The scam of "super premium" dog food
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Thread: The scam of "super premium" dog food

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    Member McSweeney's Avatar
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    The scam of "super premium" dog food

    I have been a lurker on this forum for a long time but have never felt compelled to speak up until now. By way of quick introduction, I've done foster work for the Humane Society and local lab rescue groups for about 14 years. Last November I put down my lab mix "Chief" after he gave my family 13-1/2 wonderful years--an amazing lifespan for a large dog--and then in December adopted a year-old husky/border mix ("Hank") from my local animal shelter. All told, since 1996 I've fostered upwards of 20-30 dogs. In that time, I've tried the following brands of dog food: Solid Gold, Nutri Life, EVO, Innova, Canidae, Chicken Soup for the Soul, National, Premium Edge, Authority, Pro-Pac, Earthborn Holistic, Nutro, Iams and Purina.

    Anyone care to guess the difference in digestible protein between a cut of raw chicken and chicken by-product meal? (EIGHT percent.) How about a cut of premium beef and beef by-product meal? (ZERO percent.) If you had to rank the most common food allergies in dogs, where would you rank corn? (Hint: it's safer than beef, chicken, lamb, fish, dairy products or eggs.) Any idea of the number of studies linking holistic, organic or BARF diets to longer canine lifespans? (Again, ZERO.) "Holistic" is in fact a total marketing gimmick, with no USDA or AAFCO-mandated standards for the word whatsoever.

    The simple truth is animal digest and by-products are as nutrient-rich as their whole-meat counterparts, but super-premium petfood manufacturers prey on people's human sensibilities when marketing food. They convince the customer that "gross" equals "unhealthy," when in fact farm and ranch dogs for literally thousands of years have subsisted on nothing but the necks, backs, viscera, and entrails of discarded bovine/swine/equine. It's one thing when you can throw discarded horse organs in a bucket and have your hound eat it out of sight and out of mind. It's another thing entirely when you're trying to market that bucket on a pretty new bag of kibble at your local Petsmart. Better that the ingredients list "mechanically de-boned chicken meal" or "organic free-range bison," right?

    If you dig even deeper into the process, by-product meal is also the more environmentally sound choice compared to whole meat-based kibble. Consider the numbers of animals slaughtered in the United States for food in 2008: about 3 million sheep, 35 million cattle, 117 million pigs, 264 million turkeys, and 9 billion chickens. Humans do not eat much of the organs and bones--the offal--of these animals even though many of these by-products are just as nutritious as the parts we do eat. (Again, the "gross" factor inhibits our decision-making.) But by-products account for 49% of the weight of cattle, 44% of pigs, and 37% of chickens. Animal by-products add up to 54 billion pounds a year in the United States alone. Small amounts of animal waste can be composted, but quantities like this overwhelm any disposal system. None of the obvious disposal options--incineration, burial, and dumping in landfills--is adequate to the task. All are environmentally hazardous, and all are wasteful of useful nutrients.

    When my lab mix was three years old he developed hot spots. His coat was in horrible shape. Up until that point the only food I had ever fed Chief was Premium Edge as a puppy (Chief's obedience instructor cut me a deal) and then Innova as an adult. I switched him to Purina ONE on the recommendation of a fellow lab rescue volunteer, and his coat shined up within weeks. I tried a handful of other brands, but always came back to Purina ONE. And ultimately, I got 10-1/2 more years out of my sweet ole' 100-pound black bear.

    I'm not about to tell you what you should or should not feed your dog. If his energy is good, and if he has good coat and stool quality, KEEP FEEDING HIM WHAT YOU'RE FEEDING HIM. In the meantime, is it too much to ask to have a honest debate about pet food? If you've never fed your dog a certain product, if you've never personally witnessed his quality of life on a certain food, then NO, you are NOT qualified to judge the quality of that food simply by copying and pasting the ingredients label and telling people to check out dogfoodanalysis.com. (On that same note, can we dispense with the intellectually lazy "I bet some people can live their whole lives on McDonalds" one-liners?)

