Recently I have been enlightened in a few ways of how little protection some of us have, while others are guarded beyond belief. I have also found many agencies and corporations employing people, yet granting them no authority to authorize or approve- anything. Remind me please, why then, do they even have a job?
While considering how important nutrition is in the look, condition, overall health and appearance of an animal and including ourselves, it is amazing how far some companies go in pushing the limits of their own industry boundaries, in the production of their products. Every industry has standards. While some companies easily exceed them, others miserably fail to even reach them.
As consumers, when purchasing their products, we are placing some amount of faith in their compliance to regulations and ability to go above and beyond the minimums allowed in their industry. Bottom line? We buy it because we hope they have done the research and then taken the steps to do everything possible to protect, preserve or maybe enhance the health of whoever is eating what they have produced.
When it comes to feed- hay can be assessed fairly easily. You may look at it before you buy it, as it is loaded for you to take home or when it is delivered and stacked at your place in the feed barn. Some of us aren't home at the time of delivery, but have established a relationship with our supplier and if there is any problems such as mold, the bale can be returned for credit or replaced. You may even know the grower personally and buy directly from them. The last chance you have to look at the hay is just before you cut open the bale and as you feed it.
A bale containing trash may be one that was near the edge of the field. People being the way they are anymore, some of them have no regard for others or problem with littering. It happens and the farmer sometimes has little chance to catch it or prevent it from going through their mowers or baling machinery. Trust me, they don't like having their equipment break down or blades dulled by this trash, any more than we like finding it in a flake of hay at feeding time! And it always seems THAT flake finds its way into the feeder of the horse owned by the pickiest owner who can be especially tough to deal with, anyways.
When shopping for supplements and grain though, there isn't much for anyone to go on. You read the tag on the bag, the list of ingredients and the listed percentages of vitamins, nutrients, fats, proteins, carbohydrates, palatability and other things. You figure the pellets, powders, gels and liquids are produced in a relatively clean environment. At least you hope they are, but unless you are nearby or close enough to go visit the facility- you really have no way of knowing what's really going on. Even then, not all of them host tours or may be willing to show you around.
With human consumption products, the health department has inspectors who routinely go through restaurants and food processing facilities to ensure the cleanliness of the plants. They are looking for violations, but also give tips on ways to help prevent the violations. If there are violations, the offenders are given a written report of what is wrong and a time period in which to correct it. Too many violations and no corrections being made- they shut things down.
But taking it a slightly different route, WHO is checking the feed manufacturing plants? They are making the grains and supplements we feed the animals we may later be butchering for consumption. In the case of dairy cattle, the milk is collected twice daily and processed for distribution. Sure the facilities are checked by health inspectors, the milk is pasteurized to help reduce the chance of contamination, the farmer checks the cows at milking... but the cows are still eating the grains provided by the company the farm owner purchased it from.
I will be posting pictures to go along with all of this, but they are on another computer and cannot be accessed at the moment. Trust me, they are enough to turn the stomach of even the hardiest of our bunch. Especially when you take into consideration the course of the entire process.
That says a lot when you consider how excited horse people can get over a pile of poop in some circumstances! Or how some of us can clean a sheath without using gloves, open an abscess in a hoof and bring instant relief as well as releasing an incredible stench or just plain deal with or DO things that the mere thought of causes others to lose their lunch!
There are also a few other factors to consider in all of this. I will be listing some of them with the pictures. You may be checking a few things off the next grocery list. Don't say I didn't warn you!