Driving the dead truck and skinning rotten cows, pet food industry’s most dirty jobs

Man with an iron stomach

In a four part series, on Discovery Channel’s show Dirty Jobs, we are taken on fascinating, albeit gruesome, look into the unsung laborers who make their living doing the unthinkable: Working at a rendering plant.

The show, with its intrepid host Mike Rowe, takes us through the ghastly work involved in rendering a cow.

The Dead Truck

In the first episode, a truck driver, whose unenviable job it is to pick up the dead and mostly decaying remains of farm animals.

As the host explains, those working there have great job security, because noone else wants their jobs.

A man, who affectionately calls his truck ‘the Dead Truck’, because that’s all it is really, a truck he drives from farm to farm picking up dead animals with. Fortunately for him he has a strong stomach, but unfortunately for anyone in its vicinity, the Dead Truck is not refrigerated; it’s simply a humble flatbed with walls, fitted with a heavy-duty winch to pull the dead animals up with – the kind typically used to pull automobiles, only he’s not loading Mercedes sedans, his job is to make sure he can winch them up without pulling their legs off.  His stock in trade is rotting corpses destined for the rendering plant.

How to blow up a cow

The second episode is, well, how shall I say this, putrid? In it, Mike inject the tip of a hydraulic air hose under the skin of an enormous dead cow swarming with maggots, in order to ‘blow’ the skin off of it.

Episodes three and four — they’re just as gruesome as episodes one and two. In them, modesty prevents the worst of it to be shown, by blurring out the more gruesome bits; like when the cow, now skin-less, is unceremoniously hung by her hooves and lowered, head first, into, what can only be described, as the biggest friggin’ meat grinder you’ll ever see in your life. So horrible, Mike warn his viewers to look away if they haven’t the stomach for such gut-wrenching horrors.

Make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh

Admittedly, if Mike weren’t such a likeable host, the show would be intolerable. After all, if you have to watch a cow being blown up, it had better be shown to us by an entertainer.

Ironically, while such is care taken to spare viewers from the reality of processing livestock, sparing consumers the knowledge that cattle, bloated from lying in the sun for days and crawling with maggots, are deprived of the knowledge of what may be in their pet’s food.

Ask yourself, the next time you’re cruising the pet food aisle, why aren’t the images of rotting cows crawling with maggots shown on the bags and tins of pet food, so consumers might know the truth about its quality?

Deception = dollars

Further, why is the deception allowed to be perpetrated by a government who has no mechanism for enforcing the crime of false advertising? Why do pet food companies show misleading images of fresh, human-grade ingredients on pretty packages of dog and cat food (stupid question)?

And, if you knew the reality of pet food, would you still be willing to pay top dollar for so-called 4-star, gourmet pet food when in fact it is nothing of the kind?

If your answer is, “Hell, no!” than you’ve just learned the reason for the continued deceptive practices of mislabeled products: Because for as long consumers continue to be misled, they will continue to open their wallets, willingly.

According to government sources:

Independent plants obtain animal by-product materials, including grease, blood, feathers, offal, and entire animal carcasses, from the following sources: butcher shops, supermarkets, restaurants, fast-food chains, poultry processors, slaughterhouses, farms, ranches, feedlots, and animal shelters.

And with that, I leave you to see for yourself what you’re really paying for: Garbage.

UPDATE: September 24, 2014; Unfortunately, the video clips originally in this post have been removed because the most popular episodes of Dirty Jobs are no longer are available for free :(. Although the segment (below) is freebie and the quality is pretty crummy, if you look carefully you can still make out the maggots! :)

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Mollie Morrissette

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

Comments (2) Write a comment

  1. So please tell me which foods are safe. My dogs are on Royal Canine currently from the vet. Is the food from the vet that much better than the one in the pet store. Apparently they are not the same?

    Reply

    • I recommend buying a human-edible pet food made in a licensed human food facility. If you search my website for Royal Canin, ethically they are a horrible company. They have sponsored a bear baiting contests in Europe – a tragic sport.

      Reply

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