Friday, January 23, 2009

Scary Crystal Ball for Pet Owners: Profit hungry pet food manufacturers getting creative

As if we don’t have to worry enough about commercial mass produced pet food and its sometimes more or less mysterious, disease causing ingredients, here are a couple articles I read and figured a better share them with pet owners. The future apparently has not too much good to look forward to.
Stefanie Pes, Consultant and writer for Mediatic, a communications agency serving the pet industry in January 09 wrote in her article “Protein Alternatives” for the Petfood Industry:
“Though worldwide prices of key pet food ingredients such as corn and rice have declined in recent months, dramatic increases a year ago cascaded to the food and feed chain. Prices of animal proteins and fats remain high.
"Pet food players are facing unprecedented challenges highly connected to the raw material issue," states Geert van der Valden, sales manager of Sonac, a leading European supplier of ingredients derived from slaughter by-products. It is part of the Ingredients division of the Vion Food Group, based in the Netherlands.
Pet food companies need flexible, reliable partners enabling them to fulfill customer requests such as finding alternative solutions, diversifying for competitive advantage, being more creative and looking for a "second generation of raw materials," van der Valden adds.
This is especially true for materials that are not as available as before or have increased greatly in price. For example, Kerapro is a newly developed product from feathers, with better quality, improved digestibility and bioavailability than feather meal, says Jarig Komrij, sales manager for dry pet food. It’s also high in protein and low in ash content.
In Sonac’s view, innovation includes picking up on trends and market opportunities, so the company is closely watching the hypoallergenic market. Although Sonac still has "exotic" protein sources such as lamb and duck meal in its portfolio, it’s looking at what it considers the next and best solution: hydrolized proteins.
These proteins—also called peptides—are cut in small pieces so the body does not recognize them as proteins and the allergic reaction does not occur. "Then we look to functionality," says van der Valden, citing examples such as plasma powder and gelatin based binders. "We are also focusing on gelatin hydrolizates for joint problems, an alternative to products like chondroitin sulfate."”
I looked up “Hydrolized Protein” on Wikipedia, there it says: “Hydrolyzed protein is protein that has been hydrolyzed or broken down into its component amino acids. While there are many means of achieving this, two of the most common are prolonged boiling in a strong acid or strong base or using an enzyme such as the pancreatic protease enzyme to stimulate the naturally-occurring hydrolytic process.
According to the FDA, hydrolyzed protein is used to enhance flavor and contains monosodium glutamate. When added this way, the labels are not required to list MSG as an ingredient.”
To me it sounds all very chemical. And chemical as far as I know doesn’t spell like natural. I guess I have to go back to the drawing board and do some more research, but something makes me just feel, shall I say not so good?
On another note but related to “Scared of the future”, on 12/29/09 Petfood Industry on its website reported under the heading “Supermarket Waste to be turned into pet food”
“Waste food from Sainsbury's supermarket stores in Northern Ireland is to be turned into pe tfood, animal feed and other materials instead of going in to a landfill, says Lawrence Christensen, head of Sainsbury's environmental action team.
It is the first step in a commitment made by Sainsbury’s to end the use of landfill sites. The company aims to have no food waste going to landfill by next spring, and no waste of any kind ending up in landfill by the end of 2009.”
If they do it over there then it is probably just a question of time when manufacturers get creative and possibly implement similar processes here in the US. Especially since we know from the first article that they are desperately looking for ways to satisfy demand for shareholder’s returns.
All together both articles tell me we have nothing to look forward to. Pure greed for profit will succeed over health concerns for our pets. Which don’t seem to exist on the minds of the companies I am talking about here. What bothers me too is the fact that it is all going to be blamed on the rising cost for base ingredients. But in my mind nothing could be further from the truth. If that is such a problem, then why are prices increased with great consistency? To pass on these increased cost to the consumer. If you recall, in my comment “Outlook: Pet food prices 2009” I talked about substantial revenue increases for the super market and mass market pet food manufacturers during the last months of 2008. Quite a good slice of that increase had to be contributed to increased prices. Therefore I conclude it is not decreased profits which are to be blamed for the frightening plans of those people in charge here. Sounds to me more like pure greed. So that there is no misunderstanding: I have absolutely no problem with companies making money. I am a business guy and perfectly not just understand but believe in that concept that it has to make sense to be in business, i.e. a profit has to be generated. What I do have a problem with is if attempts are being made to accomplish that goal at any price, even if it means the health of our companion animals.

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