    And if anyone's curious, I feed my current husky/border Purina ONE Adult Chicken and Rice, which I amend with one can of sardines on Mondays and one egg on Thursdays. (I've noticed after fostering a few husky/malamute mixes that sardines make the wolf/spitz breeds' coats practically glow in the dark.) I tried transitioning Hank to Canidae All Life Stages from Pro Plan Chicken & Rice in the first couple weeks after I adopted him from the shelter, but his wet, bloody stools scared me back to Purina ONE. (Why didn't I just put Hank back on Pro Plan? That's a story for another thread, but let's just say the new "Shredded Blend" sucks. For whatever reason, Purina likes to tinker with the formulas in its Pro Plan line, and it shows in animals' skin and stool quality.)
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    Senior Member Xeph's Avatar
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    Purina One isn't bad in general. I just prefer not to feed my dog Corn. I know that almost ALL Dalmatians have to eat Purina Proplan (the one with the Dal on the bag) because of their problem with stones.

    That said, I wouldn't pay $50 for a bag of Purina when I can get a higher quality food for $40.
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    Member McSweeney's Avatar
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    Where are you buying your food, Xeph?

    Wal-mart sells 40# bags of Purina One for $28. Compare that to something like Solid Gold Barking at the Moon, which runs $67 for 33# at my local specialty petstore.

    By saying "I can get a higher quality food for $40," you're illustrating the exact point I tried to make in my original post. The super premium petfood manufacturers have got you right where they want you: i.e. equating "gross" with "unhealthy" and anthromorphizing your dogs. You're wanting something that's your definition of higher quality, not empirically speaking higher in quality. If there's no difference in protein digestability between a bucket of chicken guts ground and cured into meal and mechanically de-boned all-white meat chicken, why pay the extra money? Answer: because as a person it makes you feel better, not because it's any healthier for your dog. Again, that's your right as a consumer and a pet owner, and I'm sure your dog appreciates your love and compassion.
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    I have learned in the 20 years I have worked in the pet industry that not all pet by products are created equally, and that some of the lower end pet foods have things in them that are severely detrimental to your pets health and life. I am not saying your pet's food is bad at all, I don't know, but research is a must for all pet owners. If the by products are made with organs and bone from healthy animals that we use meat from it is totally different then by products used from ill or euthanized animals.
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    Senior Member misty073's Avatar
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    I feed my dogs raw (and a higher end kibble sometimes) and my cat a higher quality urinary tract kibble and I wont switch.

    Dog 1 (Harley) had itchy skin and chewed his fur switched him to raw grain free and it went away. (dog was tragically taken from us in OCT)

    Dog 2 (Maggie) came to us at 5 months eating Iams puppy food. Switched her to raw that same day. My husband was allergic to her, itchy watery eyes and asthma. She needed to go to the groomers that week to have her anal glands expressed (it hasnt needed to be done again) My husbands allergies to her have gone and its been 1 year (although we just got a puppy and have been suplimenting both dogs with kibble and guess what...he has mild asthma when he comes home now)

    Cat (max) 2 years old was eating purina cat food...at the vets last Nov with complete urinary blockage. $700 in vet bills later...he finished his vet food and I have been feeding higher quality food from the pet store and checking his Ph levels a few times a week and its been completely normal.

    Dog 3 (Bella) just came to us a week and a half ago. She was eating purina puppy chow and had a Ph of over 8 (my strips only go up to 8) right away switched her to a good quality kibble (from the pet store) and started raw (she is now on 75% raw) and her PH is in normal range again and has been every time I have checked.



    Thanks for your info but I will stick with my raw and high quality Kibble...My animals are the best proof for me.
    _________________________________________
    Maggie, My little Jack Russell.
    Bella, My little mix, any guesses to my breed are welcome.
    Jazz and Oreo, our new little kittens
    RIP Harley Boy-Oct 3,2009. My little Yorkie
    RIP Max-March 23, 2010. You were the best cat ever.
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    Senior Member Active Dog's Avatar
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    Personally by-products are "unwanted" and unwanted pieces of meat are not cared for in the same manor as "premium" cuts of meat. It is not that I do not believe the internal organs of animals are bad for a dog, on the contrary it very well can be better (I have not studied this so I can't say for sure). Do you have information on how by-products are processed, and if it is in the same way as "human" food? I myself am disgusted with the thought of eating meat that has been pumped full of medicines, we are effect as much as our dogs on "premium" food. So if I can get a food that is processed the same way as "human" food, and it is at LEAST up to par for us, then I feel that is one step closer to a healthier dog.

