• Hahnbee Choi, Cert. CN

What's Really In A Milkbone?

Updated: May 14

The infamous jam brand Smuckers makes another infamous dog treat... Milk Bones! But what is a jam company doing in the pet food industry?




Smuckers also makes other products and a handful of pet foods & treats, including but not limited to Milkbones.


Milk Bones claim that their treats "clean teeth and freshens breath, [provides] 12 Vitamins and Minerals, [and are] wholesome and tasty. But rather than just taking Milbone's word for it, let's look at what counts: the ingredients.



The first 2 ingredients in these popular treats are "ground whole wheat, [and] wheat flour."


Dogs are facultative carnivores and do not have a biological need for high glycemic carbohydrates in their diet. Carbohydrate in the canine's diet leads to inflammation in the gut biome. This allows for metabolic diseases to thrive as more than 80% of the immune system lies in the gut.


Kibbles & many treats are loaded with carbs, starches, and sugars that are high on the glycemic index scale because they need these substances to bind the food together and boost protein content without animal sources save money.


Glycemic Index: 0 to 100 assigned to food, with pure glucose arbitrarily given the value of 100, which represents the relative rise in the blood glucose level two hours after consuming that food


Using sugars as a primary fuel source (glycolysis) feeds metabolic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity. With over 50% of the modern canine population being obese, more high glycemic carbs are not needed in pet foods.


Carbohydrates are a long chain of glucose. When a starchy carb is consumed, it is broken down into glucose, which the body uses for fuel. When the body uses glucose, insulin is released to move the blood sugars (glucose) into the cells to use as energy.


Insulin is found in canines and humans. It is the only hormone that lowers blood pressure (BP) while 8 raises it. Dog's bodies (and humans) are equipped to raise BP when glucose is scared rather than lower when there is an abundance. This is because canines are not programmed to hunt for starches as a fuel source.



Meat meal is the rendered product from mammalian tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure stomach, and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. There are, unfortunately, not rules or regulations on how the"meat and bone" are obtained. This means that there is no way to know the type of animal(s), quality, or if the meat had been denatured before processing.


When a company states "meat meal" on the label versus "beef meal" or "chicken meal," it gives them the power not to be specific about what particular meats are being added. More often than not, the vaguer the protein is (in this case, no specificity at all), the worse quality it is. Not to say that the meat companies use can never be decent quality... but since large corporations are all about saving money, the animal parts may be sourced from:

  • 4D animals

  • Expired grocery meats

  • Dead zoo animals

  • Roadkill


Meat is marked to be used in the pet industry by denaturing the meat, which marks it "Inedible For Human Consumption." There are several ways to denature meat, from sprinkling charcoal to adding denaturing agents such as crude carbolic acids, cresylic disinfectant, green No.3 food coloring, blue No. 1 & 2, and "other proprietary substances" approved by the FDA. These ingredients are not required to be put on the label as the supplier added it, NOT the treat manufacturer. This is a similar problem with fish meal and artificial antioxidants, which bring us to our next ingredients.



The actual "milk" in a Milkbone thankfully comes from milk. But the benefits of dairy for canines are washed away with the manufacturing process and heat. If the milk Smucker receives is not already pasteurized, the step of cooking the treat definitely will. Pasteurization is a process of heating to kill all bacteria, good or bad. This was supposed to be a temporary solution for less hygienic farms to produce clean milk but shortly became a band-aid to cover poor quality milk. As mass milk production increased, more and more pasteurization was needed to increase profits, and eventually, the public implied that pasteurized milk was safer than raw. It’s often that milk is advertised as a “great source of calcium,” but milk loses around 66% of nutrients when pasteurized (due to carrier proteins) and more when ultra-pasteurized. The milk added into this formula is just more of a marketing ingredient for "MILK Bones" and a binding agent.


Moving onto the 5th ingredient, beef fat. More specifically, "Beef Fat preserved with BHA/BHT."


AAFCO defines animal fat as "obtained from the tissues of mammals, and/or poultry in the commercial process of rendering."


This means that the fat used is extracted from the same intense heat and processing as a meat meal. The high temperatures and pressure add to the oxidation and rancidity of the fat.


Rancid fats have been studies ever since the 1800s. Scientists are constantly looking for ways to attempt to slow oxidation. A common way to do this is the use of artificial antioxidants.


Lipid (fat) oxidation happens through a chain reaction. Fats are several carbon atoms liked together. Initiation is the event that begins the chain reaction by removing an electron from a carbon in the fat. Exposure to oxygen increases the rancidity, aka being stored in air-penetrable bags for months and months.


Rancid fats cause toxic consequences such as: