Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover – The Whole Dog Journal and Dry Pet Foods
The Whole Dog Journal (WDJ) did dog owners a great service by directing our attention to the ingredients panels on bags of dry dog foods; helping us to determine which ingredients are to be preferred and which ingredients to steer clear of. There is always some dissent from the WDJ’s opinions on ingredients, but by and large I do not dispute the WDJ’s judgment on quality ingredients.
However, I do believe the WDJ has done a great disservice to the producer and consumer alike with the annual February list of recommended dog foods. The WDJ does a disservice to producers as many deserving brands are left off the list. The WDJ does a disservice to consumers as some undeserving brands are put on the recommended list. The WDJ believes, and has taught readers to believe, that everything one needs to know about pet food quality is in the ingredients panel. This is just not true.
Two factors which do not appear on the ingredients panel but can greatly affect food quality never enter into the WDJ’s analysis: a) the quality of the ingredients and b) how the food is processed.
Let’s explore the latter: Simply put, higher processing temperatures damage the ingredients. Higher temperatures can cause the proteins to become “bound” and unavailable to the animal through digestion. Producers striving to improve production efficiency will increase the processing temperature. Analysis of the food will not show any reduction in the protein content but, again, the higher the temperature, the less protein is actually available to the animal.
In regard to the actual ingredients, there are significant quality differences and each producer makes a decision as to what grade of ingredients they want to purchase or what grade of ingredients they must use to meet their cost requirements. There are many grades of chicken meal; simply reading the ingredient panel is no guarantee that the producer is using quality chicken meal. The same is true for grains and most other ingredients.
So, how can we evaluate pet foods? Well, let’s start by acknowledging that we all lie. I lie; the retailer lies, the wholesaler lies, the manufacturer lies, and the bags lie. But … dogs don’t lie. Only through feeding trials can we truly evaluate the quality of a pet food.
Therefore, if The Whole Dog Journal were truly serious about pet food quality, they would sponsor in-depth feeding trials and report the results to their readers. This would be a true service to those who care about the quality of food they feed their dogs.