Animal food companies convicted for selling adulterated, misbranded pet food ingredients

Wilbur-Ellis Company and Diversified Ingredients, Inc., were convicted in federal court after pleading guilty of introducing adulterated and misbranded pet food ingredients into interstate commerce.

Both were ordered to pay more than $7 million in fines between them.

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes the importance of preserving the integrity of the food supply for animals,” said Charles Grinstead, special agent in charge, FDA office of criminal investigations’ Kansas City Field office. “Substituting inferior ingredients in pet food is against the law, and the FDA, working with its federal and state partners, will take action as necessary to hold ingredient suppliers accountable for distributing such products.”

California-based Wilbur-Ellis was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to pay $4.55 million in restitution, criminal forfeiture in the form of a money judgment in the amount of $964,442, and a fine of $1,000.

Diversified Ingredients, Inc., a Missouri corporation, was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution, criminal forfeiture in the form of a money judgment in an amount of $75,000, and a fine of $2,000.

The court heard pet food ingredients shipped from a Wilbur-Ellis facility in Rosser, Texas—specifically, chicken meal and turkey meal—were adulterated and misbranded through the use of cheaper substitute ingredients, such as feather meal and feed-grade chicken bone by-product meal, and omitted premium ingredients, such as turkey meal, from products identified as turkey meal.

According to the FDA, the adulterated pet food ingredients did not pose a threat to the health or safety of any animal.


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25 thoughts on “Animal food companies convicted for selling adulterated, misbranded pet food ingredients

    1. Google is somewhat helpful. Surprise, surprise: Blue Buffalo is one of them. Apparently, information on others, however, is not as easy to obtain.
      The California company, Wilbur-Ellis Feed LLC, are likely to be placed on probation for three years later this year and pay out nearly $5.5 million, according to the company’s guilty plea.

      As part of the plea, Wilbur-Ellis Feed admitted substituting lower-cost ingredients for premium, more expensive chicken and turkey meal in shipments from a plant in Rosser, Texas, to pet food manufacturers between June 2013 and May 2014. On one or more occasions, the plea says, that lower cost product was hydrolyzed poultry feathers or hydrolyzed feather meal, which consists of ground-up feathers.

      What is significant of the last paragraph above is that Wilbur-Ellis admitted to shipping (basically) ground feathers to more than one pet food manufacturer labeled as chicken or turkey meal. Because of the lawsuit between Purina and Blue Buffalo – we know that Blue Buffalo was one of the manufacturers that received the waste ingredient. Sad but true, consumers have no information who else Wilbur-Ellis shipped feather meal to – what other pet foods were sold to unknowing consumers containing feathers instead of chicken meal.

      1. Please acknowledge the website: for your information. This is an extremely important site and they spend a lot of time and energy to bring us this information for free 🙂

    1. I understand your frustration but the meal they substituted is not going to kill your pet. It’s not what was supposed to be in the bag of food but it’s not dangerous.

      1. But this company committed fraud and should be punished accordingly! I expect if you purchased for yourself what was labeled as lobster turned out to be ground fish scales you’d be outraged. The fact that this was food intended for pets should not mitigate ones anger, nor the punishment doled out to the perpetrator.

        1. It is not dangerous. They are the same source of animal protein. Chicken feathers and chicken breast are both… chicken.
          Hydrolyzed feathers are turned into amino acids, which is what your body naturally turns chicken breast into in order to be absorbed and make it’s own protein.
          Not dangerous. Not fatal. Not going to cause a reaction different than a dog already allergic to chicken.

  1. A quick search shows this company merely provides ingredients to pet food companies – they do not manufacture actual pet foods. One of the companies they sold to was Blue Buffalo, but I haven’t found any names beyond that.

    1. If Blue Buffalo used knowingly or unknowingly or not is not the real question, rather do they bother to test the ingredients and end product for toxins, rogue ingredients etc. As far as I am concerned they are delinquent if they knew or not.

  2. I try to prepare food for my dogs at home.It’s not difficult to bake sweet potatoes and chicken for them. Purchasing pet food has become a roulette game. I would rather know what they are eating then open a bag of dry pet food.

  3. It is dangerous in the regard that the nutrition is not the same. No protein in feathers . Also potential allergens. Unclean as well. Disgusting tactics. Greedy people trying to cut costs by polluting our animals food.

    1. Actually, Gina, feather meal is greater than 80% protein on a dry matter basis. Chicken meat is greater than 90% protein on a dry matter basis. However, chicken meat itself is great than 70% water (moisture), whereas feather meal is greater about 90% dry matter. So, ironically, feather meal on an as fed basis would contribute more protein than chicken meat on an as fed basis. Feather meal is absolutely a valuable substitute for animal feeds, especially as we are trying to be more sustainable in our food resources for humans and animals alike. The part that is criminal is outright lying about the nature of the feedstuff product (either to the manufacturers of pet food or to the public).

      1. You really think FEATHERS are a better protein source than CHICKEN MEAT. I’m really glad you’re not my Vet. Feather meal is B.S. and just another way to dupe poor pet-parents into believing their doing something good that’s really inappropriate for their animals well-being. I feed a fresh diet to my cats and the cats in my rescue. Been doing so for 15 years. Trying to save a buck only ends up harming those animals long term-causing “strange” dermatitis that can’t be cured or IBD, Cancer, Diabetes..all because of the big ag companies wanting to make a buck off selling “meals”, cheap replacement ingredients saying they really are good proteins, in the first place. Dehydrating, baking the beegeezus out of it, turning a mash into kibble are the worst things you could do to a pet’s food. They need what they’d eat in the wild, not a mouthful of garbage that doesn’t come close to satisfying their need for protein.

        1. You really think its better to throw all of the feathers into a waste area and let all of the H2S gas release into the atmosphere without gaining any benefit of the protein in the feather is better? You are aware that all protein you eat eventually gets broken down into the amino acids, which get rearranged in your body to make new proteins, right? Same thing can happen to the feathers. Break down the keratin into amino acids for digestive absorption. You use exogenous and/or endogenous enzymes to do so, depending on the species eating the protein. So, by your logic, the lysine, cysteine, methionine, etc from the muscle tissue of an animal does not cause disease, but the exact same amino acid from a feather would? Not trying to just make a buck. Companies are trying to reduce waste and improve efficiency, while also making enough protein/food supplies for the entire world.
          Knowledge is power.

      2. However JM, it doesn’t have Taurine in it as chicken meat does and for cats that would be deadly. Not to mention pet food companies like Smuckers brands use euthanized animals and their law suit was about the euthanasia drug that killed the one dog that had had a necropsy and discovered this. how many of your patients order necropsies? Do you know what is actually in most pet foods, such as the ones vets most recommend? Would you eat this crap? I know I wouldn’t. I would NEVER feed something to my animals that I wouldn’t eat myself if I were a meat eater. Never! If people, especially vets truly understood and actually researched what was in pet food they would be horrified. And right on Robin Olson!!

  4. I agree, that the recipients of the “rogue” ingredient(s) need to be identified. I don’t want to feed anything other than what is on the label. Truth in advertising. Consumer Right to Know!

    1. Except did you know that the ingredients in pet food are copyrighted? This means that what we know as “chicken” in human food is not at all the same thing in pet food. You have to pay $100. for the AAFCO list of terms for pet food. It is not readily available for consumers and most people don’t even know about this. The best thing you can do is inquire if your pet food begins with human grade ingredients. I only personally know of 2 commercial foods (it doesn’t mean there aren’t more). It is horrifying what is actually in pet food and the many illnesses our pets get, such as cancer because of it. We have no true regulatory system overseeing this and we need one!