Jerky treats have become one of the most beloved – and riskiest – snacks you can feed your dog or cat.
Dogs especially crave them, and according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there have been more than 6,200 cases of jerky-related canine illness since 2007. Over an eight-year period, more than 1,140 dogs have died after eating jerky pet treats.
In just three years, the FDA reported it had received over 5,000 claims between December of 2015 and August of 2018 of "illnesses associated with consumption of chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats.”
Dogs weren’t the only ones affected. The cases reported to the FDA included 26 cats and three humans. Most of the complaints involved imported products, but some treats in question were labeled “made in the U.S.A.”
The problem hasn’t stopped. Recalls and complaints of poisoning from imported jerky treats continue today.
As you now know, not all jerky treats are created equal. My mission is to help you determine what’s not only safe but healthy when it comes to choosing a jerky product for your pet.
A high-quality pet jerky can be an outstanding addition to your pet’s diet. However, as the numbers above tell us, you can’t be too cautious.
What Makes Jerky-Type Treats Potentially Hazardous for Your Pet
Perhaps you’re wondering... What is it about these pet jerky products that make them so risky?
There are two issues involved: hidden ingredients and source of ingredients. First, let’s address what’s in some of today’s top-selling pet jerky-type products.
The following three top-selling products are labelled as “jerky treats.” This catch-all name now includes products like processed tenders, strips, chips, wraps and twists, so it’s important to read the ingredient label of any product you wish to purchase. They clearly are not 100% pure meat.
These are only the most prevalent ingredients in each product, according to weight – some contain even more ingredients:
||Beef, Chicken, Glycerin, Dried Chickpeas, Potatoes, Cane Molasses, Gelatin, Natural Flavors, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols (used as a preservative) (U.S. -sourced beef, source of chicken unknown)
||Chicken, duck, ground rice, vegetable glycerin, sugar, salt, distilled vinegar, natural flavors, natural smoke flavor, colored with paprika (U.S.-sourced duck, source of chicken unknown)
||Beef, Rye Flour, Soy Flour, Corn Syrup, Soybean Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Corn Starch, Propylene Glycol, Salt, Flaxseed, Calcium Sulfate, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (used as a preservative) (source of beef unknown)
In my opinion, all three of these popular products are problematic. Here’s why...
- These treats contain carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, meals and flours. As natural-born meat eaters, dogs and cats have no biological requirement for starchy carbohydrates.
- None of these ingredients are organic, so the corn and soy have most likely been genetically modified (GMO) and may contain glyphosate residues.
- Legumes (or pulses), such as chickpeas, lentils and soybeans, are not recommended for dogs or cats because they contain anti-nutrients, such as phytates, that can bind dietary minerals and contribute to gastrointestinal disturbances in some pets.
- Multiple sources of common proteins in a treat can be a problem for pets with food sensitivities and sensitive stomachs. Using a single, novel protein, other than beef and chicken, is less likely to cause and upset GI tract and other stomach issues.
In addition to these issues, there are hidden ingredients that should concern you as well.
The Hidden Ingredients in Jerky-Type Treats
Remember the more than 6,200 cases of jerky-related illness the FDA was investigating?
During their investigation, the FDA discovered an unwelcomed surprise in the treat samples.
They found residues of several illegal antibiotics not approved for use in poultry in the U.S. These include sulfaclozine, tilmicosin, trimethoprim and enrofloxacin, plus the approved-for-use drug sulfaquinoxaline.
The investigation also found illegal residues of the anti-viral drugs amantadine, rimantadine and memantine. While these drugs are approved for use in chickens, ducks and turkeys in this country, the residues should not be detectable in food products made from them.
That’s what makes the residues “illegal.”
Did these illegal drug residues contribute to the sickness and death of the 6,200 animals?
We’ll never know, but I do know it’s worth making sure your pet’s treats contain a safe, “clean” source of protein without potentially risky residues. The only way you can know is to buy product from a well-known and trusted manufacturer.
The source of ingredients can be a problem as well. Let’s take a closer look at why this has become such an issue.
Why You Can’t Always Trust “Made in U.S.A.” Treats
You spot a pet jerky product that claims it’s all natural or “made in the U.S.A.” It must be safe and healthy, right?
Here’s what they are not telling you: There are some pet food manufacturers out there making the "made in the U.S.A." claim, when really the only process taking place in the United States is the assembly. This means most, if not all, of the ingredients are imported from other countries. I’ve seen companies make this false claim to gain customer trust, not only is it disheartening, but it’s also illegal.
