What is in your pet's food?
There have been a lot of media reports lately about pet foods, and large pet food companies being sued by consumers, and even suing each other over false claims and ingredient mislabeling.
There are a lot of factors that go into deciding which brand of pet food you want to choose for your pet. You can get good, and you can get cheap, but you can't get both. On the other hand, just because you pay a lot, it doesn't mean you are getting a better food.
A large part of the cost of some pet foods is marketing. Advertising, fancy packaging, elaborate laboratory testing and other expenses are expensive, and provide nothing to the end user, your pet. They might make the purchaser feel better about his purchase, but all those costs do not make the food any better. Having a celebrity's name on the bag is another great marketing tool, but I'm not sure how many celebrity's can add anything to a pet food's ability to nourish your pet, but they sure know how to separate you from your hard earned money.
Smaller, boutique type pet foods can save on these expenses, but may have a higher price due to the smaller production volumes, or just for the cache of being an exclusive formula. Some of these foods are great products and worth the extra cost, but not all of them are. A lot look like they might be a better choice, but they might be made in the same plant, and from the same ingredients as one of the mass market foods.
Many foods out there are made by giant extrusion companies, who pump out both the cheapest and the most expensive foods, sometimes from the same machinery from the same ingredients. One company has been advertising that their product contains no by-products, and it turns out the company that makes it for them put byproducts into the food. Whether it was a mistake or a ploy to make the food cheaper, either by the company or the extruder, we don't know. But those customers paid for byproduct free, and didn't get it.
A recent study of 21 pet foods found 10 were mislabeled, either containing ingredients not on the label, or not containing listed ingredients (1). While these mislabelings might not have been intentional, it is still pretty darned scary.
My preference, for quality, value and safety is to choose a food made by a family owned company in its own plant. This gives us a few protections, the fact that they are putting their name on the product, and their company will sink or swim on its success means that they are going to use the best quality ingredients and offer the best value. They have to rely on a combination of price and performance to get your business, and to grow, they can't rely on expensive advertising to convince you the product works.
Another nice thing about family owned production is that they tend to have a lot less recalls for things like salmonella. The quality of the ingredients they tend to buy is higher, and they are less likely to "take a chance" on questionable sourced meats. Big extrusion companies tend to have regular recalls for salmonella, vomitotoxins or other nutritional imbalances, affecting a number of brands at a time, so we can see it traces back to an ingredient source they share.
Doing a little research, reading the label a little closer, and finding out who actually makes the food can go a long way to protecting you, your pocketbook, and most important, your pet.
1 - http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/09/26/mislabeled-dog-foods.aspx