Beware of Pet Food Scams Pet Food Marketing Versus Reality

Pet Food Marketing Versus Reality

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Learn to spot the top claims the pet food industry makes that trick you into spending good money for not so good dog or cat food which causes poor health for your pets. Often times what is marketed in pet food is not quite reality.

Choosing the right diet for your pet can be daunting, even overwhelming. 

Since the first dog biscuit was introduced by James Spratt in 1860, to the first canned dog food of the early 20th century, to the global Big Pet Food industry of the 21st century, a lot has changed. 

These days, we are saturated with marketing, and the pet food industry spends big money on marketing to spin their pet food products as “healthy” or “sustainable” to make you believe you’re making the best food choices for your dog and pets.  Why then are our furry family members dying earlier and earlier of preventable causes, and why are the obesity rates for our furry companions spiking in the United States? (SOURCE) Obesity in pets puts them at risk for conditions such as osteoarthritis and joint disorders to cardiovascular disease, enocrinopathies, metabolic abnormalities,  and decreased immune functions. 

Pet food manufacturers describe ultra processed and rendered foods, extruded formulas,  loaded with additives and animal feed-grade ingredients as “natural”, “balanced”,  “clean”,  or “sustainable”. Most of these ingredients are intended as fillers, designed to cut costs, boost profits, create more bulk, and extend shelf life. In short it’s all about profits over life. This is one reason our entire company exists in the first place, to help repair the damage.

This is probably not news to our readers, but it’s still shocking to learn what all trickery goes into selling pet food. After all, our dogs and cats are part of the family, and just as you wouldn’t  want your family to be harmed by the food they eat, so too we must hold the same standard for our dogs and cats -our furry family.

The pet food industry spends loads of money on marketing to sell ultra processed food products with beautiful images and described as healthy, balanced, and fresh.  The reality of their product is far removed from the tales they tell -lest they be called fairy tales. 

Because buzzwords sell, let’s debunk some top claims. 

To capture the largest market share, companies drop a lot of cash on market research to find the buzzwords that motivate consumers to part with their hard earned dollars and make a purchase. 

The top selling buzzword for the pet industry is  “natural”.

We can see this word plastered everywhere! It is used all over the human food space so it’s no surprise that we see it everywhere in the pet space as well where the most processed pet foods are packaged and labeled with the buzzword “natural” -to the point of meaninglessness. 

What are we missing? The obvious; processed foods cannot be “natural”

Natural is defined as “existing in or from nature; not made or caused by humankind”. 

Given canned, boxed, or packaged food has been processed and rendered into a different state by humankind, it cannot be deemed natural.  In other words, the moment a person interferes with something derived from nature, it’s no longer natural.

We urge all pet parents to be highly skeptical of all marketing, advertising, packaging and labels in dog and cat foods (and human foods too!). 

After all, when you are in the produce section of the super market, you don’t need marketing to buy an apple or a tomato. The marketing dollars are spent in the processed food isles. Same rule of thumb goes for your pets. They need to spend all that money on marketing to grab your attention in a competitive space and make you believe the processed stuff is as good as the goodness of Mother Nature. 

If your aim is to feed your dog or cat a truly natural diet, your best bet is to either make it yourself with human grade, fresh,  nutritionally balanced recipes, or find an excellent quality commercial raw food that’s as close as possible to a pets ancestral diet. 

Another buzzword in use in the pet space is the word “clean”. 

Recently, the pet food industry has latched on to claims that ultra processed pet food is “clean”. That’s funny. Was it dirty before? Well I’m glad you asked. 

We looked it up,  and there appears to be no formal or universal definition of the term “clean” in the pet food space. What we found is a pet advocacy project called Clean Labor which aims to eliminate the heavy metals in pet food and found the levels of heavy metals, bisphenols, pesticide residues and other contaminants linked to cancer in over 1,000 best-selling pet food products from 80 brands. (SOURCE)

It is  very disturbing that the Pet Food industry cares so little about your fur babies that it’s allows these carcinogenic and toxic chemicals into dog food. No wonder they need the marketing.  The other search for “clean” yields a campaign to turn your carnivores into vegetarians, which we do not recommend based on the animals ancestral and dietary needs. 

We’ve also found the “clean” claim hijacked and spun by the Pet Food Industry and described as “rich in nutrients, non-GMO, and sourced from a trusted network of farmers”  weaved with many eye popping buzzwords like “trustworthy”, “simple”, and “purposeful”, which of course made us hit pause and ask ourselves why did the PR machine go into overdrive to capture the clean concept and sell it to you with so many buzzwords? So we looked at the label of one of the biggest manufacturers out there and it’s “feed clean” ingredients . 

To the surprise of no one, the list of “clean” ingredients looked no different than any other high heat, highly refined, and highly  processed pet foods made with rendered ingredients and meat meals.  The words “trustworthy” and  “simple”, are not what come to mind when the list of ingredients is over 40 items long and includes over 20 synthetic “nutrients” added to make up for nutrient deficiency due to high heat processing.  But we’ll  give them the word “purposeful”, because it sure seems there’s a purpose to it all; to make a sale by dint or by stint. 

It’s obvious the Pet Food Industry has paid big bucks to enlist big PR firms to deploy  trendy terms like “feed clean” as a marketing strategy. Anyone can make the claim. Pet foods made with non human edible “feed grade” ingredients is as unlikely to be “natural” as it is “clean”. Imagine seeing these claims  used in fast food establishments. Would you believe it? 

