Processing makes products non-descript, and manufacturers can cleverly make about anything look like anything they like, e.g., starch, textured vegetable protein, and dyes that can look like a pork chop. Additionally, taste enhancers can make non-foods palatable. Short-term feeding results do not reveal the true health measure of a food’s value – long, active, vital life, free from chronic degenerative disease conditions.
Judging merit by reading advertising, marketing brochures, and package labels can also be deceiving. Although it would seem that regulation would not permit false and misleading information in the marketplace, this is not the case. So assuming that what is said in advertising is true because it is in a reputable publication or on a beautifully designed brochure or package is a dangerous mistake.
So if all the commonly used criteria for judging the merit of food are invalid, what is the concerned pet owner to do? As in all other important decisions in life, gathering information and applying reason is the best way to answer. This process is even more important in food decisions because health is at issue.
Ultimately a dog food can be no better than the competency and the principles of those producing it. Everything flows from that. If the producer’s main objective is profit, then health will be a secondary consideration. Evaluating manufacturers, therefore, becomes the most critical element in making pet feeding choices. The following criteria will help you in this evaluation.
Do the literature and philosophy make sense and clearly put health as the number one priority, or is the primary objective marketing and sales?
What are the credentials, experience, and accomplishments of the people in charge? Is the leader a marketing person, a board of directors concerned primarily about profits, or competent in health and nutrition?
Read their literature, don’t just test feed the product or read package labels. Is their literature mere marketing claims, or do they educate and provide logical and documented scientific proof for the rationale of their product?
Find out if the company marketing the product is also the company’s owner manufacturing it or closely controlling formulations and manufacturing parameters. Consider that anyone off the street can go to any number of pet food manufacturers and have them make a food (such contract manufacturers have files full of ready-to-go formulas), add micro amounts of “special” ingredients, create a new label, and then make unsubstantiated claims about the superiority of the “revolutionary new” product.
The ‘100% Complete & Balanced’ Myth
Does the company promote the claim of “100% complete and balanced?” This claim is a myth and is directly responsible for far-reaching nutritional diseases. Use of the claim proves a manufacturer does not properly understand nutrition and health and is under the mistaken (but profitable, since it misleads consumers into thinking they should feed only their processed food) view that manufactured foods can be perfect.
Fads Over Facts
Does the company follow fads, or does it lead with solid, responsible information? Fads include high fiber, low cholesterol, low fat, “natural,” no preservatives, four food groups, pasta, high protein, and the like. Such a singular focus on faddish food fallacies demonstrates either an incomplete understanding of nutrition or a motive to profit from misinformed consumers.
Does the company incite fear-mongering about “boogieman” ingredients? Current examples of such nutritional boogiemen include soy, corn, wheat, lentils, fat, “by-products,” seaweed, ash, meat meal, yeast, and magnesium. Popular misconceptions, dubious field reports, and poorly conducted science lie at the base of such beliefs. If a company uses such fallacies to promote their products, they either do not understand nutrition or desire to play on popular ignorance for financial gain.
Food as Drugs
Since the body can only experience health and healing from natural foods and a natural environmental context, it is presumptuous to claim a processed, manipulated, fraction-based food can do it better. In fact, such fabricated foods may create serious side effects and are far inferior to whole natural nutrition. Producers who create and promote such foods attempt to capitalize on the awe for technology and medicine. The illusion is created that processed food, just because it is promoted like a prescription drug, is somehow high-tech and scientific, when in fact, it may be no more so than most other processed foods.
Cosmetics Over Nutrition
Most producers target food cosmetics rather than nutrition. Flavors, shapes, packaging, bonuses, discounts, coupons, pricing, guarantees, shelf life, and the like are essentially unrelated to health and nutrition. Such features should alert the consumer that the producer may be interested primarily in mass marketing, not serious nutrition.
Since nutritional science is a rapidly growing and expanding field of knowledge, a producer truly interested in health should be highly innovative. Adapting new knowledge to formulations, processing, packaging, and storage should be ongoing, and the pet food company should clearly communicate these innovations to consumers. Most companies don’t lead. They follow. Consumers would be wise to follow leaders, now followers.
We invite your comparison. What are your thoughts on finding the right dog food?