(This article is part of my Culture of Fear series, which exposes different businesses, restaurants, and people that choose to spread lies and misconceptions about farmers in order to further their agenda or make a buck.)
If you thought the ridiculous obsession with “natural” foods combined with fear-based marketing strategies was bad enough for human food, you won’t believe what’s happening in the world of dog food.
Our pets are increasingly becoming more and more a member of the family, not just domesticated animals we keep outside to guard the house. Some people go way out of the way to pamper their pooches, including buying outfits, painting their nails, and don’t forget humans that leave their estates to their favorite pet. But even for those of us with a little more practicality, we still want what’s best for our dogs. I’ll admit it – I’m guilty of spoiling my dogs too.
But the obsessions of the foodie culture has transferred over to pet food. Certainly you’ve seen the commercials produced by Blue Buffalo. The company claims that their dog food is better, because the ingredients include “real meat” and “healthy vegetables.” A lady reading the label of a competitor’s food is appalled that the first ingredient is corn meal or some other type of grain. No doubt those other brands of food are making your dog sick, lethargic, and fat. Heck, there’s even food options that are organic, vegan, gluten-free, and whatever other food trend pops up.
So, how can we determine if these claims for superior pet food are necessary or even legitimate? Ask a veterinarian, of course.
Dr. Marian Nestle, from New York University, and her colleagues took a look at the claims that some pet foods were making and reported their results. She noted:
The first five ingredients of nearly every kind of dog and cat food are generally the same, representing protein, fats and carbohydrates . . .anything listed below the salt would be present in only very small amounts.
(Source: NYTimes. Emphasis added.) After comparing 10 premium brands of food, the scientists found they basically contained the same ingredients: chick or chicken broth, grains, and vegetables.
But when it comes down to it, that’s actually all irrelevant – the Association of American Feed Control Officials, in conjunction with the FDA, actually develops model regulations for pet foods. Dr. Nestle says that if you see a product labeled “complete and balanced,” it’s going to meet the nutritional requirements for pet food.
|I love her to death, but I
won’t fall for fear-based
Blue Buffalo has come under fire by some of its competitors. Unlike in the human food markets, it appears that pet food makers are less willing to tolerate the smear campaigns. For example, after Blue Buffalo made accusations against Purina, the latter investigated Blue Buffalo’s food and found less than savory parts of the chicken in it. In fact, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus decided in March that Blue Buffalos’ advertisements were misleading and deceptive.
It might be nice if someone decided to test the claims of Panera and Chipotle….
And as for Blue Buffalo dog food goes, the company has received an extraordinary amount of complaints on Consumer Affairs and other review sites, which indicates that dogs can actually get very sick after they start eating the pet food.
If you’re worried about what you’re feeding your pet, especially in light of recalls for food made in China and possibility of some allergies, then the best idea is to speak with your veterinarian about which foods your dog may need. Fido probably isn’t allergic to gluten and doesn’t really need organic pet food. Don’t even get me started on anti-GMO pet food.
Not to mention:
“Besides, the pet food industry serves an important ecological function by using up food that would otherwise be thrown out,” Dr. Nestle said. “If everyone cooked human food for the 472 million cats and dogs in America, it would be like feeding an additional 42 million people.”
We all care about our pets, but we shouldn’t tolerate fear-based marketing in pet food any more than we tolerate it in human food.