Pet food companies advertise heavily trying to convince you that their brand of pet food diet is the best.
Many of the people that have designed the diets are very sincere that "regular" pet foods are somehow unhealthy due to processing, contaminants, chemical preservatives, additives, slaughter house by-products and so forth.
Many pet food companies want you to buy their pet food on the grounds that it is more natural (whatever that means), or is made with meat from free range animals, or from places where the workers aren't being exploited.
Other pet food companies play on our anxieties about food safety, pointing out that their brand doesn't contain wheat gluten from China, transfats, animal by-products, chemical additives, and so forth.
Pet food companies USED to rely on getting veterinarians to endorse their products and say things like "Recommended by more veterinarians than any other brand". They don't do that much anymore.
Most pet food ads now simply rely on images ... showing a really beautiful pet being fed with love by a really cool person that will appeal to whichever niche group the company is targeting, and then the ad will show that pet with that cool person or family doing something really cool like mountain biking through the fields or being walked down the rustic lane to the mail box of your $5million dollar beach home.
I don't intend to be cynical. Pets foods used to compete for being known as the best tasting and economical brand. Now all the pet foods are competing to be known as the very best quality and healthiest. And not just in general; they now offer diets especially designed for different breeds, different ages, different life styles, and for various problems.
But a few comments:
Just because an ingredient is exotic ... like seaweed from Hawaii, or sundried brown rice hulls from India ... doesn't make the food any healthier than ground soy beans and wheat middlings from Kansas.
Just because a pet food has lots of corn meal, wheat, or "fillers" in it doesn't make it unhealthy. Such foods may cause more gas, and more stool volume, and some pets may develop allergies to the corn or wheat, but human vegetarians have the same problems and yet claim they are eating the healthiest diet for the body, the soul, and the pocket book.
Prior to the canning industry and the advent of commercial pet foods in the early 1900's, the vast majority of pets were fed left overs, porridge, slops, trash, road kill, or whatever they could hunt down or scavage. They were expected to eat rodents.
After the first World War, and all the unwanted horses were killed off, the commercial pet food industry continued to grow and it was based on MAKING GOOD USE OF SURPLUS GRAINS AND BY-PRODUCTS from the food industry. Advertisements for pet foods during this period in our history argued how much healthier pets would be if fed a "scientifically" balanced diet instead of left overs, scraps, and slops.
Here's the big picture: Billions of tons of corn, wheat, oats, barley, rice, soy, and other farm products are harvested each year and make their way by barge, train, and trucks to huge processing mills in the midwest ... especially around St Louis where the great rivers converge... and to smaller mills throughout the country. The very finest flours and grains are chosen for making breads, cakes, donuts, gravies, cereals, and hundreds of other things for human consumption. The very roughest of grains, hulls, cobs, stems and so forth are made into cattle, poultry, fish, and hog feed. But there was a lot of mid quality grains and flours and crop by products available "good enough" for pet food.
And then there is the huge meat packing industry. Same type of story. The best cuts of meat went to the butcher, the restaurants, and later the grocery stores for human consumption. A lot of the lesser cuts of meat were processed into hot dogs, bologna, and sausages. The hides were used for leather. The excess blood, bones, fat, heads, horns, and hooves went to rendering companies that made ferilizer, soaps, lotions, chemicals, glues, binding agents, blood meal, bone meal, glycerin, and gelatins. Not much goes to waste.
Between the mills processing grains and crops,the packing industry, the fish processing industry, and the rendering companies there was and is a lot of edible stuff not marketable to humans. This was considered an "opportunity" and the pet food companies used the left over, cheapest cuts and by-products from the meat, poultry, and fish industry and the less expensive grades of grains from the crop harvest each year and made pet foods.
Personally, I don't see a lot wrong with this approach and the vast majority of pets I see ... and I closely examine thousands each year... who eat regular commercial pet foods are just as healthy as all the pets I see that get super premium diets of one type or another.
But, regardless of whether I'm right or wrong, the pet food industry is now moving toward diets made from the very best of ingredients pretty much without regard to expense. We've become a very self indulging, pampered nation where it seems that every home has to have granite countertops, huge bathrooms, and very high tech appliances. And we want the very best for our pets too.
And while I've been telling you that most pets seem to do fine on regular, mid priced pet foods, I do see a lot of pets that thrive and shine when moved up to the premium brands. And for pets with skin conditions or digestive problems, the right diet can make a wonderful difference. Click here to go to our page about special diets used to treat medical conditions.
