The #1 Problem With the Pet Food Industry… And Why It’s Slowly Killing Your Pup
It’s our job to give our pets food, water, and love. On so many levels, we harbor a deep responsibility for their wellbeing. And, as the saying goes, it’s hard to compare anything to the unconditional love between a dog and their owner.
Unfortunately the big, conglomerate pet food companies don’t have the same intentions.
Despite what they want you to believe, the pet food and supplement industry is much more concerned with lining their pockets than the health of your pup.
Their main concern is convincing you that they care, so that you keep buying their cheap products which may be slowly killing your pup.
This combined with an industry with messed up regulations, lobbying, failure of checks and balances, and an un-informed populace has created a storm where it’s nearly impossible to know if what you’re giving your pet is healing or hurting.
The #1 problem with the whole industry is they have put profits over puppies.
What’s even more sinister, is how this creates various challenges, from regulatory problems and uphill legal battles to misinformation and extravagant marketing claims. The problems spearheaded by massive food sellers have led to countless death and disease in our four-legged friends.
Yes, this is totally messed up.
And yes, we’re very very mad about it. We’re also upset because, on a grand scale, there’s no simple solution and no solution in sight.
Fortunately, on an individual level, we can make the right choices for our canine best friends. It begins by understanding the levers at play in why this problem exists, and can avoid the trap of the pet food and supplement industry.
This is why Pup Labs exists, to combat these damages in the industries one healthy pet at a time.
In doing so, you’ll give your pup the best life possible: less pain, more smiles, and longer, higher-quality life.
We’re All In The Dark: Well-Meaning People Making Mistakes
On a societal scale, think about the pet food industry today the way we thought about the cigarette industry in the 1940s: we have well-intentioned experts, like veterinarians, recommending products because even they don’t know the extent of misinformation going on.
These companies, guarded by regulatory policies, have wielded their power to make it a great challenge to expose their processes.
Second, because of a number of factors, it’s challenging to do the research on the ingredients in pet products that would expose their dangers. Doing that research requires a huge amount of funding, and, if you’re familiar with scientific research at all, you’ll know that getting funding from places that don’t have biases (like these companies) is a monumental challenge.
As such, the bulk of consumers will continue to stay in the dark.
Shady Regulatory Practices
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for approving what food ingredients and drugs can and can’t be used. It’s a regulatory practice that keeps companies from putting poisonous, dangerous, or as yet unknown ingredients into our food. It’s what ensures that milk on our grocery store shelves, for example, isn’t contaminated or unpasteurized.
In theory the FDA regulates pet foods and supplements in the same way. However, not only do they not regulate pet food in the same way, they have explicit loopholes that allow pet food manufacturers to get away with pretty much whatever they want.
How? It goes to the big problem. The companies with the money have the power, and they have the ability to lobby the FDA to pass these laws so that they can keep producing a cheaper product.
As one example for an FDA loophole, pet products are allowed to have much higher concentrations of contaminants, pesticides, and toxins.
Yes, that is completely ridiculous. Whatever these companies can get away with, they just about will, which means you can almost be sure these pet foods contains all sorts of dangerous substances.
Extravegant Claims and Shifty Labeling
This is made even more challenging because the dog products in the grocery store definitely don’t say on the label “Contaminated pet food made from scraps of rotting cow torso, leftover corn meal, and poisonous dyes to make it look appealing.” (It’s not like your pup sees color anyway, that food dye is just for you.)
Instead, they’re filled with sayings like “all-natural,” “organic” and “made with real chicken.”
These Claims have HUGE Asteriks
“All-natural” and “organic” don’t mean the same as they do in human products (and even in human products, they’re often questionable claims). They follow the definition that they’re allowed to make under the governing organizations.
“Made with real chicken” implies that these foods have chicken breast and other parts of chicken that we would eat. They don’t. They’re likely made with chicken “by-product” which is another term that disguises what it actually is.
By-product is the absolute scraps of an animal carcass, after everything considered useful is extracted. So all the meat, rest assured, is gone. What’s left is a pile of bone and rotting carcass, and this is ground up into a powder and put into kibbel then passed off as “real meat.”
Needless to say, this isn’t the ideal diet for your pup. Dogs are carnivorous animals that should be eating actual meat.
Even the visuals, with bright colors and happy, smiling dogs on the bag, are all marketing strategies used to convince you on a deep subconscious level that these foods are healthy.
No Accountability for Big Mistakes: The 2007 Melamine Recall
Feeding your pup by-product, dehydrated food laced with toxins and pesticides is what happens in the best case scenario. Luckily, dogs have incredibly resistant digestive systems, and, much more than humans, can stray away from their ideal diet and stay alive.