    I also do not agree with corn, it is something that even live stock isn't supposed to have. I would never give my horse corn, just because it can cause serious health problems. Also naturally wolves eating the stomach of their pray would not be eating corn, so it is completely foreign to their digestive system.

    I see your point in that "by-products" are nutritious too, but it is low cost food, and industries will treat it as such.
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    Personally, I feed Kirkland (Costco's brand), which is $21.00 for 40lbs, and ranks as high or higher on the "dogfoodanalysis" system than most of the "premium" brands at twice or three times the price.

    I agree that there's some food snobbishness and "gross=unhealthy" in dog-food discussions, and I understand that dogs and their big brothers, wolves, ate offal and thrived for millenia. But, there's a difference between the offal provided on a farm, and that which is swept up off the mass-slaughterhouse floor, along with god knows what else.

    Bottom line, I look the analysis system, because it includes information that I feel is important, then take convenience and price into account. I've not yet found a food to beat the Kirkland combination of those three things.
    Last edited by KarenJG; 02-01-2010 at 03:43 PM. Reason: tyop
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    Senior Member Xeph's Avatar
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    I don't feed my dogs Solid Gold or Innova. #1 my dogs can't tolerate it. It is EXTREMELY rich and making the switch seems to be harder for older dogs (dogs not raised on it). I had extreme diarrhea (no bloody stools) and gas. #2 I can't afford it.

    My dogs started out on ProPlan...their coats were absolute CRAP. Dry, brittle, dandruff, itching. My Shepherd has a bit of an allergy to wheat, so anything with wheat in it is immediately cut out.

    Fish based diets my Shepherd refuses, he is also not a fan of chicken (unless fed raw), and I won't feed him beef. He and the Labrador currently eat a grain free venison based food (though I'm sure when I move the Lab will go back to getting crap).

    I'd love to check out Kirkland for myself, but it doesn't seem to be available in my area.
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    Well, he is right about the allergies...
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    Kirkland is only found at Costco - it's their private label - and they only have Chicken, Rice & Vegetables, and Lamb, Rice, & Veggies. (The Lamb is $2.00 more, though.)

    They also don't sell it on line, you have to go the the physical store, which is a bummer if you don't have one in your area!

    Costco's brand is made by Diamond, so you could try to find that, but it can't be the same formula as Diamond's own label, because it ranks higher than Diamond does. I don't know what Diamond costs, though.
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    Member Elocin's Avatar
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    My vet said something similar when I took Charlie there on Saturday. He was having loose stools so my vet said that if I put him on something of a lower quality it probably wouldn't harm him and wouldn't make him live less. He was on Blue Buffalo and now I'm trying him on Eukanuba naturally wild. He seems to like it but I haven't seen stellar results yet. The vet also recommended Purina One. That made his skin itchy though.
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    Senior Member zimandtakandgrrandmimi's Avatar
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    i tend to equate.."contaminated" with unhealthy.

    im a raw feeder and often feed what is known as byproducts. ill feed every piece of a deer save for the bladder and intestines. same with any other animal..but ive seen the place where the meat is butchered and packaged..i hired the butcher myself. i do not have that reassurance at all with what is known as low end kibble and i barely have assurance of that with the higher..at least by my anal retentive standards. "human grade" isnt about what part of the animal it is..its about the standards of cleanliness and sanitation used to butcher, prepare and package it...and the cleaner, the better.
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    My families now 11 year old dog who has been and still is in great condition (with the exception of arthritis) was fed Pedigree up until she was 9.5 years old and we never had any issues. Now that I'm back home she's eating a bit better. I like what the OP said though: if it works for your dog, keep feeding it.
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    Member McSweeney's Avatar
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    Honest question: what are the "serious health problems" related to corn?

    Corn can provide a high level of digestible complex carbohydrates, essential amino acids and important fatty acids, like linoleic acid. Corn gluten meal, an ingredient derided as "filler" by the uninformed, has in fact one of the higher protein concentrations (60%) of any item on a petfood label. And in food allergies among dogs, corn and rice have the exact same number of cases (about 2.4% of all allergies), with beef, chicken, lamb, fish, dairy and eggs continuing to be the leading food allergens.

