Yesterday, the LA Times ran a great article that got us thinking about how we shop for the loved ones in our lives. Without a doubt, we are becoming more educated about the products we put in and on our bodies. This fact is evident from what we’re hearing on the news and comments we see from GoodGuide users. Despite these more critical approaches to shopping for ourselves, it sounds like we may not always apply the same rules to shopping for our pets.
A simple example: Why do we gravitate towards “all-natural” pet foods, when we know this term is unregulated and thrown around when it comes to human food? Is it that we walk through a pet store, pass through an aisle that has wood flooring and green shelving and are immediately susceptible to these marketing ploys? Perhaps it’s because we don’t have much information about pet nutrition and therefore blindly put more trust in pet food manufacturers? In an industry that is even less tightly regulated than the one that supplies our own food (and we all know about the food safety issues we’re facing), you could argue that we should be even more skeptical about these claims.
The LA Times points out that:
Pet foods are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which requires the food to be safe, produced under sanitary conditions and bear truthful labels. The agency also makes sure manufacturers back up any claims on the packaging, such as “controls tartar” or “eliminates hairballs.”
Realistically, “making sure manufacturers back up any claims” is a rough task for the FDA, an agency that is understaffed, underfunded, and overburdened with the work it has to get through. What’s even more concerning is that many products with claims may not be providing the benefits you expect (and are paying extra to get). It’s a case of the consumer having high expectations and never realizing that these expectations are far from being met.
Having all the right answers is hard, given the regulatory jungle gym of pet food and the lack of comprehensive science around pet nutrition. Plus, not all of us have an in-depth knowledge of a pet’s nutritional needs that we can apply when selecting a product. Pet owners who have the time and passion to research this information should do so; their pets will be better off as a result. Those who don’t have the ability to do in-depth research aren’t up a creek, as our ratings can point you in the right direction. Always remember that some pets do well on some foods, and others do well on other foods – and that your veterinarian is your best resource.