Maggot Infested, Rotting Carcasses and Euthanized Animals Are Key Ingredients in U.S.’s Largest Pet Food Ingredient Company

One of the largest animal waste disposal companies in the United States, Darling Ingredients Inc., is being accused of using carcasses from diseased, euthanized animals from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, many of which are euthanized with pentobarbital.


Darling Ingredients is also being accused of using animal waste from dead, dying, and diseased animals from one of the most notorious meatpacking companies in the United States, Bravo Packing, to make animal feed and pet food ingredients.

Bravo Packing a company that has a sordid history of horrific animal abuse, where sick and wounded animals – including horses – are left to starve until they are slaughtered and used to make raw diets for pets and exotic animals.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is cautioning to pet owners today not to feed their pets Bravo Packing’s Performance Dog brand of frozen raw pet food because a sample tested positive for Salmonella and L. mono. According to the notice, this is the second time Bravo Packing, Inc. (not to be confused with Bravo! pet food) pet foods have tested positive for pathogen contamination. In September 2018, Bravo Packing, Inc. recalled all Performance Dog frozen raw pet food due to Salmonella. Also, during a 2016 inspection, the FDA collected samples of Bravo Packing, Inc. horse meat chunk animal food that tested positive for the drugs pentobarbital and phenytoin.


But Bravo’s dark and troubled past began decades ago when tales of starving horses and pentobarbital laced raw pet food trickled out. Some stories, so horrible to imagine, they beggared belief: piles of decomposing carcasses, amid downers, scarred with open wounds from forklifts, lying in filth, blood and feces, enormous containers of intestines crawling with maggots – unrefrigerated, all destined for pet food. No one knew for sure how many of the stories were true.

Until now.


A dead animal hauler has come forward with shocking allegations and photographs (see below) describing the inner workings of Bravo – a place he describes as a “rat hole.” He describes walls eaten by rats, a place crawling with vermin, floors swimming in blood and feces, barrels of guts from euthanized animals, infested with maggots digesting the fat all waiting to be delivered to Bravo Packing. Where, eventually, they will be picked up by a renderer. A renderer, which makes animal feed and pet food ingredients: Darling Ingredients, one of the largest renderers on the East Coast.  

Bravo’s a place he says if people knew that dog food was made, they’d never buy it.

And some of that pet food is sold raw. Even more disturbing is that some of the raw pet food that Bravo sells – including large bones – are made from horses. And that’s because Bravo Packing is one of the last places in America that slaughters horses.


Bravo’s main business is the processing of dead and dying animals; discarded livestock and horses who have outgrown their usefulness, who, mostly from surrounding farms, are brought in by haulers – dead animal haulers.

He explains, how sometimes livestock and horses arrive at Bravo still alive, transported in the same truck along with dead animals; animals that can walk off the truck are destined for a pen, devoid of shelter – a lonely and baron pasture – where they right-hand a diet of moldy hay.  Sometimes the animals, sick and emaciated, suffer for weeks – sometimes months – before they are slaughtered (see images below), and their meat is used to make raw pet food.


But one of the most serious allegations involves a disturbing relationship between Bravo, the University of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine, and Darling Ingredients.

My source outlined a scenario where animals, many of whom were euthanized with pentobarbital at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine New Bolton Center Veterinary Hospital are picked up by Bravo Packing and diverted to the Darling Ingredients plant in Newark, New Jersey to be rendered into animal feed and pet food ingredients.  


Ralph Conti, the University’s prosector, who is responsible for preparing dissections for demonstration at the University, and he facilitates the disposal of the animals, animals brought to the University for veterinary care or used in teaching demonstrations. Animals that are too sick to receive continuing care are humanly euthanatized with pentobarbital, and sometimes a necropsy is performed, at which point their disposal becomes Mr. Conti’s responsibility.

Then Mark Merola, son of Joseph Merola, the owner of Bravo, who, under contract with the University, picks up all of the dead animals, the carcasses and their intestines and delivers them to Bravo Packing’s facility in Carney’s Point, New Jersey.


At the Bravo facility, the dead animals and the contents of the barrels are dumped into what’s called a “combo,” a large container the size of midsize car that will remain at Bravo, unrefrigerated, when Darling Ingredients picks up the material two to three times a week and delivers it for rendering at Darling’s facility in Newark, New Jersey.

Interestingly, the only animals that Mark Merola disposes of from the University at a composting site are horses (see image below). The reason for this apparent exception, according to my source, is, that Darling no longer accepts horses for fear they might have been euthanized using pentobarbital.


However, the problem with that arrangement is that the contents of the horses – their intestines – along with the intestines of the other animals which 55-gallon with pentobarbital, are picked up by Darling for rendering from Bravo.

Something to keep in mind in the context of this story is that Bravo Packing also manufactures raw ground horsemeat for pets and raw horse bones which is at odds with law in the state of New Jersey which forbids the sale of horse meat or products derived from slaughtered horses and the transport of horse meat for human consumption but not animal consumption.


It is also interesting to note that in today’s FDA notice, the agency mentions an inspection at Bravo in 2016 where they, “collected samples of Bravo Packing, Inc. horse meat chunk animal food that tested positive for the drugs pentobarbital and phenytoin.”

According to Phyllis Entis of eFoodAlert, the FDA “analyzed a sample of horse meat pursuant to a complaint from one Bravo Packing’s customers. According to the complaint, four exotic cats fell ill after being fed the meat. Two of the animals had to be euthanized. The sample of horse meat, as well as a pre-euthanasia blood sample from one of the animals, tested positive for pentobarbital.” It is unclear, at this point, why a recall for the product was never initiated.


