Must pet food be Kosher or require a Hashgacha?

Must pet food be Kosher?

General law:

In general, the laws of Kashrus do not apply to animals, including pets that one owns and hence all non-Kosher foods that are permitted in benefit may be purchased and fed to one’s pets. There is no “business” prohibition involved in purchasing and owning the non-Kosher food on behalf of feeding one’s animals.[1] However, some non-Kosher foods contain a strict Kashrus status that prohibits not only their consumption, but even the receiving of benefit from them. These foods include: Basar Bechalav, Chametz on Pesach, Arla, and wine of a gentile [Yayin Nesech]. It is thus forbidden to feed such foods to one’s animals due to the prohibition against receiving benefit from them. Accordingly, upon purchasing pet food, although it is not required for it to be Kosher, one is to look at the ingredients to ascertain that it does not contain any of the above foods that are prohibited in benefit. The following are the detailed laws of each of the above foods that are prohibited in benefit and require analyzation of ingredients prior to purchase. To note, that there are companies of pet foods that contain Rabbinical supervision or endorsement, and hence verify that it does not contain any problematic ingredients.[2] While it is certainly necessary to purchase a Rabbinically endorsed brand during Pesach, it is not necessary to do so during the rest of the year, and a simple reading of the ingredients suffices.

 

Basar Bechalav:

It is Biblically forbidden to benefit from Biblical mixtures of meat and milk [even if they were cooked together by a gentile[3]].[4] Accordingly, it is forbidden to feed Biblical Basar Bechalav to one’s animals.[5] Thus, pet food that contains animal meat of a Kosher species which was cooked with dairy is forbidden to be fed to one’s pet. [An example of such a food is Hi Life Beef & Cheese dog bites, which contains cooked meat and milk and is hence forbidden to be fed to one’s animals.] It is, however, permitted to benefit from Rabbinical mixtures of Basar Bechalav[6], such as poultry and milk cooked together, or non-Kosher animal meat [i.e. horse/pig] and milk cooked together.[7] Thus, one may feed Rabbinical forms of Basar Bechalav to one’s pet, such as Friskies chicken and cheese cat dinner. Likewise, it is permitted to feed a pork and cheese, or horsemeat and cheese, dinner to one’s pet. This allowance applies even if the pet food is produced in a machine line that also produces Biblical Basar Bechalav pet food [cow meat and cheese].[8]

Understanding labels and ingredients of pet food: While in many cases the meat or dairy ingredient is clearly labeled on the ingredient list, at other times it is obscure. For example, if the label states “meat” as an ingredient, its source could be from Kosher animals such as cattle, sheep, or goats, in which case it is forbidden to be cooked with dairy, or may be from pork, which is permitted to be eaten with dairy. Being that this matter is unknown one should not purchase such a pet food if it contains milk. Regarding dairy ingredients, casein and whey are considered milk, and must be searched for in the ingredient list upon purchasing a meat [of Kosher species] pet food.

 

Wine or grape juice:[9]

One is to avoid purchasing pet foods that contain grape juice or wine derivatives, such as grape flavoring, due to the prohibition against benefiting from wine of a gentile.

 

Arla:

Fruits that grew during the first three years are defined as Arla, and are prohibited in benefit. They thus may not be fed to one’s pets.[10] However, in the Diaspora, one does not have to suspect that a food is Arla or contains Arla, and it is hence only prohibited if one knows for certain that it does.[11] Accordingly, there is no worry of Arla when purchasing pet foods, [unless the label clearly states that the fruits it contains were freshly harvested within the first three years of growth[12]].

 

Chametz on Pesach:

It is Biblically forbidden to benefit from [any amount of] Chametz during Pesach.[13] It is thus forbidden to feed Chametz to even a wild, disowned, animal.[14] It goes without saying that is forbidden to feed Chametz to animals that he owns. Furthermore, it is forbidden to give one’s animal to a gentile caretaker during Pesach, if one knows for certain that the caretaker will feed Chametz to the animal.[15]

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[1] The reason: Although it is forbidden to do business with non-Kosher foods, this refers specifically to selling the food, or giving it to a gentile as a present, however to purchase it for the sake of feeding one’s pets is not considered under the business prohibition and is hence permitted to be done according to all. [See Michaber and Rama Y.D. 117:1; Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:37 regarding doing actual business with pet food that is not for human consumption]

[2] Evanger’s manufactures pet food that is endorsed by the Chicago Rabbinical Council.

[3] Chochmas Adam 40:2

[4] Michaber 87:1; Tur 87:1; Rambam Sefer Hamitzvos Mitzvah 187; Machalos Assuros 9:1; Rebbe Yishmael in Chulin 115b

[5] Taz 94:4; Admur 443:3 and Taz 443:2 regarding Chameitz, that it is forbidden to be given to even wild animals that are not owned; Toras Chatas 85:3; Kneses Hagedola 87:10; Hakdama of Yad Efrayim; Shulchan Gavoa 87:3; Erech Hashulchan 87:7; Chochmas Adam 40:2; Kaf Hachaim 87:4

The reason: As one receives mental/emotional satisfaction by satiating the animals hunger. [Mishneh Berurah 448:28 regarding Chametz]

[6] Rama 87:1; Michaber 91:8 regarding Melicha; Shach 87:2; Taz 87:1; Rambam, Chinuch, Mordechai, Tur; Issur Viheter 30; and the Michaber

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule one may not benefit from even Rabbinical mixtures of Basar Bechalav. [Rashal Perek Kol Habasar 100; Bach 87, brought in Shach and Taz ibid]

[7] Michaber 87:3

[8] P”M 87 Pesicha; Issur Viheter 21:6; Kaf Hachaim 87:5-6

[9] See Michaber and Rama 123:1 and Shach 124:71

[10] Michaber Y.D. 294:1; Kiddushin 56b

[11] Michaber 294:9

[12] See Michaber 294:28; Braisa Yevamos 122a; Taz Y.D. 122:4; Shach 127:20; Aruch Hashulchan 295:45

[13] Admur 431:2

The source for prohibiting benefiting from Chametz? The verse [which describes the eating prohibition] states “Lo Yochal: Do not bring yourself to eat.” This means to say that there is no permissibility to make use of the Chametz in a way that will lead one to eat a food, even a permitted food. It is thus forbidden to receive benefit from the Chametz [such as by selling or exchanging the Chametz], as general benefits lead one to eat food, as one buys food with the money he makes from the sale of Chametz. [Admur 431:2]

[14] Admur ibid; Taz 443:3

The reason: As one receives benefit by fulfilling his desire to satiate the animals hunger. [M”B 448:28]

[15] Admur 450:18

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