Consider the Company
owners tend to distrust larger
pet food companies. They mistakenly believe smaller brands are more likely to
make better and safer products. However, the facts tell a different story. 93%
of all pet foods sold in the U.S. are produced by just 3 companies — Big Heart, Mars and Purina. Yet, 73 of the 88 recalls during a recent
5-year period are linked to products of smaller brands.
means that the smaller companies (7%) are responsible for 83% of the food
It was found
that a significant number of dog foods are not likely to meet the claims of nutritional adequacy printed
on their labels. That’s because many smaller companies have willingly admitted that
they do not have the resources to
verify the nutrient content or the safety of the foods they sell. And
there’s no law requiring any pet food company to do so, either. The truth is,
the smaller the brand,
the less likely the
company has the financial ability to perform all the steps needed to ensure
the quality of its
products. So, although
there are always exceptions, it’s important to keep in mind that larger companies are far more likely to:
- Employ real food scientists, animal
nutritionists and other veterinary professionals to design their products
- Test raw materials for impurities and
- Conduct regular safety and quality
- Own and operate their own
- Verify the quality of finished goods
before they are shipped
- Maintain in-house testing laboratories
Larger companies may or may not be better.
However, the smaller the
dog food brand, the more critical it is for the consumer to look beyond the label.
Identify the Manufacturer
owners assume their
pet food company actually makes the products they sell. However, today, many
companies use third-party co-packers to
manufacture some — or all — of their foods. Whether or not a company makes its
own dog food is neither good nor
bad. What is important is to know the identity of the manufacturer to confirm that they
consistently pass inspections and produce quality products.
Question Product Design
surprise you is that there’s no
legal requirement that a pet food be formulated by an animal
nutritionist or any other veterinary professional. (DVM,DACVN or PHD in Animal Nutrition)
number of dog foods are designed by
amateurs! The consumer should be assured that an animal food scientist
is involved in designing their pet foods.
Confirm Nutrient Testing
important to know how the company can be certain each formulation
is nutritionally complete and balanced and how often nutritional content
testing is actually performed. Can the company furnish you with a complete
nutrient analysis of your dog’s diet? Does the company conduct laboratory analysis or do they
run feeding trials, or both?
mostly smaller companies never do any
testing at all. Find out what a company does to test each product to be sure it
actually meets AAFCO nutritional guidelines.
Investigate Ingredient Sources
No dog food
can ever be magically better than the ingredients that were used to make it.
Yet labels reveal little about the quality of the raw materials actually used to make the food. Some
ingredients are purchased from commodity
brokers on the open market — from the cheapest bidder. Others can come from countries known to
have inferior food quality standards. However, superior companies tend to
source their ingredients only from established local or regional suppliers they
do business with on a recurring basis. Federal law does not currently require
any pet food company to disclose
country of origin — or any other sourcing information — on its
Know how to really read a pet food label
important to point out that the pet food label is not a nutrient analysis of
the food! What is a pet food
label? A pet food label is a legal document regulated by the
Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and is the primary means
of communication between the pet food manufacturers and pet owners.
Deciphering the label
- The difference between "ingredients" and
"nutrients" needs to be clarified. Ingredients are the
vehicles that provide nutrients, while nutrients are food components that
support life and are metabolically useful. For example, lamb is an
ingredient that provides nutrients such as protein, fatty acids and
- Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. The high water
content in chicken, beef and lamb makes these ingredients weigh more than
dry ingredients such as grains, meals and vitamins, so they are often
- Be wary of foods with labels that list luxuriously sounding
ingredients lower than common chemicals or vitamins.
- Is of very limited use in evaluating a diet
- Indicates minimum or maximum levels of nutrients such as
protein, fat, fiber and moisture.
- Does not indicate
or provide exact levels of nutrients in the food.
- Is not a guarantee of the nutritional quality of the food.
- Moisture levels in food vary, making it nearly impossible for an
average consumer to accurately compare nutritional information.
Adequacy Statement or "AAFCO Statement"
- AAFCO is an organization that sets the nutritional standards for pet
foods sold in the United States.
- This legally required statement verifies the testing
method used to determine nutritional adequacy.
- The statement indicates whether the food provides complete and
balanced nutrition for a specific life stage of your
pet (growth, adult, pregnant/nursing), or if the product is
nutritionally adequate for all life stages.
- Beware if the package states the food supports "all life
stages." The product likely contains excessive levels of some
nutrients necessary for the most demanding life stage, which is growth.
For example, it might contain higher levels of protein and calcium for
kittens, but those levels are inappropriate for an adult or senior cat.
As a pet
owner, you should know that nutritional excesses can be as harmful and are more
common than nutritional deficiencies.
The package label should contain the
manufacturer's name and phone number. We encourage you to call the companies to
learn more about their products, including place of manufacturing, actual
nutrient content, calories and palatability of your prospective cat food
food companies work hard to conceal critical
information about their products. For example, we’ve actually stumbled upon a
number of companies that attempt to create an artificial sense of customer support by using voice mail to
take messages. Yet no one ever returns the calls. Some brands don’t even
maintain a product website. Others willnot furnish you with a complete nutrient
analysis , nor will they disclose who actually designed the foods.
hostile or defensive companies like these are the ones that most likely
have something to hide —
and should not be trusted.
Never buy any dog food made by any company
that is not transparent about
its products or its manufacturing practices.
Verify Quality Control
At the time
of purchase, all pet foods are at
risk for containing:
- Disease-causing pathogens (Salmonella,
- Mold toxins (aflatoxin, vomitoxin)
- Environmental pollutants
- Unsafe nutrient levels
many pathogens can be killed (pasteurized) during cooking, deadly toxins can remain in the
food throughout the manufacturing process.
companies are more diligent about this safety measure than others. A few
test every batch while
others test only randomly.
And yet some never test anything at all. It can be extremely difficult to
determine just how carefully any
brand administers its own quality control program.
Study the Recall History
recalls can provide some valuable
clues about a brand’s manufacturing habits. Accidents are going to
happen. Even though no pet food company can completely prevent a recall, it can
control how it responds to
such an event when it does occur. Unfortunately, while some companies work hard
to prevent a recall, others work even harder at covering them up.