There are hundreds of different brands of pet foods, but guess what? Most of the different brands are manufactured by just a handful of companies which in turn are mostly owned by just a few major conglomerates:
The Mars Company ( The makers of M&M's, Snickers, and many other familiar products) is one of the largest sellers of pet foods. Their brands include Pedigree, Cesars, Whiskas, Sheba, Nutro, and all the Royal Canin Pet foods. Also Albertson's store brand
Bi-Lo store brand, Bonkers cat treats, Bruno's store brand,
Food Lion store brand, Trail Blazer dog foods, Kozy Kitten
G. Whiskers cat food, Ol'Roy, Safeway store brand, Wal-Mart store brand, and Winn-Dixie store brand
The Nestle Company The brands sold by this Swiss company include all the Purina foods, Alpo, Friskies, Fancy Feast, Deli Cat, Beneful, Beggin Strips, Kit & Kaboodle, Kibbles & Chunks, Mighty Dog, Moist & Meaty, and Vita Life.
The 2 companies above account for over half of the pet food sales in the world.
The number 3 largest company in terms of pet food sales is the
Del Monte Food / Heinz Company which have merged
Their brands include Kibble & Bits, 9 Lives, Pounce, Gravy Train, Meow Mix, and Nature's Recipe
Colgate-Palmolive: Owners of the Sciene Diet Pet foods and all the Hill's Prescription Diets that so many veterinarians recommend when needed to treat diseases.
Procter & Gamble: The owners of all the Iams and Eukanuba.
This is interesting: The second largest pet food market in the world is JAPAN ! 3 of the 10 largest pet food manufactuers are UniCharm, Hisshin Pet Foods, and Nippon Flour Mills Company of Japan.
No matter who actually owns the different Brands, it turns out that a large majority of the diets are made in the same factories. The following companies make, bag, can, and label the following brands:
Blue Buffalo (canned foods)
Canine Caviar (canned foods)
Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul (canned foods)
Diamond Pet Foods (wet foods)
Harmony Farms (wet foods)
Kirkland Signature Premium Dog
Natural Balance (baked dog treats)
DIAMOND PET FOODS
Artemis Holistic Pet Food
Kirkland Signature Brand Pet Food
Solid Gold Health Food for Pets
Blackwood Pet Foods
Diamond Pet Foods
MENU FOODS this is the company that had to recall a lot of pet foods recently due to contamination problem. The recall affected alot of brands and resulted in quite a few sick and dead pets but the problem was quickly contained. But everyone was amazed how many brands were made by this one factory:
Americas Choice, Preferred Pets ,Authority ,Award, Best Choice, Big Bet, Big Red, Bloom , Blue Seal, Breeder's Choice,,Cadillac, Castor & Pollux Pet Works, Cats Choice , Companion , Compliments , Co-Op Gold , Demoulas Market, Basket , Despar, Drs Foster & Smith , Eagle Pack, Eukanuba, Fame, Feline Classic, Feline Cuisine, Fine Feline Cat
Food Lion , Foodtown , Giant Companion , Giant Eagle , Grreat Choice, Hannaford , Health Diet Gourmet Cuisine
Hill Country Fare ,Hy-Vee , Iams , J.E. Mondou , La Griffe , Laura Lynn , Li'l Red , Loving Meals , Master Choice
Medi-Cal , Meijer's Main Choice , Mighty Dog Pouch, Mixables, Natura Pet Products, Natural Life, Natural Ultramix
Nature's Logic, Nature's Variety, Neura, Newman's Own Organics, Nu Pet , Nutriplan
Nutro (Nutro Max, Nutro Max Gourmet Classics, Nutro Natural Choice, Nuro Ultra)
Old Mother Hubbard, Ol'Roy Canada, Ol'Roy US , Paws , Performatrin Ultra , Petcurean Pet Nutrition
Pet Essentials, Pet Pride , Pet Pride - Good n Meaty, Precise Pet Products, Presidents Choice , Price Chopper
Priority, Publix, Roche Brothers , Roundy's , Save-A-Lot Special Blend , Schnucks ,Science Diet Feline Savory Cuts
Shep Dog, Sophistacat , Special Kitty Canada , Special Kitty US , Springfield Prize , Sprout , Stop & Shop Companion
Stuzzy Gold ,Tops Companion ,Triumph ,Truly, Wegman's Bruiser ,Wegmans ,Weis Total Pet ,Western Family, WhiteRose .Winn Dixie Wysong,Your Pet