Evaluating Pet Food

Many consumers, and probably many retailers as well, depend on the approval ratings of the Whole Dog Journal (WDJ) when determining what pet food to buy. I suppose, in some ways, these approvals are helpful. But now the WDJ has gone a step to far by determining which are the “best” foods in a number of categories. 

As those of us in the pet food industry know (though maybe some would rather not admit), the only way to evaluate pet foods is through feeding trials. Reading an ingredient panel will tell you very little about the actual quality of the food. For instance, there are at least ten different quality levels for chicken meal but all read as “chicken meal” on the ingredient list. And nowhere on the package is the processing temperature listed. Heat is the enemy of protein but you would not know that if all you ever read was the WDJ. 

In addition, the WDJ has made the assumption that fresh meat is superior to meat meals. Based on what? Certainly, fresh meat reads better than meat meal but I am unaware of any studies that prove the superiority of fresh meat to meat meal. The WDJ further states that fresh meat must be supplemented by meat meal. OK, but based on what studies? 

And to showcase how little the WDJ actually knows about pet food, they state “small dogs need a smaller kibble size.” Again, I am unaware of any studies that show this to be true. It sounds right but there is no reason to believe it is true. Moreover, there are those that state a larger kibble is better for small dogs.  

I believe the WDJ is trying to do a service to their readers but just because you are well meaning does not mean you are doing good. In fact, the WDJ is just causing even more confusion for consumers and retailers alike by permitting them to think that you can judge a food by its ingredient panel.  You cannot. 

Only feeding trials can determine true pet food quality. The sooner the Whole Dog Journal and those other online pet food rating sites realize this, the better for us all. 

Posted in Pet Peeves.