Next is a  batch of  trendy buzzwords that accompany the word “sustainable”, -with related buzz words being “eco friendly”, and “green”. 

There’s a lot of effort and money that goes into creating the buzz around buzzwords. 

The buzz of sustainability is inescapable,  the concept and associated terms are just about in every single space imaginable.  Is everything that’s described as “sustainable” and “eco friendly” truly so, or are these mostly economic terms that cover up a  corporate profit margin with a green motif, also known as green-washing?

Greenwashing is a strategy that seeks to make the consumer feel better about their purchase when in reality it usually means the manufacturer has discovered another way to cut costs and make more money.  Sadly, when it comes to the pet food space, some pretty grotesque practices are peddled as “sustainable”, “green” and “eco friendly “. See our article about pet food recalls to learn about how pet food industry uses sick animals and even road kill in processed foods. Yes. They really do this. And the use of the buzzword “sustainable” is one way they sell it. 

Because we like to think of ourselves as modern humans, the concept of  “innovation” is sold as advanced and positive.  But is everything new,  good? 

In the case of the Big Pet Food, innovative practices involve feeding cows corn or soy GMO’s . We must admit that this is new, as cows have for millennia fed on grass, not soy or corn. This “innovation” is not a natural or healthy diet for cows, which in turn is not healthy for dogs and cats  who eat the cows (and humans too!). They can spin it however they like, but the bottom line is these ingredients are not an asset to your dog or cat’s health.  Learn about our natural pet supplements ingredients.

So what do they put in dog food? I’m glad you asked.  

Look up ALL the ingredients in top selling foods, and what you will find, among other things, is a very very LONG list of carbohydrates, oils and fats, flavoring, preservatives, minerals, coloring, and protein byproduct “meal”, all of which will be spun as one of the above buzzwords. But the truth is much simpler.  These ingredients make your dog want more, and help the manufacturer sell it and save money. (SOURCE)

The long list of carbohydrates alone is shocking. 

Here’s one top selling brands’ PARTIAL list: Barley, brewers rice, lentil flour, oat flour, rice flour, rye flour, wheat flour, powdered cellulose, cellulose fiber, dried roots, pulps, ground powders, corn bran, corn germ meal, yellow corn, rice bran, ground rice, malted barley extract, oat hulls, cellulose fiber, potato starch, pea starch, tapioca starch, soybean hulls.  Most of these ingredients are also on the list of things to avoid feeding your pets. (SOURCE)

What on earth!? Why? The problem is of course that dogs don’t need processed carbs and shouldn’t eat things like rice flour or rice bran. Of course these ingredients are under the heading of healthy and sprinkled with buzzwords, all deployed to spin a concept in a marketing campaign and create customers. Rice bran is the fibrous outer portion of rice grain and is a byproduct of the milling process that converts brown rice into white rice.  First off, let’s bear in mind dogs and cats have relatively low fiber requirements. And while rice bran is definitely better than other common ingredients like saw dust, it’s certainly not “healthy” for your babies. Let’s call it what it really is, another cheap filler in pet foods. 

As a matter of fact, It’s very common in the pet food industry to use cheap grain byproducts as sources of fillers. But do your pets need grains in their diet? If we think back to their ancestral diets, the answer is no, they are not metabolically required by dogs or cats.  Research indicates  that grain based foods cause inflammation, contains pesticide and herbicide residues, and are deleterious to your pets. (SOURCE) Additionally these fillers take away from the amount of meat in any given portion of highly processed pet food. 

Lastly, rice bran was just a byproduct of the rice processing industry until someone clever discovered how to stabilize it and turn garbage into money. Sadly for our pets, the pet industry decided this was a great way to cut ingredient costs. Rice bran has a high amount of fat which also means  it has a high rancidity rate.  In addition to the above, rice and rice byproducts have been shown to contain high levels of arsenic -a toxic chemical that occurs naturally in soil & ground water,  and increases due to human industrial agriculture activity. 

As consumers get wiser, the marketing gets more clever. 

The era of naive consumers is over, and people aren’t falling for all of the marketing designed to part them with their hard earned money in exchange for woefully non nutritious foods that will sicken their dogs and cats. People are doing more research, finding the most nutritious and high quality diets for their dogs and cats. Savvy pet parents use nutritional supplements to really optimize the health of their dogs and cats. In response, Big Pet food corporations try and meet demand and  hire more marketers to spin appeal and desire without making any significant changes to their practices.  The formulas are just tweaked a tiny bit instead of creating a more wholesome species appropriate diet. 

The best we can say about the marketing spins and claims used to make you believe junk is treasure is be very very skeptical. Do your research and verify every single claim. What you’ll discover with rare exception is that it’s all a marketing ploy, and there is nothing different about this latest fast food for pets than any of the rest of them, and despite the buzzards and shiny images, that fast food for pets is no better than fast food for humans. 

That’s why it’s important for pet parents to be hip to their latest tricks and spins. Knowing the latest buzzwords isn’t difficult because they’re ubiquitous, but make it a point to research what they really mean, and know the difference between a marketing campaign and reality. Your are responsible for making sure your fur baby has a healthy gut, and you’re the one who shapes their micro biome, so choose wisely and don’t fall for the marketing. (SOURCE)

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