by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
It has been a while since I have looked into the world of pet nutrition, so when I came across an article written by Michael Waxman titled “What’s your dog eating?”, It caught my attention. I have been struggling with what to feed our girl dog, Sadie; she has put on weight this winter with an injured paw and the ice and snow making it hard for her to be active outside.
We have always provided Sadie with raw foods, but we have supplemented with dry kibble from what I thought were reputable brands. However, as with all things if you do not stay up on who is buying out who, you end up with a good product going bad. Sadie’s digestion was acting up also, and I knew it was time to change what we were feeding her. We went back to the tried and true cooked Organic ground turkey and sweet potatoes with 10% organ meat added for nutrition. This was easy for us to make up and place reserve in glass snap ware containers in the freezer. However, what about kibble to fill in the gaps? I had seen information from a vet on Facebook about how kibble food was bad for dogs, but why I wondered. So, I went looking for why reported Organic dry foods fall short of the mark.
There are over 3,000 different dog food brands available in the United States, yet roughly 80% of them are owned and manufactured by just four companies. The largest of which, Mars, a privately held candy, and pet food giant Mars owns dog food brands Royal Canin and Iams, along with over 1,800 animal hospitals, employing more than 10% of all companion animal vets. After Mars, there’s Nestle — a $240 billion behemoth, the 10th largest corporation in the world, which makes Purina and dozens of other brands. Third on the list is J.M. Smuckers — of jam fame, which produces Milk-Bone and Natural Balance, with Colgate-Palmolive closely following — owners of Hill’s Science Diet. Two more multi-billion dollar companies, Diamond Pet Foods, and Blue Buffalo, together represent roughly the next 10% of the market.
Now after reading this I thought oh good the very expensive Organic Petcurean I selected for Sadie is not on the watch-out list, it is a small family company out of Canada…. hummmm, but maybe I should look, further I thought.
Nutrition research is complicated for dogs and humans; most research is funded by the food and beverage industry. Coca-Cola lobbyists, for instance, popularized the widespread idea that “all calories are the same.” Independent scientists have debunked this idea and ones like it, but it has taken a long time due to the corporate funding dollars pushing against them. A contrary opinion backed by science is finally emerging. However, that added sugar is bad, processed foods are unhealthy, and inexpensive store brand supplements — as opposed to those found in natural healthcare provider’s offices and whole foods — are poorly absorbed. In other words, don’t eat junk food. Pet food, as it turns out, is mostly junk food, loaded with sugar.
One vet bluntly described kibble as “cardboard with vitamins sprinkled on top,” and that description is pretty accurate. The food processing techniques used for pet food are so harsh it denatures the nutrients found in the original ingredients, requiring additives and vitamin supplements to be added back into the food. The “Wholesome Natural” or “Super Premium” dog food segment followed the wake of a 2007 recall scandal that shook the pet food industry. A Chinese ingredient provider used by all the major firms had been inserting a chemical called Melamine to artificially inflate protein values. This Melamine is toxic to animals and killed thousands of dogs.
Today’s more expensive kibbles are essentially the same old kibble, wrapped in deceptive “natural” marketing and produced with lower safety standards. Most of these smaller brands, for instance, don’t manufacture their food; they partner with multiple contract manufacturers who make it for them, each with their quality control process.
There is far more to this story than space – what about the fancy organic food I bought? It turns out it does have all the certified documentation for the USA and Canada. These certifications require all ingredients are organic not just one, and it has no added sugar. We use kibble as a supplement to the raw and cooked food we make here at home. So, while I have to take out a bank loan to buy dog food, I know we are as proactive about Sadie’s diet as we are our own. What I save on vet bills makes up for her fancy food.
We recommend you read and follow Michael Waxman article “What’s your dog eating?”
To your good health and that of your pets.