    As for the whole meat by-product stigma, most of it is anecdotal evidence, evidence that's hard to take seriously when pound-for-pound by-product meal actually has less ash and more protein than its whole-meat counterparts. Yes, it's probably best to avoid the foods with the more ambiguous ingredients like "meat" by-products, but can't we steer people to better dog foods without the ceaseless fearmongering? There isn't feces in commercial dog foods, and it's you, not the dog, who's grossed out by eating slaughterhouse scraps. Digestable protein is digestable protein, Kcals are Kcals, and more dogs thrive on "marginal" food than don't thrive.

    I mean come on, does a petfood manufacturer have your pet's interest at heart or your interest when they use certain ingredients? One of the foods I tried had the following listed as ingredients 13-17: apples, blueberries, carrots, peas, and spinach. Translation: these ingredients are so far down the list they add no nutritive value whatsoever but are included anyway for suckers. If the "label police" is so eager to break down the meat percentages in pet food labels, then be consistent in your critiques. Call out these companies for hiding behind the word "holistic" and touting the benefits of one dehydrated blueberry and one-eighth of a teaspoon of spinach in a 40# bag of kibble. Call out these companies for feeding dogs multi-source protein kibbles--"made with fresh duck, turkey, chicken meal, lamb, and menhaden fish meal!!!"--when simpler, single-source proteins are almost always more digestable. Quick, name the only petfood manufacturer in the last five years to drastically change its ingredients without informing its customers or even its resellers: that would be Canidae.

    If you have the money, BARF diets are great, and the time and effort companies like Natura Pet (Innova, EVO, California Natural, et al) put into their commercial feeds is commendable. But don't jump all over a fellow pet owner if he's feeding his forever friend something that works for him. Don't continue to perpetuate the myth that "icky" automatically means "bad" when it comes to pet food. And above all, if at the end of the month you look at your grocery bill and realize you're spending more money per pound feeding your dog than your children, know that this makes you insane, not altruistic.

    Postscript: Now that I'm off my soapbox, I will add that I don't buy Iams for ethical reasons, as they conduct regular animal testing.
    Last edited by McSweeney; 02-01-2010 at 04:30 PM.
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    Senior Member GreatDaneMom's Avatar
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    Re: Honest question: what are the "serious health problems" related to corn?

    Quote Originally Posted by McSweeney View Post

    I mean come on, does a petfood manufacturer have your pet's interest at heart or your interest when they use certain ingredients? One of the foods I tried had the following listed as ingredients 13-17: apples, blueberries, carrots, peas, and spinach. Translation: these ingredients are so far down the list they add no nutritive value whatsoever but are included anyway for suckers
    so i should feed my dogs pedigree which is preserved with BHA/BHT which is KNOWN to cause cancer? because ya know, its sooo far down on the list it probably doesnt matter.....
    The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's. ~Mark Twain
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    Member McSweeney's Avatar
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    Re: Honest question: what are the "serious health problems" related to corn?

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatDaneMom View Post
    so i should feed my dogs pedigree which is preserved with BHA/BHT which is KNOWN to cause cancer? because ya know, its sooo far down on the list it probably doesnt matter.....
    Yeah, because that's exactly what I said. Good grief.
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    Senior Member GreatDaneMom's Avatar
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    im saying that just because an ingredient is far down on the list doesnt mean it shouldnt play a role in what youre feeding.
    The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's. ~Mark Twain
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    But it does matter, because they are eating it EVERYDAY, eventually it will have an effect.
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    Senior Member GreatDaneMom's Avatar
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    Quote Originally Posted by Active Dog View Post
    But it does matter, because they are eating it EVERYDAY, eventually it will have an effect.
    this is what i am saying
    The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's. ~Mark Twain
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    Senior Member wolfsnaps's Avatar
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    Re: The scam of "super premium" dog food

    I just want to say that I do not agree with corn/wheat gluten being an ok protein. I believe that proteins from animals are more bioavailable to a dog. Dogs can survive on a lot of things, but I think they are more carnivorus than anything (based by their teeth, digestive tract, etc) and they should get ANIMAL proteins, not plant proteins. I think that is a cheap way into boosting the protein level of a food.


    I think ultimately, a raw diet is best for dogs. We can't all do it for one reason or another, but thats why I choose a higher quality food and pay a little more for it. Even the lower quality foods are raising their prices these days and some foods are very close in price but far apart as far as quality.
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