Just like with human food, responsible sourcing practices matter! Here’s what you should be asking about the ingredients in your pet’s food.
Henry Ford said, “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking”. But for a long time, this rule of thumb hasn’t been applied to the pet food industry. Pet parents haven’t really been looking at where the ingredients in pet food come from – but it’s time we start asking more questions!
Pet food is big business. There are 184 million dogs and cats in America, and they eat an estimated 64 million tons of food a year. Just as consumer choice has influenced the way corporations like Taco Time and Starbucks source their food and packaging materials, more selective consumers can make a big impact in the pet food Industry.
No matter what kind of diet you feed your pet, these are the questions you should be asking about the ingredients in your pet’s food.
1. Where do the ingredients in your pet’s food come from?
Are they sourced domestically or imported? If ingredients spend time in shipping containers before they eventually reach your pet’s bowl, chances are it took a lot of preservatives to get there. Domestic products not only support the local economy and have a smaller environmental footprint, but they also take less time getting to your doorstep.
Recently, many pet food companies have started to say their food is “human grade”, which generally means they source the meat from farms that provide meat to humans. But beware that human grade doesn’t always mean high quality or healthy. Think about dinosaur chicken nuggets. Those are human quality, but eating chicken nuggets every day, for every meal, would not be a healthy nutritional choice. The same goes for your pets and the food they eat.
2. Does your pet food brand prioritize small farms or only source from large factory farms?
According to The Science Institute, 99% of farmed animals in the United States are in large factory farms. Partnering with smaller farms and having direct relationships with farmers not only helps the economy, but it also makes it easier for a pet food company to communicate its values and uphold its sourcing standards. The quality available from smaller farms is also significantly higher than what large factory farms produce. Traditional pet foods often use meat by-products or 4D meats (dead, dying, diseased and down) which require more processing to be safe to eat. This is practically unheard of at smaller farms.
3. How does your pet food brand ensure the humane treatment of animals used in its food?
The industrialization of meat production and the inhumane treatment of animals has been big news over the past several years. As a result, many consumers are choosing to buy their food from organic, free range meat producers. And the same goes with pet food. Paying attention to the living conditions for the animals used in your pet’s food is a way you can vote with your wallet for the fair treatment of all animals.
4. Do you know about the relationship between the pet food company and the farms it sources from?
Not all pet food companies are alike when it comes to their relationship with farms. Many companies order meat and produce sight unseen, so they don’t know what their suppliers’ farming practices are like. Fostering a relationship between pet food companies and farms helps create a higher-quality product while ensuring that the farm aligns with the company’s values. The gold standard is a pet food company that personally visits their farms.
Every pet food company should be able to proudly answer these questions. Some answer them more clearly than others, so it’s important to research the products you feed your pets. You might be surprised by what you find.
Gary is the owner and founder of Darwin’s Natural Pet Products. Gary spotted the opportunity to help more pets live longer lives with healthier diets and founded Darwin’s Natural Pet Products in 2004, the first raw pet food company in the Pacific Northwest. Over the past 17 years, Darwin’s has served more than 80 million nutritious meals to dogs and cats, helping tens of thousands of pets live healthier lives.