Pet Food Ingredients

Is the Petsumer Getting Burned with Grilled?

There are numerous pet foods that feature the words ‘Grilled’ or ‘Roasted’ or other home cooking type within the name of the pet food product.  While Grilled or Roasted can be misleading to a consumer (if the ingredients are not grilled or roasted), some pet foods take it even further with pictures on their packages.  Is the pet food consumer being misled by these product labels?

Each year, in almost every state (in the U.S.) – pet food companies have to register each product they sell within that state with the respective State Department of Agriculture.  Many states charge a fee per tonnage of pet food sold or per number of products available for sale (different varieties).  The pet foods offered for sale in each state are not only required to meet various food safety laws (developed by AAFCO and adopted in each state), the products are also required to comply with labeling laws.  Labeling laws are for the protection of the consumer; so that the package doesn’t mislead the consumer into purchasing the product.  With respect to images/pictures displayed on a pet food label the law states: (Regulation PF2.c 2014 AAFCO Official Publication) “A vignette, graphic, or pictorial representation on a pet food or specialty pet food label shall not misrepresent the contents of the package.”

But, it seems some pet food manufacturers don’t take this law seriously.  And no regulatory authority is acting to protect the pet food consumer.

Take a look at this dog food package…

[col col=6]KibblesBitsAmericanGrill[/col]
[col col=6]Notice the picture of the huge grilled steak featured on this Kibbles ‘n Bits dog food.

The name of this variety is “Grilled USA Beef Steak Flavor”.  That’s not “USA Beef Steak” it’s USA beef steak flavor.  If the name of the pet food was USA Beef Steak – the company would be required to include actual beef steak in the pet food.  So the name is ‘Flavor’ – thus they are only required to include USA beef steak flavor in the dog food.

Oh but there’s that picture…that beautiful picture of a grilled steak right there on the front of the bag.  Remember the law quoted above – the “pictorial representation on the pet food label shall not misrepresent the contents of the package”.  So this dog food must include steak…right?

Wrong.  The ingredients of this dog food tell us something different than grilled steak.  In this dog food, the only ‘meat’ ingredient is “beef and bone meal” – which is a rendered ingredient (ground and cooked prior to being cooked in the pet food) that looks like this…



So…no grilled steak inside the bag of Kibble ‘n Bits – but there is brown powdered meat.  Is this pet food package with that big picture of grilled steak on the label misleading consumers?




[col col=4]FP__0006_FPS_RM_Chx_Carrots_Spinach_Dog_175lb[/col]
[col col=4]

Freshpet is another pet food that clearly shows grilled chicken on their pet food label.  And guess what?  Freshpet told me in July 2012 – “no, the chicken is not grilled”.

I had hoped that with bringing this grilled misrepresentation to Freshpet’s attention (and to FDA and to State Department of Agriculture’s attention) in 2012, the company would have changed their labels to accurately portray the ingredients of their pet food…but no, that didn’t happen.  Instead, Freshpet has taken the same approach – using faux grilled chicken on the label – with their new line of pet food  Nature’s Fresh.

Are these pet food packages displaying grilled chicken when no grilled chicken is inside the bag misleading consumers? [/col]
[col col=4]FP__0015_NF_WM_Dog_Chx_175lb[/col]


[col col=6]





This Friskies Cat Food does things a bit differently.  The name of the cat food is “Grillers” and the label displays a grill with pet food pieces on it.  Purina stated the pet food is “not actually put on a grill”.

Is this cat food misleading consumers to believe the food or ingredients are grilled?

[col col=6]Friskies[/col]




And one more…

[col col=6]active-nutrition-for-dogs[/col]
[col col=6]

This Pedigree Dog Food shows sliced grilled chicken on the label.  I tried calling Pedigree to ask if the chicken is grilled but after waiting several minutes on hold (listening to recordings of how Pedigree is proudly made in the U.S. or Canada), another recording told me the office was closed.

PedigreeCostcoAt $0.42 a pound (at Costco), we can safely assume Pedigree does not grill their chicken.

Is this pet food label displaying grilled chicken misleading consumers?  [/col]


Why are any of these products allowed to display grilled meats on their labels when inside the bag is not grilled meat?

Why has every regulatory authority ignored these label misrepresentations?

The grilling on the pet food packages is marketing, but the consumer is the one getting burned.


Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
Association for Truth in Pet Food

What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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March 25, 2014

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11 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Is the Petsumer Getting Burned with Grilled?”

  1. B Dawson says:

    I just re-watched Food, Inc. and was wondering if anyone has attempted a similar film about the pet food industry.

    Even some of the premium brands of pet food aren’t dropping whole chickens, fresh apples and perfect carrots into hoppers and kibbling it up, although that’s what you’ll see on the wrapper. While those ingredients may actually be in the food, the graphic representation is also misleading isn’t it? Celebrity chefs are shown in their kitchens chopping up real meat and sliding it into their dog’s bowl to hawk their brand of pet food. Misleading or marketing? While the examples you provide are clear cut, the line does become subjective at some point and I think that is what is holding back enthusiastic enforcement. Large companies like Purina and Del Monte are only too happy to sue for unfair treatment.

