Chicken feathers in pet food: Wilbur-Ellis denies misbranding and adulteration

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/NiroDesign
© istock/NiroDesign

Related tags Food

A California company says it is ready to defend itself in court over accusations it misbranded its pet food products by using too many lower-quality ingredients, such as chicken feathers, and not enough real chicken and other meat.

The San Francisco headquartered Wilbur-Ellis, with sales worth exceeding $3.1bn, describes itself as an international marketer and distributor of agricultural products, animal feed and specialty chemicals and ingredients.

It supplies ingredients to livestock, aquaculture and pet food companies directly as well as supplying brokers, distributors and traders.

The feed ingredient supplier and one of its feed division employees, who was responsible for the animal protein products from a Wilbur-Ellis facility in Rosser in Texas, face criminal charges over the alleged misbranding and adulteration of ingredients sold to pet food manufacturers.

The charges by the US attorney, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, claim the Texas facility “substituted, and caused to be substituted, in whole or in part, hydrolyzed poultry feathers (also referred to as feather meal) or hydrolyzed feather meal for premium pet food products and ingredients, such as chicken meal and turkey meal…”

The company is also alleged to have “mixed and blended, and caused to be mixed and blended, chicken by-product meal with one or more raw materials to make the products and ingredients supplied to pet food companies…appear better and of greater value than the product was.”

The accusation was first lodged against Wilbur-Ellis in a lawsuit filed by Purina Pet Food in 2014 against competitor Blue Buffalo over the contents of premium pet food brands. 

‘Commitment to quality, safety and integrity’

Wilbur-Ellis sent this publication a statement in relation to the claims:

“These misdemeanor charges arise from shipments that allegedly occurred several years ago out of one of our 32 feed division locations around the world. At that time, the facility was under prior local management.”

Wilbur-Ellis purchased the Rosser facility in 2011 as part of the assets of assets of American By-Products Inc.

The ingredient supplier said it “took prompt action to ensure this facility operates according to what our customers, and theirs, should expect. At no time were there any safety concerns with this facility, and nutritional standards were always met.”

Wilbur-Ellis added that it looks forward to addressing these issues in court: “As a nearly 100-year-old, family-owned company, Wilbur-Ellis has long dedicated itself to quality, safety and integrity and we will continue to uphold this commitment now and into the next century.”

The company’s website refers to the attention it pays to the mix of products it sources and blends to supply the pet food sector, with its range including fishmeal from Chile, animal coproducts from Australia and vegetable coproducts from Idaho.

Our market coverage continues to expand from West to East in North America and across Asia. This robust infrastructure is backed by strong financials, and a quality and safety program unparalleled by other companies of Wilbur-Ellis’ size,”​ it added.

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