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Trick of the Pet Food Trade

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  1. Duncan

    Wow! I didn’t grasp this–and I thought I was a savvy shopper. Thank you!

  2. Mary Dearmin

    Did you take into account the GA percentage differences in all of these? What about other ingredients that do cost more like ancient grains vs others? There is a big 5-10% difference between Freedom and Wilderness.

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      I looked at ingredients that make up the majority of the food.

    2. LoriL

      “Ancient grains”? Oh dear. It’s all marketing Mary. None of it is good for your pet.

  3. JaneeS

    Susan has pointed out the trick of Higher protein kibbles as well. Many consumers are now aware that pets do better with higher protein, so they think that a higher protein percentage on the label is worth the added cost, right? The big secret, and the problem is that the protein is not from meat! It is from pea protein, whey protein, maybe even corn gluten meal or soy ingredients. Even though some vegetable proteins can be healthy in smaller amounts, they are not nearly as bioavailable to animals as meat. Vegetable proteins don’t have all the amino acids needed by dogs and cats, are harder to digest, and are often ingredients that pets are allergic to. It’s a cheap way to boost protein numbers on the label, but how much nutrition does your furry family member get from that? Big Pet Feed: It’s all about money.

  4. landsharkinnc

    wonder if they changed the source of BEEF / Chicken between the two products as one says BEEF ( is good source of glucosamine (not so much the muscle meat itself ) and in the other bag, they say that CHICKEN is — which if the meal if primarily made from feet/bone, would be a more correct statement. In either case, I wouldn’t feed this to a DOG!

    First 2-3 ingredients should be a named meat, following 2-3 should be DIFFERENT carbs — in the case of the one bag, two of the first five are Corn – not that I’m against ‘grain’ but there is still more grain than meat in either of these.

  5. Andrea

    I have a question. When you say the first few ingredients (by weight), that is before the food is processed, correct? So, chicken may be the first ingredient but after cooked (and much of the water weight removed), it is actually not the #1 ingredient for the final product, correct?

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      Ingredients are listed in pre-cooking weight – yes.

      1. Andrea

        I love your site and knew you would be the expert to answer this. Thanks!

  6. Sandy Blackburn

    Compare science diet $$$$ to the same ingredients in another brand, lets say purina…thats eye opening!

  7. Ian

    Great article, Susan, another example of how Big Pet Food is the amazing and horrible story of converting junk ingredients, using sophisticated marketing, into huge profits. Thanks for always shining a light.

  8. Reader

    Now I do get the point of the article. I don’t defend any of the products, or any like them. No matter the ingredients, when they are inferior/toxic, which just undermines any intended benefits of the formula. But let’s assume there really is product integrity. My understanding is beef or chicken “meal” is preferable to just “beef” or “chicken” meat. (Pretty sure that’s been discussed here before). The value of appropriate “meal” is supposed be a well-rounded combination of carcass parts (but not unfit parts). This is why feeding a RAW diet is valuable. Including natural calcium, organ meat, etc.. (See Susan’s List for reputable brands). One assumption about feeding kibble is usually missed however. Meaning it “should” be fed with a wet food to dogs. Most dogs need the added moisture.

    The marketing difference between Purina One and Pro Plan is because one product is aimed at regular owners. Notice the words “Smart Blend.” Well wouldn’t you feel pretty dumb if you weren’t choosing a “smart” formulated dog food? (That marketing term is no accident). On the other hand, Pro Plan used to be (and may still be) a Breeders/Exhibitors choice dog food. Notice the image on the package (a purebred). And breeders/exhibitors almost always feed a combination of wet and kibble. It just makes for a substantial dog (muscle, weight, coat) and so on.

    Wilderness is trying to appeal to the “prey” model diet interests. Which of course kibble will never meet anyway. And gad knows whatever “Life Protection and Earth’s Essentials” are supposed to be. That kind of language really ought to be outlawed.

  9. Tom

    Purina is huge and marketing takes precedent over food..and nutrition.
    People are so taken in by marketing and phony claims Blue is the perfect example..that those in Pet Food research and science..innovators struggle to compete.

