Pet Food Industry Secrets

I read a fascinating article today in the Guardian Newspaper which has set me thinking about the pet food industry, how it operates and most interesting of all perhaps the preferences our pets have for foods.

You should read the article ideally when you have time The Guardian is a premium newspaper in the UK and this is today’s Long read. The journalist Vivian Ho has visited both Mars facility in the Midlands (Waltham) and also Honeys raw feeding facility and manufacturing plant, also in England, where she spoke to Jonathon Self.

If you want to read more of Jonathon’s feeding recommendations you can buy his Natural Feeding Handbook on our site.

The things I find particularly interesting about the article and I thought I would comment on:

Some aspects of the pet food industry I am very concerned about are touched on in the article. The ‘research’ carried out at Mars Petfood’s facility been going on for years, they are very used to visitors and selling them the wonderful processes. I remember well my visit as a veterinary student in about 1980 there and we were all wined and dined- a first start in the indoctrination process, perhaps or valuable nutrition training?? All through my career we have been ‘educated’ in nutrition by one Pet Food Company after another. Mars own Pedigree, Wiskas Royal Canin vet specific range of pet foods but also own Banfield Hospitals in the USA and Linnaeus vet groups in the UK and elsewhere and more see Mars Veterinary Site. Ms Ho touches on this and got the response from Linnaeus “In addition to producing food, companies such as Mars fund a number of veterinary schools and clinics, which, raw food advocates claim, push the companies’ products on trainee vets and pet owners, regardless of pet health. (“When any of our veterinary professionals provide nutrition advice, they have the freedom to recommend the best product for that pet, regardless of brand,” said a spokesperson for Linnaeus, a veterinary group that’s part of Mars Veterinary Health.

Today I also got an email from “The Purina Institute

Who owns Purina? The second largest pet food Co here in the UK. Another sweetie corporation based in the US although of Swiss origin: Nestle see wikipedia, they want to invite me to learn about nutrition – Purina Institute Microbiome Forum Round Table 2024 – Changing Paradigms in DIARRHEA (sic) Management Have a read of the Institute website perhaps you will see what I mean I hope. Unbiased education in pet nutrition is rare in the veterinary industry if there is a vacuum someone fills it.

So that is two of the major Pet Food Companies, there is a third the third largest in the UK is not a Confectionary company no Colgate PalmoliveColgate-Palmolive Company is an yet another American multinational consumer products company headquartered in New York City. The company specialises in the production, distribution, and provision of household, health care, personal care, and vet products” Wikipedia . They own HILLS Pet Nutrition. So many of our nursing staff have qualified in Nutrition through Hills Pet Nutrition and have medals and certificates to prove it. This company more than any other trained many vets and pet owners about nutrition in pet, brought out “prescription diet” as a term. You do not of course need a prescription but we can charge more.

I remember visiting veterinary educational conferences in the UK, USA and Europe. The massive marketing budgets, advertising displays and gifts to veterinarians of these three corporations never failed to impress – larger than big Pharma at times but its is the way they educate my profession that disturbs me the most with these institutions.

Of course you need a research department to stop the rickets, and vitamin deficiencies which as is in the article were common in 60’s puppies fed unbalanced commercial dog foods. After all to get adequate nutrition from ultra heat processed, dried foods made from by meat industry by-products and cheap cereals is a skilled process. To avoid to many scandals such as these on Hills wiki page:

One Prescription Diet line and five products of the Science Diet line were involved in the 2007 pet food recalls for their inclusion of melamine tainted wheat gluten received from China.

On January 31, 2019, Hill’s recalled 25 varieties of its canned dog food, because of elevated levels of vitamin D, due to a supplier error. Vitamin D overdose in animals can cause irreversible kidney damage and eventually death.[17] On February 12, 2019, San Francisco law firm Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe LLP filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against Hill’s on behalf of affected owners for distributing dog food which contained potentially toxic levels of vitamin D.

To be fair these problems are very rare I must say and can occur with all food companies from large corporations to the take away cafe up your road. If you use cheap ingredients from all over the world these things happen. In particular trying to feed a carnivore on a diet containing a large proportion of vegetable derived diet is a challenging enterprise which is IMO why these companies spend so much on R&D. It is so much easier to feed real meaty foods that are not ultra heat treated and get a healthy pet.

Cooking Good or Bad?

If one wants to feed humans or our pet carnivores on a diet rich in vegetables the it must be cooked for us to be able to digest it. Raw squash, cereals or potatoes will be very poorly converted into energy.

Now cooking gets you more calories in a shorter time from starchy foods greatly benefiting humankind’s ability to survive in the world but it does reduce some micronutrients, enzymes and vitamins in the food in particular in the Ultra high temperatures needed to produce a kibble. Raw food is comparatively easy to get a balanced healthy diet from because of this. Not what the ‘educators’ above would have you believe who tell pet parents and veterinarians how hard it is to balance a home produced diet, how likely it to get imbalances in vitamins, proteins, minerals. Of course is possible but so much less likely than in a mucked about with commercial pet food IMO.

Excessive heat treatment is needed if a dry kibble is going to keep without freezing.

Ms Ho has also briefly touched something so important in how we feed our pets. Our perception of what they desire ..

A person can let you know directly what food they like, and why; not so a cat. Florence (her cat) cannot tell me that she prefers to graze rather than eat big meals – something I only realised somewhere between the second and third wet food brands we tried. Nor can she tell me that she actually enjoys the feel of the kibble on her gums – a theory I’ve been running with for the past few months. So we’ve gone back to kibble, though in the morning I give her a bowl of hand-shredded boiled chicken as well. She’d be happy with just kibble – I know this now. Even so, every morning I carefully shred another chicken breast – just in case.

She felt Florence actually preferred kibble “enjoys the feel of the kibble on her gums ” and did not feed raw or even home prepared foods even after talking to Jonathon Self at Honeys Real Pet food. Actually it does seem very difficult to persuade a cat, in particular, that raw is preferable to kibble if they have been fed kibble a long time.

I found this article interesting

  • That the pet parent’s perception is so important and can make advocates of raw efforts futile
  • Cooked foods are often more palatable to pets (and us)
  • The Waltham Institute is still using the same arguments as they were 40+ years ago.
  • Are are persuasive still to an open minded reporter or is pleasing our companion whether a human child or pet more important?

Environmental Issues Climate Crisis

The other thing I worry about and is touched on here. Because of environmental issues, food animal welfare and the climate crisis we should be eating and rearing less meat we are told and it makes sense. If land is limited we can produce perhaps 10 times the calories growing grains such as wheat or rice per hectare of land we are told.

Now Mars are claiming that the “meaty” protein parts of their foods are produced from the human meat industries’ by products or waste. Do I believe them are they telling some truth!! Of course they are correct to an extent nutritious meats like lungs, hearts and even livers would otherwise be wasted so all good. (It the excessive processing holistic vets do not like) but does this argument really wash.

Should we not be using fully vegan diets were possible?

or keeping only herbivores as pets. Now there is something to ponder? lets hear your comments

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