If you suffered through the pet food recalls of 2007 then you know that dog foods are not always what they seem to be. Although the culprit in those recalls, which killed several thousand cats and dogs, turned out to be melamine from China, many highly respected pet foods were affected because they were using corn gluten which contained the melamine. Since that time, dog foods have been subject to a number of changes which most pet owners find confusing.
As a result of the pet food recalls many dog food manufacturers have changed some of their ingredients. In an effort to make American consumers happy, some companies are trying to use more American products. For instance, they may try to buy American beef or chicken products because product safety standards are generally higher in the U.S. than in some other parts of the world. However, it’s not always possible to “buy American.” For instance, New Zealand produces much of the world’s lamb supply. Lamb is a staple ingredient in many dog foods and some companies buy their lamb from New Zealand.
Difficulties finding product
Companies which are committed to buying all of their ingredients in the United States still encounter difficulties when they look for sources of taurine. Taurine is a water-soluble amino acid that dog food manufacturers have recently begun to add to dog foods to avoid a form of heart disease that can result from a taurine deficiency. Unfortunately, the only source of taurine comes from China. So, it’s back to buying ingredients from China, like it or not.
Dog food companies have also changed some of their ingredients in order to provide “organic,” “holistic” or “natural” ingredients to pet owners. Organic foods are big business to dog food manufactures and many consumers look for “organic” on the label. However, you should know that the terms “holistic” and “natural” have no actual meaning on the label. Any manufacturer can use these terms and they don’t guarantee anything. “Organic” does now have a specific meaning, according to the USDA. In order to be labeled “organic” a product must be produced or imported without any antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation or bioengineering. Organic farmers have to make sure that they use certain soil and water conservation methods. They have to use particular rules for the humane treatment of animals.
However, it should be noted that organic foods are not guaranteed to be healthier for your dog, or that they are safer or more nutritious. The only way you can find out if a food is healthy or nutritious for your dog is by reading the labels and making comparisons to other foods.
The “USDA Organic” label on a dog food means that the food is 95 percent or more organic. If the food is 70 percent or more organic then it can state on the package “Made with organic ingredients.”
Organic dog foods do cost more than other dog foods. They are usually considered to be “super premium foods.” You’ll need to do some more research to decide if they are worth the money.
To Save Money
Many dog food companies have also changed ingredients in order to save money. Even some of the high end, super premium companies have reduced their most expensive ingredients in favor of less expensive protein sources. Some of them have changed grains or fibers to use something less expensive. They may claim that the nutrient content of the food is the same but your dog may not like the food as well. He may react to the change in the food by having diarrhea, developing a dry coat, itching skin or showing other signs that the food disagrees with him. You should always pay attention to your dog and his condition. That’s the true test of whether or not a food is good for your dog.
The cost of dog food (and dog food ingredients) is very dependent on the cost of oil, in more ways than you might imagine. Not only are dog food manufacturers affected by fuel costs for transportation of their raw materials and products, but the cost of oil also affects how much corn will be used for ethanol production (a fuel source) and how much will be used for grain (corn is a primary ingredient in many dog foods) and to feed cattle (beef is another primary ingredient in many dog foods). Transportation, ethanol production, the cost of grain (especially corn), and cattle all depend on the cost of oil in the world — and they all affect the cost of your dog’s food. When these costs go up, dog food manufacturers start looking for ways to a) pass the costs on to the consumer; and b) change some of the ingredients to make the product less expensive to produce. Even if your dog food manufacturer doesn’t change the ingredients the company may make the product (the bag) smaller and raise the price to cover their costs.
These are just some of the common reasons why dog food manufacturers change their ingredients. Dog food manufacturers may also be trying to appeal to new customers by offering new flavors and ingredients. “New and improved” is a traditional selling point.
If you don’t like the changes in a food or what it’s doing to your dog there is no reason to stay with a food. You don’t have to believe the “spin” being put out by a dog food company. Read the ingredient labels and find out for yourself what’s in the food, especially if it wasn’t there before. And, remember to always let your dog be your guide. Your dog’s condition should tell you whether the food is good for him or not. Your dog’s opinion is the only one that matters.