It's all about choice (part 1)
Dog food can be a bit of a minefield for the average person. I’m not going to lie - I find it all a bit overwhelming at times trying to work out what is good, bad, ok, what is hype, standard misunderstood industry practice, who to believe.
I’d like to say that I have got it all figured out and I’m now some sort of authority on everything but if transparency is key here (and it really is) then I have to be honest and say that I am still learning, still listening to numerous voices and still trying to work it out.
Perhaps this blog will be a bit of a mish mash of ideas and ramblings. I want to take you guys with me as I learn more about dog food, the pet industry and try to make sense of what we are being sold and what we are feeding our pets every day. I want to hear from you too. Have a different opinion or some more information that would help? Please feel free to leave a comment.
I wanted to use this blog to explain why you see certain brands on my site and why you won’t see others.
When I was first thinking about starting a business someone mentioned a man named Simon Sinek. In 2009, Sinek wrote about being inspired with a sense of purpose or “why”. I thought about my “why”. I didn’t have to think long before I understood that my why was to improve the lives of dogs. Diet is such an integral part of our dog’s lives. It can make them feel great or it can make them sick.
I began to research dog food and although I am not truly sold on ‘always feed raw’ I can tell you that for many years I think our dogs have gotten less than they deserve.
The dog food market is massive. While there seems to be countless brands on offer when you walk down the supermarket aisle, there are three major companies that own majority of the brands and a huge slice of the market; Mars, Nestle and Colgate-Palmolive.
Take for example Mars. Yes, the chocolate bar.
Mars make (besides chocolate) Pedigree, Cesar, Chappie, Greenies, James Wellbeloved, Royal Canin, Sheba, Whiskas.
I want to use Pedigree as an example. Let’s take Pedigree’s Adult Dry food.
Now, before I start I’m not anti-kibble. I have a bag of kibble in my pantry and Enid gets a scoop now and again.
Pedigree states on their pack that their meal is ‘Complete’. Complete is a legal term which is defined as “any food which, by reason of its composition, is sufficient for a daily ration”. Daily ration means “The average total quantity of a specific pet food that is needed daily by a pet of a given species, age category and life style or activity to satisfy all its energy and nutrient requirements”. So reassuring that by feeding your dog a product listed ‘complete’ they are getting all their nutritional need met. It’s what as owners we all want.
This is what Mars says about their product Pedigree
Complete pet food for adult dogs.
At PEDIGREE® we believe that every dog deserves a loving home, and that every dog deserves leading nutrition. From over 40 years' experience, we believe that dogs have four universal needs: Skin & Coat, Immune system, Digestion and Dental Care. That's why the dry bags of PEDIGREE® VITAL PROTECTION™ are designed to deliver nutrition that addresses these four needs: the products help support a strong immune system, healthy skin and coat, good digestion, and also help to clean your dog's teeth. PEDIGREE® VITAL PROTECTION™ helps keep your dog healthy and full of vitality.
Sounds great. And at £5.50 for 2.6kg at my local Tesco, feeding Enid her 200g portion for the day would cost me roughly £0.43 per day. That’s 43p to give her everything that she needs.
However. Independent reviewer All About Dog Food ranks Pedigree as one of the worst foods, nutritionally speaking, on the market. They give it a nutritional rating of just 12%. How? Why?
Here’s what is on the label
Cereals, Meat and Animal Derivatives 20% (Including 4% Chicken in the Brown Kibbles), Oils and Fats (Including 0.4% Sunflower Oil), Derivatives of Vegetable Origin (Including 1% Dried Beet Pulp), Minerals, Vegetables (4% Carrots in the Orange Kibbles, 4% Peas in the Green Kibbles), Preservatives BHA & BHT.
By law, an ingredient list is required by manufacturers to place on the label. (Unfortunately there are criticisms about ingredient list guidelines but that’s for another blog post). So the ingredients are listed from highest quantity to lowest when they are blended together and before cooking.
So in the case of Pedigree at the time of mixing, cereals were the main ingredient, followed “meat and animal derivatives” which made up 20% of the mix, then “derivatives of vegetable origin” and so on.
But cooking can and does change ingredients and their proportions in the final product. If you were to make a stew, things change over the cooking time. Meat shrinks, rice swells, water evaporates. Proportions won’t stay the same.
All About Dog Food took a look at the final composition of Pedigree believes to be the final composition after taking into consideration the cooking process, here is what they found.
That’s 81.7% carbs, 8.7% oils and fat, 7.2% meat, 1.7% other (not sure what that is, I will update when I find out) 0.7% fruit and veg.
20% meat on the label becomes less than half that to 7.2% after cooking. It’s a significant jump and not one that you would immediately know by looking at the label. It also leads to the next question “Do dogs need carbs?” You might be surprised at the answer.
Next time I’ll wax lyrical about price, profit, and being able to sleep at night. Oh and carbs.