    1. Pacific Sun

      Purina (Checkerboard Square) used to be one of those researchers and innovators! But sold out big time during the previous decades! To become one of the worst manufacturers out there. Average consumers never question PF. One of the few products they take for granted. Partly because it’s hard to imagine how bad the food can be, and partly because they live in denial.

      Be sure to sign (and share!) the petition to require manufacturers to label products as feed or food. The petition is hosted on the Care2 website, here is the direct link:

      Not only will it soon be one trick manufacturers can no longer play, the petition is only 113 away from the goal. Let’s put it over the top during the next 24 hours!!!

  10. Ms. B Dawson

    I wasn’t certain what thread to post this under and finally settled here…

    An article entitled “‘Made in USA’ no longer enough for pet food?” was posted yesterday from The World Pet Association (an advocacy group for the pet food industry). I am livid at the journalism and here’s why:

    The article, written by Lindsay Beaton (managing editor of Petfood Industry magazine), starts off well enough by documenting the trend in premium foods to label point of origin for ingredients, primarily meat sources. Examples given included Ziwi Peak’s “New Zealand mackerel and lamb” and Grizzly’s Superfoods’ Alaskan wild caught salmon. These are solid claims that tell consumers where the meat in their pet food is coming from and that’s helpful.

    The article then devolves into the following statement:

    ..”Are you from Nantucket? Blue Buffalo has a new formula for your dog called “Nantucket Feast,” made with cod, shrimp, Yukon gold potatoes and cranberries. In that same new line are Colorado Roast and Texas BBQ formulas.”….

    “Nantucket Feast” and “Colorado Roast” are names given to formulas that, in the ingredient panel, make no claims that the seafood is from Nantucket or the beef is roasted from Colorado cattle. It is a marketing claim that this article conflates with actual point of origin meat sources. Two thirds of the article is dedicated to these “regional formulations”, with the companies who declared factual point of origin enjoying only one third.

    The industry obviously believes that “reasonable consumers” DO swallow slick marketing hook, line and sinker. The final paragraph in the article says it all:

    ..”The regional callouts will have pet owners from those areas taking a second look, appreciating the attention to detail in the ingredients and the idea that someone at a pet food company thought their home was worth celebrating in pet food form.”..

    Apparently the pet food industry thinks that celebrating your hometown is waaaay more important to consumers than being honest and disclosing where the ingredients came from. This is outrageous and illustrates how the industry believes that colorful marketing is better than boring facts and that what’s on the label drives sales. The judge who dismissed Wysong’s lawsuit needs to read this article!

    The article can be read here:

    1. Pacific Sun

      I like your comments! They always make me think! And they’re newsy. I think the PFI publication is being very honest. About the value of deception! At least they recognize it. And value it!! That “regional” stuff claim has always made me suspicious of Orijen in terms of how they “market” their brand. Give me a break. Are we really to believe these companies find a single source (and wherever “Nantucket” is) and then expect to believe they get their entire required volume from that source? Or do they sprinkle the essence of a Nantucket caught fish over the whole batch?? More likely. Or for us to believe all the cattle they need, is roaming only on Colorado property? I just talked with a local renderer yesterday (who gave a seminar at our supply store about an organic PF) and he said big companies source from all over, just as long as they can meet their quota. And the companies under discussion here, have a huge volume of ingredient requirements!

      I think another word for the “reasonable consumers” these companies are imagining us to be, would be instead “gullible consumers” and I’m surprised those words haven’t never made it to print yet. But should.

      I’m guessing the judge who dismissed Wysong, doesn’t even own a pet!!

  11. Nicole

    Thank you for this informative fact based article that answered my suspicions that we were paying more for a pet food than we needed to. We started Pro Plan because that is what our breeder started our dog off with. After loosing my job I was struggling to pay for this food. I switched to purina one not seeing a difference in ingredients, and my dog loves the turkey venison. I have done a ton of research trying to confirm my suspicions and all the articles I come across have been opinion base. I really appreciate you taking the time to break down the facts.

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