We all see the images that pet food manufacturers promote through the media and advertising. You see plump chicken, choice cuts of beef, fresh grains and fruits and vegetables. The images looks inviting and tout messages such as all natural, healthy.
The Pet food industry sales have skyrocketed to over $17 billion per year in the U.S in 2008. Pet Food manufacturers want you to believe that they provide the best solution for your pet. So, what are you really buying? What most consumers don’t know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food industry. Left over remnants from the human food chain may be used for Pet food subsidiaries.
WHO OWNS YOUR PET FOOD BRAND?*
- Nestlé’s purchased Purina to form Nestlé Purina Petcare Company (http://www.nestlepurina.com/)
- Mars the makers of M&Ms and Dove purchased Nutro, Pedigree, Royal Canin, Cezars and Greenies and are owners of Banfield Pet Hospitals http://www.mars.com/global/brands/petcare.aspx
- Del Monte is the parent company of Heinz (MeowMix, Gravy Train, Kibbles ’n Bits,, 9Lives, Nature’s Recipe and treats such as Milk Bone, Pup-Peroni and Snausages). Del Monte in Mar 2011 was acquired by Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P., Vestar Capital Partners and Centerview Partners. We don’t know yet what that will mean for their Pet food department. http://www.delmonte.com/about.aspx
- Procter and Gamble (P&G) owns – The Iams Company (Iams, Eukanuba) and Natura (manufacturers of Evo, Innova, California Natural) . What is interesting is that the products are listed under household care and you can only find IAMS. You have to do a search for Eukanuba and Natura Pet. http://www.pg.com/en_US/brands/household_care/index.shtml
- Colgate-Palmolive bought Hill’s Science Diet in 1976 (Hill’s Science Diet,Prescription Diets). (http://www.colgate.com)- look under products
* Company ownership is as of June 2012 and is subject to change.
The Pet food industry has been attractive to companies such as P&G, Nestles, Colgate Pamolive. They leverage their other products, marketing and branding to convey pet orientated marketing messages to the end consumer. How many pet food commercials have you seen today? The fact is millions of dollars are spent annually by pet food manufacturers to convince the consumer that their product is better. The question comes to mind, how do you distinguish what pet food to buy?
The Pet food industry is regulated and monitored by several organizations, two of the main ones are AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) and The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials)
AAFCO establishes the nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods, and it is the pet food company’s responsibility to formulate their products according to the appropriate AAFCO standard.
They are not a government agency and has no regulatory authority to enforce any standards.
Although AAFCO does analyze new foods to ensure they contain the ratio of protein, fat, fiber and minerals, listed on the dog food labels, they do not analyze the source nor safety of these ingredients. The pet food industry found the feeding trials expensive, so AAFCO designed an alternate procedure for claiming the nutritional adequacy of pet food. Pet manufacturers need only create a product using “Nutrient Profiles.” More and more pet food companies are returning to performing feeding trials as it provides a actual palatability and digestibility data.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The USDA is involved with regulations concerning pet food labeling and identification and the approval of pet food ingredients. The real “enforcers” are the feed control officials in each state. They are the ones who actually look at the food and, in many instances, run basic tests to make sure the food meets its Guaranteed Analysis, the chart on the label telling how much protein, fat, moisture, and fiber are present. But regulation and enforcement varies from state to state. In Texas, pet food products must be registered and approved by the Texas State Chemist. To see if a product is approved in Texas, you can look at Reports / Active Feed Licensee.
Official USDA Website: www.usda.gov
Texas state Chemist (feed control) – http://otscweb.tamu.edu/Default.aspx
The Pet food industry regulation and compliance is comprised and shaped by the influence of pet manufacturers, renderers and ingredient suppliers. The pet food recalls should be a wake up call for all consumers. It is important for consumers to educate themselves and look beyond marketing messages to make purchase decisions.
WHERE IS THE MEAT?