But pet products often stray from their already super low standards. In 2007, pet food from all the major companies got recalled because of a melamine contamination. This melamine contamination turned out to be present in over 150 products across many companies, because they all white-label their “food” from the same manufacturer. Thousands of pets died shortly consuming the contaminated food, and the FDA received 300,000 complaint calls.
This, of course, is just what got reported. And it doesn’t account the amount of dogs who suffered silently, likely shortening their life if they were fortunate enough to not suffer immediately.
Melamine artificially raised protein counts
One of the few regulations on pet food products, is they have to contain a certain amount of protein. To simplify a complex scientific process, the manufacturers found that if they put melamine in the food, it would test higher for protein, even though it didn’t have that amount of protein in any practical sense. In sum, it was just another ploy by the companies to lower the cost of their product and make more money at the expense of your pet’s health.
Congress Took Action, Until it Was Forgetten
In the aftermath, there were intense congressional hearings which resulted in a few shifts in the pet food laws.
However, the FDA never met the deadline to implement the rules. Eventually, in 2017, an anti-regulatory Congress added something to bill to wipe out the efforts of the changed laws. Legally, then, nothing has changed in a substantive way since the disaster.
Animal Life Wasn’t Worth Much to the Courts
With Congress’s efforts thwarted to regulate the industry, that leaves the judicial system as the last big branch to add checks and balances to the big pet product companies.
Consumers whose pets suffered and died because of the crisis took it to the courts. Often, they won in courts. However, because the life of pets aren’t rewarded anywhere near the same monetary amount as the life of humans, the cost to these companies was pocket change compared to their bottom line.
This leaves these companies with no financial incentive to change. Given their history of decision making, I find it hard to believe they’ll be inclined to make decisions any other way.
Whether The Problem is Any Better Is Unclear
Despite this obvious disaster, pet prodcuts today have most of the same crap as they did in 2007. They still contain copious amounts of damaging products, and use ingredients that skimp out on nutritional value.
The Pet Supplement Industry is Even Worse
For humans, there’s very little regulation around the claims supplement companies make and what they can put into their products. The label doesn’t have to match exactly what’s inside.
While there are still a lot of shady supplement companies out there, the ones that have survived and thrived do so because there’s a general pressure in the industry to get third-party testing. If you want your supplements to get promoted by reputable fitness and nutrition professionals, they want to know they’re promoting a safe product. It has become a smart financial decision to often spend more on product ingredients and third-party testing.
There are also higher legal consequences if, for example, a consumer gets sick from taking a supplement. Humans in court win more money than dogs. A LOT more.
None of this is the case with pet supplements. Very few companies go the extra step to show transparency in their manufacturing process, and clarity in their ingredients.
Pet Supplement Companies Don’t Have The Same Pressure
Because the baseline expectations are so low, it’s not a good financial decision for companies to make this investment. It’s expensive.
To them, the priority isn’t to make great products that can truly help your pet. Rather, it’s how they can create the illusion that their products will help, while cutting costs to boost their profits. Your pups health doesn’t come first, the fat checks in their wallets do.
Let’s take fish oil for dogs as an example.
“Fish oil” often is mostly crappy vegetable oils with just enough fish oil to say that it’s fish oil.
Just like with food, they can make claims with loose, easy to meet definitions. A good fish oil product should say how much EPA and DHA omega-3 fats are in the supplement. They shouldn’t be able to lace their fish oil with soybean oil like dangerous drug dealer lacing their products.
Unfortunately, they can. And they will continue to, until, as is happening with human supplements, there’s more and more pressure from consumers and regulatory authorities to do so. Or until there’s broader regulatory change, which, given what happened in 2007, seems like a pipe dream.
The Mission of Pup Labs: Pups Over Profits
We actually have dogs. And we love them with all our being. We know what it’s like to truly have unconditional love for our pet. If we had the ingredients and formulas to do so, we’d give them all we could to help them live to 100. (We don’t right now, but we’re working on it.)
Not only are we passionate about raising awareness for these problems, but we’re passionate about offering a solution.
Does this “cut into our profits?” Of course it does. That’s just not what we’re in it for. If we were really concerned with profits, we would’ve started a regular supplement company instead. Or just gone into banking. We exist to put pups OVER profits. We’re here to elevate the standard of the industry. We’re here to help your canine best-friend have the best possible life they can, filled with snuggles, smiles, and slobbery kisses.
For more about our products, and our transparent, third-party tested manufacturing processes, learn more at our website.
For more resources to learn about the problems with the pet food industry, you can check out our Resources Page.