We recently heard a Money 101 segment with Bob McKormick on KNX 1070 radio here in Los Angeles, suggesting that a way to cut costs for pet owners is to avoid premium pet food. If what he means is “more expensive without having true value”, we agree. But as sellers of pet food that contains ingredients which are much more nutritious, less injurious, and easier for dogs to remain in excellent health upon, we would like to say that Mr. McKormack is incorrect in generalizing that a food which costs less is better to feed your pet than a food which is more expensive but contains higher quality and healthier ingredients — even if you are thinking about dollars and sense.
Fact one: The amount you pay for vet bills is frequently related to the diet you are feeding your pet. Everything from kidney stones, to skin allergies like hot spots to systemic yeast infections starts with what you feed. Feed bargain food and you save money when it goes in, but pay double when you need the dog to be treated medically to deal with what happens to the dog on that cheap diet. Mr. McKormack cited an eight hundred dollar vet bill. We wonder if any of it was related to allergies or other issues in which nutrition is a factor.
Fact two: Grains like corn, wheat and soy, popular fillers in inexpensive foods, will cause all kinds of issues in dogs from skin breakouts like hot spots to chronic gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome, to behavior issues like hyperactivity. My Pet Naturally does not sell food that contains corn, wheat or soy.
Fact three: Inexpensive foods frequently use animal by-products, which contain parts of the animal other than muscle meat. Farm animals which die of unknown causes or are euthanized are salvaged for bargain pet food. Other salvaged animals and parts of animals considered offal – like entrails, skin, heads, feet, beaks – may also enter the “mix.” These “by products” are cooked at a high temperature until they become a grayish, homogenized meal. This is not a product deemed fit for human consumption. It is only utilized for pets because animals they aren’t considered to have the same value as people. In other words, their life is cheap. By the way, because this process destroys so many nutrients, “supplemental” vitamins and minerals are added. Nothing about the product resembles something you would want to eat.
Fact four: The pet food industry’s governing council, The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), has established guidelines for when a pet food product can be labeled “complete and balanced.” This is a private organization whose members come from the industry it polices and it sets its own standards without oversight regulation.
Fact five: When you determine what it costs to feed a product, you must calculate based on whether the food takes four cups to give a certain amount of calories or one cup. When you buy a big bag at Wal-Mart, do you know how much of it you have to feed versus a smaller bag of better food at My Pet Naturally?
There are more than just practical reasons to feed quality, natural food to an animal that you have stewardship over. As Handy said, you can judge a nation by how it treats its animals. Do you think of animals as having value, needs and feelings that deserve kind consideration? Or do you think of them as being somehow too inconsequential or not valuable enough to treat well? Kindness and decency in how we regard not just our pets, but also the animals that are slaughtered to make their food and ours, is worth cultivated even if it costs a little more. Of course we would argue that it costs less to make choices for a holistic food in which the animals used to produce it are farmed decently. A morally uncertain, or worse, disdainful, attitude towards the suffering of livestock or the quality of the life of a companion animal has a cost of its own.
My Pet Naturally’s mission is to offer the consumer healthy food for a healthy pet. Our staff is educated and professional and can help you make an informed choice that is right for your dog or cat. Brands like Origen and Petcurean use free-range animals and no by products in their food. The Honest Kitchen, an air-dried raw food, is less expensive than canned. Party Animal has a range of organic food. And Harmony Farms makes a raw balanced diet for pets that uses human grade ingredients. While these food cost a little more, we would eat the pet food that we sell. We doubt that anyone would eat the pet food that they buy at a big box budget store.
We would like to invite Mr. McKormack to reconsider how he makes decisions about what to feed his pets. While value is his area of expertise, pet nutrition is ours. There are many sources of information about what goes into pet food and it’s worth investigating. There is no question that bargain food can have an expensive backlash. And that decently priced, well sourced and produced “premium” food that is natural, holistic and even organic and which you choose with the help of an informed professional at a store like My Pet Naturally, can be much less costly to feed in the long run.