The protein percentage on the label is derived not only from Animal Protein but increasingly from vegetable protein as well. Common sense tells us that our pets need high quality protein for a healthy body. The practice of replacing meat based protein with vegetable based protein, reduces product costs but at what price?
Once the protein that is fit for human consumption is removed, the rest is used in pet food, animal feed, fertilizer, industrial lubricants, soap, rubber, and other products. These “other parts” are known as “by-products.” The nutritional quality of by-products can vary from depending on what it consists of. Depending on the company’s attention to quality, the protein used most likely consists of leftover scraps and may contain a lot of bone which can also increase magnesium and ash content.
Many dry pet foods also contain a large amount of cereal grain or starchy vegetables. These high-carbohydrate plant products also provide a cheap source of “energy” (calories). In addition Gluten meals are high-protein extracts that are used to boost protein percentages so that they can use less animal source ingredients, which are more expensive. Corn gluten meal and soybean meal are the most commonly used to increase protein % on pet foods.
CHEMICAL VS NATURAL PRESERVATIVES.
All commercial pet foods must be preserved. Preservatives are added during manufacturing but also are added by raw ingredient manufacturers to maintain freshness during transportation. Chemical preservatives include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate, propylene glycol (antifreeze).
Natural Preservatives such as Vitamin C (ascorbate), Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), and oils of rosemary, clove, or other spices have been used by Natural Pet food manufacturers for a long time. Slowly, larger Pet food manufacturers have started to use more natural preservatives but the draw back is the product shelf life is reduced (natural pet foods typically have a 9-12 month shelf life, compared to other store brands that may be up to 3 years)
Today, the store brand diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the meat-based diets that their ancestors ate. Are these processed ingredients such as containing by-products, large amounts of non-meat based protein, synthetic preservatives, artificial coloring contributing to your pet’s health? Many nutritional problems have increased which leads us to look at the evolution of the pet food industry. More and more we hear customers that have pets with Urinary tract disease. Kidney disease., Obesity, Dental disease. chronic digestive problems, cancer and on and on.
It is not surprising that a highly processed cereal based diet has most likely had a detrimental effect our the pet populations health. In addition other contaminants such as bacteria, mold, toxic chemicals has negatively affected pet’s health world wide.
Unfortunately pet food quality is difficult to determine in a billion dollar industry that use phrases such as Super Premium, Healthy, All Natural, Specially formulated, Contains real meat, no fillers and the list goes on and on. If your pet food is inexpensive, the food is likely made from low cost ingredients. However, if a bag is expensive that does not necessarily mean high quality. So how do you know what to buy? Research, research, research, use the internet, talk to a local independent pet store and call your pet food company with any questions you have. If it is not healthy for us, it is highly likely it is not healthy for your pet. We feel better when we eat healthy and so does your pet.
Nadine Joli-Coeur is the owner of Natural Pawz and a featured monthly columnist for pet nutrition.
About Natural Pawz:
With 10 stores in the greater-Houston area, Natural Pawz continues to set the standard in the market for 100%-natural pet food, treats and holistic health solutions supplies, all of which are sourced from the USA and Canada. The Natural Pawz team can help navigate you through choosing the healthiest food for your companion cats and dogs, while showing you how easy and affordable it is to provide the proper nutrition to your beloved animal. Natural Pawz is not like traditional boutiques or national retailers. We are a locally owned natural pet food store that also carries a wide variety of wellness products, collars and leads, bedding and special rewards for your cat and dog. Each location is managed and staffed by a team of customer-friendly knowledgeable associates that are involved in the community and truly get to know you and your animal. Natural Pawz has been voted Best Pet Supply Store in Houston in Click2Houston’s Best of Houston for two consecutive years and was voted as “Best Pet Services, Supplies or Boutique” by the Houston Press, Fort Bend Herald, Woodlands Online and, most recently, named “Best Pet Product Company” in H-Texas Magazine’s Best of the Best list.