With all the questionable animal parts that can end up in pet food, why is wheat gluten the prime suspect in the recent contamination, which has caused at least 10 pets to die of kidney failure since February? As Slate explains, your kitty’s chow probably contains more grains than meat.

Sure, the recipe may include a dash of “chicken meal” (made up of the cuts that Americans tend to shun, like heads, bones, blood, and organs), a pinch of flesh from sick or dying livestock. But many brands are also heavy on the carbohydrates and thickeners—despite what the listed ingredients suggest:

[P]et-food companies manipulate the order of the list such that meat (and meat byproducts) appear first, even when other ingredients are used in larger quantities. For instance, a can of cat food may list wheat flour and ground wheat as two ingredients; that way it seems like there’s more meat than grain in the recipe.

According to the labeling rules, pet food can have a name like Beef Entrée or Turkey and Giblets Dinner and contain as little as 25 percent of the given meat. If you see a brand with one of those squishy words in there (platter, nuggets, and formula are a few more options), it’s a good bet there’s a lot of grain in there.

Slate ends the article by noting that most vets think pet food in general is perfectly nutritious, though domestic animals are packing on the pounds from eating too much of the “wholesome” fare. But as any farmer will tell you, grains are the surest way to fatten your livestock—and of course the same goes for domestic animals. So how wholesome can this filler-filled pet food really be?

Update: I forgot to mention that the title of this post has nothing to do with the actual Kibbles ’n Bits brand, which doesn’t use Menu Foods as a supplier and isn’t part of the current recall. Just a little harmless wordplay.

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