I have submitted a report of the allegations my source has made to the relevant USDA and FDA regulators in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I’ve also sent the report to the New Jersey State’s Attorney Generals office, where Bravo Packing and Darling Ingredients Inc. are located.

In light of the recent State recent filing of a legal complaint last week against Darling for emitting air pollution, failure to remedy 320 permit violations, failure to comply with air permits since 2018, and has not complied with its operating permits since 2017, I submitted my report to Attorney General in case it might be useful.


I applaud my source for his bravery in coming forward, for his desire to help animals and to protect the public and for his willingness to be interviewed and to offer his testimony to government authorities to further their investigation of Bravo Packing.

Many thanks, many thanks, my friend, for your courage.


Close up of a gut barrel inside the cooler room at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine New Bolton Center Hospital. Note extreme maggot infestation. Foaming occurs when maggots digest animal fat.


Gutted pig on the floor of the cooler room at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. My source said normally, “the floor is piled high with dead animals.” Note extreme maggot infestation on the floor.


Long shot of the cooler room at the University where guts from euthanized animals (including horses) are stored in 55-gallon drums waiting for pickup and disposal by Bravo Packing. Note blood and maggots on the floor. And the old bucket of Fresh Step Kitty Litter in the background.


Where horses are dumped and composted by Bravo Packing for the University.


Inside Bravo Packing: Injured downer cow, two dead horses, piles of hides, blood and shit on the floor, rotting walls, filth.


Inside Bravo’s facility: Injured, downer cows, laying alongside dead cows amidst pools of blood, filth, and shit. Note forklift on the right-hand side, which is used to move the cows dead or alive.


Downer cow with severe injuries and open wounds from being moved with a forklift at Bravo.


Starving, old, and ill horses at Bravo.


Dead and dying animals pastured at Bravo. Sometimes they stay there for two to three months.



p style=”text-align: justify;”>Darling Ingredients Inc. (aka Dar Pro) at the front of the beleaguered Newark, New Jersey plant. Location of the animal waste from Bravo.

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (24) Write a comment

  1. Is this the same place as M&S animal removal?
    In South Jersey?
    They offer private creamation services for people who have to put their horses down.
    Can you look into that. I would be horrified if my 2 horses that were put down and creamated were not treated respectfully while with M&S.


  2. This is just terrible. You have the ability to get to the bottom of these situations, and I (and all of your followers) thank you for all that you do. Is there any way that you can tell me what dog food companies buy from Darling? I heard about the euthanized carcases years ago when I visited a dog control place in South Florida. The dead dogs were piled in a corner, and I was told that they would be picked up to be used in dog food. It was hard to believe and I was told that Purina was a major player here. I have changed dog food many times because I’m always looking for an unadulterated food…good luck to me!! Also, when do you go to your next convention? I try to help you get there, but I need to know when it is.
    Thank you for all that you do.
    Donna Hamilton


    • I wish we knew who buys from Darling, but you can be sure it is a multitude of pet food and animal feed manufacturers. It’s pretty difficult to avoid rendered ingredients in pet food as they are nearly ubiquitous in most commercial pet food formulations unless you buy human-edible pet food. And that would be what I recommend.

      If you want to know more about the pets in pet food issue, I suggest reading Pukka’s Promise. The author gives a vivid first-hand account of his visits with renderers, some of whom render pets.

      I plan to attend the August 2020 AAFCO meetings – and if you would like to donate to help get me there that would be fantastic! Just go to

      Thank you for your support!


  3. Pingback: From Stable to Table: Horses Turned into Pet Food & Their Bones Sold as Dog Chews. In America. Right Now. | Poisoned Pets | Pet Food Safety News

  4. Judy: I have tried Dr. Marty’s freeze dried cat food. One order of about 6 bags. My cats ate it up and did not have any problems with it. I checked the ingredient list and I thought the ingredients were fine but I am not an expert in the field of nutrition. I did not buy any more because of the price. I feed 7 cats and 2 dogs so you can see it would be to expensive to feed. Anyway that is my two bits of information. Good luck.


  5. Is there a list of brands or companies that use them for their animal food? It would make it much easier to figure out if we need to switch food


  6. Dear Mollie, Thanks for reporting. I have heard for years about what goes into dog food,now I have seen it.


  7. The reason this place is still open is because it’s like the democrats,they have so much money they have everybody in their pocket and avoid any retribution !!!!!


  8. What a disgusting facility, run by horrible people. To do that to animals who are dying is beyond my comprehension. And to them pass off the “food” to consumers? It’s unreal to me that there are people willing to work at this places at all. Good for you, whistleblower!!


    • Thank you, Elizabeth! My hope is that the exposure to Bravo, the University, and Darling will lead to a shift in how euthanized animals are disposed of. The story also sheds light on what one of the world’s global leaders in animal waste processing, Darling, uses to make animal feed and pet food ingredients. It needs to change.


    • My source says this place should have been shut down years ago. Even though he reported to the USDA – he tells me that, for the most part, little has changed. The same stuff still goes on. Finally, his contact at the USDA stopped taking his calls.

      His suggestion – his suspicion – is the only reason Bravo has been allowed to stay in business for as long as it has (for over fifty years) is that someone in the government in New Jersey is on the take. That’s the only reason he can think of.


  9. What can you tell me about dr. Marty’s freeze dried dog food. Web 1 800 670 1839.
    I have just ordered some and almost simultaneously received this email from you about Bravo. I am extremely anxious


    • I don’t have any knowledge of Dr. Marty’s. But if it has an “animal meal” or “animal fat” in it I wouldn’t buy it. Look for a human edible pet food instead.



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