Industry Info

What is the history of dog food?

In the mid 1800’s, the first dog treat was invented by James Spratt.  Spratt was an American electrician living in London who noticed dogs were scavenging around a ship yard eating tossed out biscuits.  His treat was made of wheat meal, meat and vegetables.  His company did marvelously well, ultimately being snatched up by a large corporation thus production began in the US.  In the early 1900’s, wet pet was introduced in canned form after WWI as a means to dispose of deceased horses.  In the 1930’s, canned cat food came along.  But during WWII, metal for cans was set aside for war which all but destroyed the pet food industry and production.  By the end of WWII, sales were back up to $200 million and pet food sales were again gaining popularity.  Pet food was considered a luxury and a way for companies such as Quaker Oats, Nabisco, and General Mills Foods to utilize left over ingredients after they processed people food.  It wasn’t until about 1956 that pellet pet food truly hit main stream markets.  The pet food was synthetically spray for nutrients that were lost over the heating process.  Since the 50’s, pet food sales have increased decade to decade, formulas and flavors have changed, and ingredients have changed.  During the 80’s, the market was introduced to the first ailment specific pet food.  It was the manufacturers attempt to introduce pet food that was more like ‘people food’.  From the invention of pet food in the mid 1800’s to today, many different innovations of pet foods have been introduced.  There is kibble, frozen, freeze dried, wet, canned, bagged, vacuum sealed, holistic, ailment specific, Organic, homemade, raw, and the list goes on.  With our pets being diagnosed with the same ailments as their human counterparts, we are seeing the trend go back to the basics, before the introduction of manufactured pet food, to serving up simple, non-processed, biologically appropriate food.  

Before manufactured pet food was introduced, what did we feed our pets?

Ask the the generation of the 1950’s and before.  Food wasn’t processed as it is now.  Pets were given table scraps, homemade food from their owners, left overs from the butcher, raw bones, or the animal found food outdoors from scavenging or hunting on their own.  Canned/packaged pet food was a luxury of the time when it was introduced.

Who are the major pet food manufacturers in the industry?

Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Mars, and Colgate-Palmolive are believed to be the top four producers of pet food contributing to 80% of the market…in the world.  This is only for cats and dogs alone, and the pet food industry sales were over $50 Billion in 2011.

Who regulates the pet food industry?

The pet food industry, like human food, is regulated at the federal level by the FDA (under the Federal, Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act), USDA (US Department of Agriculture), and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).  It is then regulated at the State level.

What is the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)?

The AAFCO has NO regulatory authority in the pet food industry.  The AAFCO establishes standards and the States in turn establish their feed laws and regulations.  The AAFCO standards are many years out of date and an effort is being made to update standards.

Why is there debate regarding AAFCO regulations?

The pet food industry is still a relatively new industry really taking root in the middle/late 1950’s. Kibble hit mainstream only in the 1960’s.  It is difficult to produce long term data for such a new industry.  

The pet food industry standards are really set by large pet food manufacturers, not a regulatory committee, and guidelines from AAFCO are simply suggestive.  It is estimated that up to 20% of pets would not pass the feeding trials set by the AAFCO on a long term trial. There is a debate of over over-nutrition.  There is a debate over under-nutrition.  

Feline nutrition profiles by the AAFCO have not been updated since 1991-1992.  

Canine nutrition profiles have not been updated since 1990-1991. 

AAFCO expected to update these profiles in 2010. Guidelines and spectrum are very broad from AAFCO and there is a push to close the gap when referring to ‘nutritional and balanced’ as well as a push to set guidelines when defining pet labeling lingo.  Currently, pet packaging can declare anything such as, healthy, prime, natural etc.  The only word in packing pet food that is regulated is Organic.  You must follow federal guidelines to be able to put Organic on any packaging. 

What do veterinary schools teach about pet food? 

The courses offered for animal nutrition are finally growing.  We have yet to discover the the teaching of raw pet food in the classroom.  Education and programs at schools are heavily funded and are mostly pushed by the five major players in the pet food industry.  Pet food manufacturers have money, Universities need money.  If you look at a University animal nutrition course book, you may be surprised to discover that it was developed and sponsored by a large pet food company, not an independent source.  Did you know that veterinarians may receive kick-back in their practice to push pet food as additional income?

What is Organic?

