Is Corn Just a Filler in Pet Foods?


The number two question I have noted in response to my plea for questions from the head of Iams relates to corn. Why is corn in pet foods? Is it just a filler?

To answer this question I will rely in part on my own original research. I tested the corn-as-a-filler hypothesis personally.

When I was a freshman in college, dinner was served family style each night in the dormitory’s cafeteria. At that time I had not yet ascertained that I was destined to be a clinician rather than a researcher. Therefore I decided to undertake an experiment.

One night my table was served a portion of canned corn. A large volume was left over at the end of the meal. In the name of science I consumed the leftover canned corn. It amounted to at least two cups. In order to ensure the validity of my experiment, I took care not to chew the corn.

The next morning a scientific breakthrough occurred. I discovered, decisively, that unchewed corn is not digestible.

The key word, however, is unchewed. The outer husk of a corn kernel is not digestible by cats, dogs, or humans. Ground up corn is a different story.

I remember learning in nutrition class in vet school (and to answer, in advance, the skeptics who will bring up links between pet food companies and veterinary nutrition departments, I have this to say: give me some credit. You don’t think I’d see through that?) that corn is actually a good source of protein for pets.

When I was in Ohio (remember folks, it was Ohio. Not Hawaii, and certainly not Rio) on Iams’ dime, various Iams representatives pointed out that the price of corn has skyrocketed in the last year as demand for corn-based ethanol and other biofuels has taken off. They state that if corn were just a filler they would be wise to seek out a more economical filler.

I also asked about the future of grain-free diets. Dan Rajczak (head of Iams and and Eukanuba) states that the company is investigating these diets at their Louisville, Ohio research center. If their research shows these diets to be more optimal for pet health (and perhaps more profitable?), Iams may begin to move away from grains.

But enough about corn and grains. I also found out where the names Iams and Eukanuba come from. Iams is the last name of the company’s founder. Eukanuba apparently is something that young men in Dayton, Ohio would say when they saw an attractive woman about a century ago. In other words, Eukanuba means hot chick.

And that wraps up the Iams thread. Tomorrow the Vet Blog will be back to feline Q and A. Dog lovers, fear not. I’ll start adding in some dog topics again soon.

Photo: A scientific experiment waiting to happen! By Vassia Atanassova.

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