to the United States, typically for canned cat and dog food or feed for poultry, pigs and farm-raised fish that Americans consume.

The chicken-flavored kibble is also adulterated, probably.
posted by notyou at 7:25 AM on July 27, 2015

Oh, great.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:35 AM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

This situation is apparently happening because unemployment in Thailand is at 1%, driving up the demand for workers. Economic theory says that a shortage of workers should lead to a rise in wages. (Right? Of course!) In reality, just like during the last Gilded Age, brutal conditions pop up at the edges of the system, so that those inside the system can keep squeezing out the profits that they're used to. The free market does its job of glossing over supply-chain details, so that "visible chunks of meat" are all that you have to care about as a consumer looking to feed your precious.
posted by clawsoon at 7:40 AM on July 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

That is a horrible, horrible story. And the fish is so hard to trace that it's a tough problem to solve even for companies that care. Oh, man. From now on my cats are only going to eat vegetables grown in my own back yard.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:51 AM on July 27, 2015

It looks like eating our pets is the only ethical solution.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:28 AM on July 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

oh great indeed. the only thing my cats will eat is fish flavored Fancy Feast. time to eat the cats I guess...
posted by supermedusa at 8:43 AM on July 27, 2015

I love the kitties as much as the next person who clicker-trains them to play piano and makes food puzzles for them and buys a catnip banana for the cats at the place I just paid extra to stay at because of the cats -- but I do wonder what's going to happen if food becomes a lot more scarce.
posted by amtho at 9:22 AM on July 27, 2015

I always thought it was ridiculous that they use fish for pet food when the options are already overfished. And even if it's farmed its still dirty business.
Beef too for that matter, with the suffering that goes into producing it.
Just use chicken.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:26 AM on July 27, 2015

This piece on the morality of cat food might need an update.
posted by larrybob at 9:42 AM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I always thought it was ridiculous that they use fish for pet food

Plus, in the case of cats, fish is pretty much the least appropriate choice in terms of nutrition. While all cat food made from anything but whole small birds and rodents must be boosted to varying degrees with a range of supplements this is especially true for fish based products. They love the flavor of fish but it's basically worthless in terms of keeping them healthy.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:49 AM on July 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

Another reason to avoid seafood for cats is it can lead to urinary tract infections. That and even more disgusting breath.
posted by orme at 10:26 AM on July 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Slave labor, you say? I live to be served, I delight in demanding services far beyond that of my average fellow feline. But I prefer to be served by minions I supervise directly, and these humans shouldn't be compensated at all. Where's the satisfaction in being served (alongside millions of other cats, egads!) by thousands of faceless people far away? especially knowing they're getting some money for it?! and that their shifts end and they have hours of unsupervised time?! They're contributing zero emotional labor to my well-being!

So the choices for pet food are now either:

- more expensive than the food you buy for yourself, an adult human, OR
- made by slaves

posted by poffin boffin at 6:43 AM on July 27
You overlook an obvious, perfectly viable choice: becoming your cat's locally-sourced slave!

Today I'm eating
- 1 oz lamb liver, grass fed $0.40
- 1 chicken chick $0.40
Both grown in-state. Diet and sourcing are varied, so some days are cheaper, some more expensive, but average under a dollar. Cost doesn't include real-estate value of my own freezer drawer, nor costs of maintaining it. (I will never account for my slaves' time and effort in acquiring, sectioning, freezing, thawing and cleaning up.)

A little more expensive but a lot more biped-friendly are locally-made frozen options. Let's say they come out to a few dollars a day. That's still about the price of canned food, and in the end you'll likely save on vet bills.

Tragically, I was unable to prevent my bipeds from reading what Hofve and Pierson each have to say about feeding fish. So I settle for a rare slice of sashimi.
posted by captivepredator at 11:19 AM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Does anyone have a breakdown on the cat food products that aren't slave labor sourced? I don't buy Purina or store brands, I stick with grain-free, but man... I don't want Fluffy eating any slave labor fishies*

*Actually based on the frequency and type of table scrap theft, one of our cats would apparently be perfectly happy eating nothing but steamed vegetables. No salt, no butter, just veg. (no joke we have to flat lock his ass up when we make broccoli or the little shit will have his face right in the serving bowl the second we turn our backs)
posted by caution live frogs at 12:02 PM on July 27, 2015

I'm lucky to live near a butcher that sells whole ground rabbit and cornish hen as pet food (includes most internal organs, bone and skin) so we mix up our own. I think you can feed that stuff to dogs more or less unaltered. For cats you have to pad with supplements. We buy tons of the stuff, mix it with the supplements, feed it through a meat grinder and freeze in single day portions for our 2 critters. Takes a bit of work. I've seen similar products sold in health food stores but they're premium priced. Haven't run the numbers in a while but last I checked our DIY food was just a little cheaper than regular premium brands of cat food though we had to front the costs for all the supplements... it was cheaper to buy larger quantities of those up front.

If anyone is interested... I've whipped up a Google spreadsheet based ingredient calculator where I just enter the quantities of meat I have (ground rabbit, ground cornish, chicken breast for padding/reducing cost). I made it publicly available via link so you can copy it if you want to try and use it.

For the process and how the recipes are constructed there are many sources online... just search for "make your own cat food" or "raw cat food recipe" etc.

Basically you're simulating a cat's natural prey like a mouse or a small bird using related meats (rabbit -> mouse, cornish -> small bird). That's what cat food manufacturers also try to do more or less diligently/successfully though usually the stuff in the cans is cooked, not raw.

Anyhow, like I mentioned, I've seen fully assembled fresh, raw cat food being sold frozen in health food stores but I don't know how if it's available everywhere and it's definitely pricey compared to regular cat food and/or DIY cat food.

The difference it made for our cats was stunning. They were never in bad shape or anything but they turned... luxurious. Super shiny fur, less dander and hairballs, lots of energy.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:38 PM on July 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

Adding to Hairy Lobster's post above, if one is in possession of a good freezer and a few extra pennies for shipping, Hare Today is a great source of raw pet food ingredients. They sell ground and organ meats as well as whole carcasses.
posted by peripathetic at 4:04 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites] the chicken flavor?

Or maybe not...
posted by SisterHavana at 4:56 PM on July 27, 2015

I just learned from a friend who has a lot more experience with cats than I that the reason mine is turning his nose up at treat-x vs treat-y has to do a lot with the fat content. I mean, having tried both, neither one is up there in flavor but the one that actually tasted more like, you know, meat to me he basically won't touch unless we've been out of the bland bisquity ones for a while. So I'm thinking maybe a re-do on the fresh ground stuff I tried from the hippy-mart or a trip to the butcher is in order, maybe with a little rendered pork fat or something until he starts not staring at me like I'm a monster for feeding him non-friskies.

Thanks for the links upthread about getting organ-ground-bone-etc stuff. I'll start studying this stuff now, I guess.
posted by mcrandello at 11:17 PM on July 27, 2015

I usually give my cats the meat and poultry options but recently tried to give them the ocean whitefish flavor. Oh geez what a pukefest I woke up to. I have 6 cats and I think every single one of them threw it up. So there is another reason why I wont be buying them fishy foods.
posted by mokeydraws at 11:13 AM on July 28, 2015

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