Organic standards are set by national governments and international organizations.  Since food/produce/meats are shipped all over the world, many entities regulate and input in the system.  In the United Stated, it’s managed by OFPA (Organic Foods Production Act), and heavily regulated.  To be labeled Organic and to get the Organic seal, the product has to be 95% Organic or above.  To be 100% Organic, the product has to be 100% Organic. 

How many pets have succumb to illness or have died because of improper nutrition or because of food recalls in the pet food industry?

It is very difficult to say.  Although the FDA regulates the pet food industry, there is not a centralized governmental records database like there is for humans like the CDC (Center for Disease Control).  The actual number for sick pets or pets that have died may never be known since there is no governmental regulatory program.  It was previously regulated by the pet food manufacturers volunteering information and consumers are relying on the data that they provide.  Veterinary organizations also provide data, but as of today, there is not a single regulatory source for updated information.  With the 2010 salmonella egg outbreak, there has again been widespread public outrage, and the call for government action is at an all time high.

Are pet food ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance by amount, just like human food?

• NO.  Pet food ingredients are listed by WEIGHT BEFORE PROCESSING!!!  For example, if chicken is listed first, then corn, it does not necessarily mean that that there is more chicken than corn.  Since chicken is higher in moisture than corn, it will weigh more, therefore corn is the main ingredient.  

If a pet food manufacturer claims it’s 100% Complete, Complete & Balanced, or Natural, then is it?

• NO.  Manufactures are permitted to make that claim, if they participate in AAFCO’s (Association of American Feed Control Officials) feeding trial protocols which state that trials last 6 months on a group of 8 animals.  That is, if a food sustains an animal for the six months, or keeps that animal alive for 6 months, then they can claim it on packaging.  If an animal loses or gains significant weight, it is not considered.  All that matters is if that the animal was sustained, or lived.  Manufacturers are not required to run a study to make claims of their product being, healthy, balanced, complete, if it’s similar to a competitor, they can make these statements.  It’s the family ‘relationship’ that allows for these statements.  This is not a long term study.  There is no data required for long term effects of the food to state 100% complete.

Does Complete and Balanced means that the formal is good for every dog.

•  NO.  Nutritional requirements can be breed-specific. What may be complete and balanced for one dog, may not be for another. 

“Meal” on an ingredient list, is it probably the single most important ingredient to stay away from?

•  YES.  Meal, can be ANYTHING.  It’s an item that comes from a rendering plant, from any slaughtered animal, any by-product, and sadly and shockingly enough…euthanized pets from clinics and shelters.

Since pet food is regulated at the federal level by the FFDCA (Federal Food Drug & Cosmetic Act), can one  assume that pet foods are fit for human consumption.

• NO.  The FFDCA simply requires that foods not be “adulterated” or “misbranded”.  The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has stated that “animal feeds provide a practical outlet for plant and animal byproducts not suitable for human consumption,” contradicting the FFDCA, and allowing pet food manufacturers to include products not fit for humans. 

Are all pet food manufacturers inspected by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture)?

• NO.  You may request voluntary inspection.  After USDA inspection, you may attach a ‘seal’ to the product stating that the product is a USDA Certified Product for Dogs, Cats and other Carnivora. 

Are all pet food manufacturers are subject to FDA (Food & Drug Administration) inspection?

• YES.  All manufacturing plants are subject to FDA inspection.

Does the CVM (Center for Veterinary Medicine) sets standards for pet foods?

• NO.  The CVM, within the FDA (Food & Drug Administration), is responsible for the regulation of animal drugs, medicated feeds, and food additives.  Unless a food has labeled that the food includes drugs, additives, or offers up health claims, then it has nothing to do with pet food sold.

Since the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) has no regulatory authority, then does a manufacturer have to comply with labeling requirements?

• NO.  But a manufacturer must comply with State regulations.  AAFCO is an Association, not a Regulatory body, who suggests pet foods include label requirements for ingredient lists, nutrition, and ingredient data. 

Does AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) perform analytical testing?

• NO.  No testing is performed by AAFCO. 

Are manufacturers required to test and complete trials on their product? 

• NO.  Pet foods do not require testing or trials.  Unless, it claims to be complete, balanced or 100% nutritious…or if the ingredients are similar to another product on the shelf, they can claim it under the ‘family’ rule, without having to do a trial. 

Are pet food nutrition values determined by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials).

• NO.  The NRC (National Research Council Committee on Animal Nutrition) established minimal nutrient requirements.  

Are AAFCO regulation are out of date.

•  YES. 

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