So when you're shopping for a safe jerky treat product, it's not enough that a product claims to be made in the U.S. You must be sure all the ingredients were sourced in the U.S. as well – or they come from a source you know and trust.
The chicken jerky dog treats, and other treats suspected of causing illness and death in pets, have ingredients imported from China. Unfortunately, not all foreign manufacturers of pet products are held to the same standards as the U.S. and other countries for safety.
Despite efforts by the FDA and independent laboratories to isolate the harmful contaminant(s), nothing has been identified. And years after the first reports of sick and dying pets, these treats are still being produced by major pet food companies and sold by major retailers – local places you may be shopping at right now.
Because of their loose standards and history of producing tainted treats, I strongly recommend avoiding any product containing ingredients sourced from China.
How can you tell where ingredients come from when looking at the package?
In the two chicken-containing pet jerky products that we looked at above, the source of the chicken is not revealed. The label states the beef and duck come from the U.S., but strangely, there’s no mention about the source of the chicken.
Not specifying the source of the chicken is a red flag. This most likely means the chicken is imported, probably from China.
In the third product, the source isn’t disclosed for the beef, so it’s origin could be anywhere. Though the source of the beef is most likely not the U.S. as they would absolutely want to make that claim if they could.
The U.S. certainly produces its own share of tainted products, but as a general rule, the contaminating agent is usually quickly identified and the products are removed from store shelves.
Buying jerky treats originating from and made in this country won't remove all risks of winding up with a tainted product, but it can help improve your chances of keeping your pet safe.
Purchasing treats made with meat intended for human consumption is another way of making sure the protein quality you are feeding your pets is what you expect, and not “feed-grade” left overs.
You Are Your Pet’s Quality Control When Shopping for Treats
Pet parents spend more on treats than anything else for their dogs and cats, and the pet treat industry is set to clear $281 billion by 2023 because of it, so clearly, we all think treats are important.
The booming pet treat market has created a ripe environment for hundreds of new brands of treats to flood the market, many made with “feed grade” ingredients, loaded with unnecessary and potentially unhealthy ingredients from unknown sources. This means you must become your animal’s advocate when it comes to discerning what treats you feel comfortable feeding your pets.
When shopping for a jerky treat for your dog or cat, insist on a jerky pet treat that is:
- Made in the U.S. from ingredients sourced either in the U.S. or a country you know and can trust.
- Free of unnecessary grains and starches. Dogs and cats don’t need extra sugar coming from carbohydrates in their treats, so avoid all treats that contain legumes (lentils, chickpeas), oats, soy, corn, wheat, “ancient grains,” white or sweet potatoes, rice, meals and flours.
- Single protein if you or your veterinarian suspect your pet may have food allergies or sensitivities, or has a sensitive stomach.
- Free from preservatives and stabilizers, dyes and colors, or “natural flavors” and other additives.
- Made with ingredients suitable for human consumption.
- Free of “hidden” and genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients.
- The right size and thickness for your pet to safely consume.
I can’t emphasize this last point enough. While a certain thickness or size of treat may be suitable for an adult Golden Retriever, that same sized treat could present a choking hazard for a cat.
To summarize, a high-quality pet jerky will not contain grains or unnecessary fillers (carbohydrates), rendered animal by products (meat meals), added sugar (including molasses and honey) or “natural flavors”, artificial preservatives or dyes.
I’d like to introduce you to two jerky treats that check off all the above boxes. Our Jerky Treats are two of the newest additions to our Healthy Pet Essentials line of treats.
Introducing Novel Protein Jerky Treats – Wild Boar Jerky Treats for Cats and Dogs
Because so many pet owners feed their dogs and cats the same ultra-processed food day after day, we now have generations of pets with gut concerns, food sensitivities and an abundance of chronic health issues.
Novel proteins for treats – that is, proteins that your pet doesn’t eat every day – can provide both variety in your pet’s diet and a welcome alternative to the most common protein sources used in most pet foods (specifically chicken). This offers your pet’s digestive tract a break and an opportunity to incorporate less irritating proteins into your pet’s diet.
Using a single, novel protein treat, other than chicken (and beef) is less likely to provoke reactions in food-sensitive animals and reduce the incidence of stomach issues.
Single-ingredient Wild Boar Jerky Pet Treats for Dogs and Cats is a novel protein treat sourced in the U.S. with 100% wild boar meat that is humanely captured in the wild. No other ingredients are added, including preservatives or additives.
As most hunters know, wild animal meat can harbor parasites, so I initially questioned how we could be sure our treats would be free of any potential risks.
All wild game meat carries pathogen risks, if not properly processed. That makes the processing methods used for any wild meat treat especially crucial, which of course was our top concern when evaluating this naturally “clean” source of wild meat.
