I recently became aware of an interesting survey on pet food. It was conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Wellness, a pet food manufacturer/brand.
The results of this survey reveal that many cat and dog owners do not have as much knowledge as they think they do when it comes to the pet food they are feeding their companion animals.
Here are some extracts of the results:
91 percent of dog and cat owners said they would not want their pets' food to contain ingredients that cause allergies or food intolerance.
Another 66 percent said their preference would be to only feed natural pet food.
56 percent of dog and/or cat owners worry their dog and/or cat food contains ingredients they wouldn't want their pets to consume.
Only 38 percent of both categories, dog owners and cat owners say they always or often read the labels on their pets' food.
Just 38 percent say they understand all the ingredients listed on their pet food labels.
When asked to name the first ingredient listed on the label of their cat(s)' dry food, 48 percent of cat owners answered they are not sure
Franny Syufy of About Cats.com read the same survey I was reading and asked in her newsletter: “Do you see some discrepancies there? Using the 80-20 rule, judging from my email and many of the comments posted on this blog I'd hazard a guess that maybe 15-20 percent of my readers read cat food labels, and possibly 60 percent of those people completely understand them.
If 66 percent want to feed only "natural" pet food, but only 38 percent actually read the labels, where are the others basing their buying conclusions? Most likely from the vivid claims on the front of the bags or cans.”
She brings up an example of a feline dry formula, which she had reviewed in the past. Her findings come as no surprise to me and only reflect what I have been saying on this website ever since I started and what I am telling my customers ever since I started my business:
“The back of the bag sports a colorful "food pyramid" (pictured here) which proclaims Natural nutrient-rich vegetables, Real natural chicken, and Natural whole grains. The front of the bag boasts real chicken - no fillers, among other merits.
So, what are the ingredients? The very first ingredient listed is ground corn, which is not only a known allergen for cats, but a notorious filler. The second ingredient? Chicken by-product meal , followed by corn gluten meal and animal fat. Yes, chicken and whole grain rice are listed in the fifth and sixth place. “
She then backs off in order to “not leave “example formula” on the hot seat for too long” and tops off her comment with something else I have been saying:
“… should be noted that even some veterinarian-recommended pet foods contain ingredients that are not all that great. Here's a brand: Hill’s Science Diet Dry Adult Cat Formula. This formula is often sold in veterinary clinics. Note the first ingredients: Chicken by-product meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Ground Whole Grain Corn. Interestingly enough, this food received 5-star rave reviews from the three consumers who reviewed it. I'll be posting my own review later. In fairness, the same company manufactures another formula Hill’s Science Diet Nature’s Best Dry Adult Cat Formula of cat food, which I will also review later. This one fares much higher on the protein content (first ingredient chicken), although it contains several different grains up front (Cracked Pearled Barley, Maize Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Oats, Brown Rice). Where I'd really find fault is the seventh listed ingredient, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid). “
Just yesterday I had a customer of mine stop by for his regular food pickup and as usual, we got into chatting about pet food, the importance of a high quality food, and all the “bad stuff” being offered in the store shelves everywhere from supermarket to on-line stores to veterinarian waiting rooms. And he admitted that before he got into studying pet food with more interest and before he learned that there are important differences from food to food, he too bought the Hills’ Science Diet, for 2 reasons: First because his (back then) vet had recommended and sold the food to him and second, that back in those days he didn’t even get the idea that this could be what he now calls “problem food”. Just those two facts, a descriptive name (he says: “What can be wrong with “science”, sounds “scientific” right?”) and his vet were enough to make him feel comfy with his, what he today thinks was a “wrong choice”.
Here are some more of the survey’ results I find to be interesting:
Of 1,305 U.S. adult dog and/or cat owners, two thirds say they feed their dogs and/or cats as if they are members of the family. However their actions don't support the claim. 56% of dog and/or cat owners reported that they always or often read the label on their own packaged foods (e.g. pasta, pre-packaged or frozen meals). Yet only 38% of dog owners and the same percentage of cat owners claimed they always or often read the labels on their pets' food.
There is no doubt whatsoever that we Americans love our pets. 85 percent of dog and/or cat owners agree that the health of their dogs and cats is as important to them as the health of their family. But the survey shows a disconnect between what pet parents think should or should not be in their dog/cat food, and what really is.
As an example, 91% of dog and cat owners said they would not want their pets' food to contain ingredients that cause allergies or food intolerance. Another 66% prefers to only feed natural pet food. Yet reality is, most pet owners are buying pet food that is not natural, and food including some unwanted ingredients.
56% of dog and/or cat owners worry their dogs'/cats' food contains ingredients they wouldn't want their pets to consume.
55% of dog and/or cat owners were unaware of the fact that pet food is subject to regulation by the USDA
When asked to name the first ingredient listed on the label of their dogs’ dry food, almost half of them, 44% of dog owners admitted they are not sure.
In my mind there is no doubt: Today’s pet owners have come a long way in improving their knowledge of pet food ingredients since the pet food recalls of last year. And I am sure that mass producing commercial pet food manufacturers have collectively learned what has been a very expensive lesson for some of them. Yet on the other side and based on this survey it becomes very clear that we all together still have a long way to go. I only hope that after reading this come some of my readers are asking themselves questions like: Is it about time for me to change my pet food buying habits? What alternatives are available to me and should I try such alternatives such as for example raw food? Isn’t it time for me to start learning more about pet food so that I can better understand the meanings of the labels on the packages?
"We know that with pets, as with people, you are what you eat, which is why it is so important to understand the ingredients we're feeding our cats and dogs," said Wellness President Michael Meyer.
His company and many similar pet food manufacturers with a serious concern for the well being of our companion animals just like his company along with many independent third parties including myself have made it our mission to educate dog and cat owners. Our goal is to explain what makes a quality ingredient and to empower them to know what they are feeding their pets. Only armed with this knowledge they can be confident that they truly are feeding their pets a high quality food. Now it’s up to the pet owners to take advantage of the information being made available to them.