    I subscribe to Pet Food Industry e-News, PetFood Forum and couple other trade rags and it is disturbing what is being done to ingredients. It’s nothing more that molecular manipulation to maximize the usage of raw materials. I closed my holistic pet supply because I became so disheartened with not just the manufacturers but also with the consumers. As you pointed out in your article, at 42¢ per pound how good can the ingredients possibly be? Anyone seeing that price on a pound of meat in the butcher case – heck that price per pound for hot dogs – would immediately be suspicious.

    Time to convince Morgan Spurlock to do a pet food documentary, yes?

  2. di gleich says:

    ALL those pet foods ARE misleading! I have learned enough from all your hard dedicated work to know better than just look at the advertising pictures… READ the LABELS and see for yourself what is actually in there!!!!

    This goes for people food too!!!

    What the companies wont do to try and fool us into buying their products.
    It’s all about money, power and greed. Not our best interests…. which is sad to say.

  3. Peter says:

    Nicely written. And you make a good point: that if consumers only exercised a smidge of common sense… they’d realize that paying less than two quarters for a pound of food (as they insist upon, paying so little) would quickly exclude real “meat” from being included in the recipe. Grilled or not.

  4. Pat P. says:

    Misleading advertising is all over the place–not just pet foods, human food, too.
    I am not duped (that I know of, or most of the time), by their false claims, yet, I know that many people are–even those intelligent in other ways. I just had to tell a friend, recently, not to believe all the advertising hype on foods, just the ingredients list–if you can even do that. She, surprisingly, believed claims that I thought were ridiculous. Of course, I used to be more gullible than I am now about foods, after extensive research. Sometimes, almost everything seems suspect!
    These companies know that they can get away with it, and that it works with a lot of people. They should not be allowed to deceive the public like they do, but they are.
    There SHOULD be a documentary about the pet food Industry. Of course, the people who really needed to know, often wouldn’t even see it. If it was well made, I, certainly, would go. What a boon to pet owners that could be!

  5. Regina says:

    Some people have no concept of the front of the package being very different than the back (and sides). They just look at the front of the package, and that’s all they need to see. I was talking to someone who used Purina Pro Plan “Shredded blend” dry food. This person actually thought those “shred” pieces were actually pieces of shredded chicken and not processed kibble in a unique shape.

    • Amanda says:

      You’ve gotta love the people who think that stuff is real meat. A woman practically vomited when I told her that Royal Canin used reconstructed meat to make the perfect chunky morsels in their Feline Instinctive wet food. Its more like making a chicken nugget rather than diced chicken breast which is what everyone thinks.

  6. g.r.r. says:

    Just curious, but is there a stamp/tag/etc that shows the food is safe, recomemded, etc? Think along the lines of ‘Florida Orange Juice’.

    It seems like a smart thing to do is come up with a branding, that initially, you give to all of the companies that have decent food with NOTHING from China, no false advertising, etc
    and in return, you obtain a promise from them to notify you IF these change. i.e. you have the opportunity to pull the sticker if these conditions change.
    In addition, they agree that they will display the logo on their bag in the front.

    Ideally, you will require that they also list where items come from.

  7. g.r.r. says:

    BTW, Love your work. Please keep it up.

  8. Ellie says:

    Basically the pet food industry is being allowed to use whatever leftover food parts they find to make pet food and then they add synthetic vitamins (manufactured in China) to make the mix meet the “standards” that the pet food companies make for themselves.
    Sadly, Americans are far too trusting of the FDA in thinking that they are looking out for the citizen’s best interests. When it comes down to it, when there are millions and even billions of dollars to be made there is no real honesty or the use of ethics in the decision making process. It is all about the bottom line. The large pet food companies are not owned by individuals that are concerned about producing the best possible product. The owners are the share holders that are expecting to make a profit no matter how it is achieved.
    Our media oriented society is far too easily sold a bill of goods by the fancy Madison Ave advertizing agencies that use pictures of healthy food and puppies to advertize their trash.

  9. chuck linker says:

    Every dog owner should read Science Diet/Hills ingredients.

    That would change their feeding those 2 brands inmediately.

    Vets suggest it beccause they get free food from Hills.

    Folks don’t buy what they should. They never will because “it’s just for the dog”. Why don’t adults say that about their children? “It’s just for my kids !”

    Beneful does not have one veggie pictured inside the bag or can.

    Pedigree is appealing because of the bright yellow bag.

    Some unfortunate dogs have for 14 ywears eating the same thing all their lives.

    Yes, one can choose and wean their cogs on another goodiet.

    Dogs will eat most anything. Why does the owner say “My dog loves ‘Ol Roys or Iams”. They are not dumb as the owners are. Dogs will eat most anything resembling dog fod– dry or wet.

    It’s the poor canines that suffer and die younger than than they should.

    • Peter says:

      Science Diet also makes deals with shelters, providing them food in exchange for promotion. That includes placing display of Science Diet in a conspicuous place (right in the lobby), and giving a bag of food to each customer when they adopt. The shelter must use Science Diet for the animals in their care, and cannot use or promote any other product. The animal is “already used to” Science Diet, the customer will be told. If you donate premium/natural food to them, the shelter will not be allowed to use it, and at best, will donate it to another charity. Science Diet gives them posters and banners and tags that hang on the cages. You can’t blame the shelters… many are desperate for contribution. But the whole process is so cynical.

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