Our Wild Boar Jerky Treats are processed in a Safe Quality Food (SQF) Certified facility that eliminates any concern regarding wild meat contaminants because of their stringent quality control measures.
And because our treats reach a final internal temperature of 165 degrees F (the temperature that must be achieved to assure no potential pathogens or parasites are present) you can feel confident feeding these all-natural chews to your pets.
Wild Boar Jerky Pet Treats for Dogs and Cats are a nutritious, simple treat that satisfies even the pickiest eaters. They are perfect for feeding to your pet between meals or can be broken into tiny training treats throughout the day.
And because of their coarse, crumbly texture, you can easily break off small, bite-sized pieces to feed to your cat without worry of choking.
Jackrabbit Jerky for Dogs – The Species-Appropriate Treat Your Canine Will Love
While our Wild Boar Jerky is sourced in the U.S., our Jackrabbit Jerky protein comes from our trusted partner in Argentina. Like the boar in our Wild Boar Jerky, the jackrabbit meat is also humanely wild-captured.
And similarly, no other ingredients are added, including preservatives or additives.
We process our Jackrabbit Jerky for Dogs in the same SQF certified facility using the same stringent quality control and processing methods to assure the safety of our jackrabbit jerky for your dog.
Another thing that sets both of our jerky treats apart from other brands is the type of facility they are processed in. Specifically, they are made in a SQF Level II certified facility, considered a gold standard for food safety. Most treats are not produced under such meticulous conditions.
Unlike the questionable feed-grade factory-farmed “meats” used in so many commercial pet foods and pet treats that are not fit for human consumption, both the wild boar and jackrabbit used in our Jerky Treats are human grade.
Even though jackrabbit meat is species appropriate for cats, these thicker, harder strips of jerky don’t crumble as well for kitties as the Wild Boar Jerky Treats.
Because it’s difficult to break our Jackrabbit Jerky Treats into small, cat-sized morsels, they could present a choking hazard for cats. Therefore, we do not recommend Jackrabbit Jerky for cats.
Why Treat Transparency Matters
Increasing numbers of pet parents are wanting to improve the nutritional, environmental and ethical aspects of the food they feed their dogs and cats, including treats.
Treats especially matter because they can make up as much as 10% of your pet’s daily calories.
Today, many pet owners care about what goes into treats, the quality of the ingredients and where the ingredients come from. It’s no longer a secret that the vast majority of pet food and treats are made up of ingredients that are unfit for human consumption. As horrifying as it is, dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals could possibly be an ingredient in your pet’s treat.
Pet parents don’t want meat products that are by-products of the meat industry. Nor do they want mysterious “meat meals” that may contain drug residues or worse.
They want more than marginal ingredients being poured into large vats and cooked down to produce what we called “pet food” and “pet treats.” Today’s pet owners want to know they are feeding their dog or cat high-quality, human-edible protein that is biologically appropriate. And it matters to them that the food their pet is eating was raised in an ethical, environmentally sustainable way.
The only way to know for sure whether the food or treat you’re buying is ethical is to contact its manufacturer and verify its supply chain. If the company’s website isn’t already clearly talking about how their products were humanely produced (and not just hinting at it), it’s a good clue the issue is not important to the company.
Treat Your Pet to Our Ancestral Diet-Approved Jerky Treats
I don’t believe it is worth the risk to gamble with many of today’s jerky-type treats. If you doubt that for one minute, just ask any of the more than 6,200 pet parents who learned that lesson the hard and sometimes heartbreaking way (and, tragically, still are today).
Wild Boar Jerky for Dogs and Cats and Jackrabbit Jerky for Dogs are safe, delicious treats that your animals will love as a between-meal treat or training reward.
To summarize, they are both:
- Made in America from U.S. wild boar or wild jackrabbit from Argentina
- Made of 100% meat that is humanely captured and intended for human consumption (as opposed to the meat used in the majority of commercial pet food and treats that is unfit for human consumption).
- Species-appropriate: the only ingredient is 100% pure meat; no carbs or starchy fillers.
- Made from a single, novel protein so they are appropriate for pets who may have food allergies or sensitivities, or sensitive stomachs.
- Free of “hidden” and genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients, additives or preservatives.
- Processed in a SQF Level 2 certified facility to eliminate any concerns about wild meat contaminants.
Give your pet the biologically appropriate treat that’s not only wildly healthy and delicious but is sustainably sourced and meticulously manufactured for quality assurance. Order your supply of Wild Boar and Jackrabbit Jerky Pet Treats today.