Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Pet Food Wars

"Rawwwrr, me so hungry!"
Ever wonder what the difference is between those higher quality pet foods and the familiar grocery store brands?

I love my pets, and I am borderline obsessed with monitoring their health and happiness, so a few years ago I researched and asked questions until my head was filled to the brim with information. If this was a category on Jeopardy, I would kick some butt.

Using two of the most popular brands from each spectrum, I'll show you how I choose foods and why.

In this corner:

The heavyweight champion of cheap pet foods.

Ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, soybean meal, beef tallow preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), corn gluten meal, animal digest, salt, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, potassium chloride, zinc sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2, Yellow 6), choline chloride, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, natural flavor, pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, Vitamin D-3 supplement, riboflavin supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite. E-5020.

And in this corner:

Blue Buffalo
The contender for the crown and popular choice of concious pet owners.
Senior food pictured, adult food in description. Sorry, couldn't find a good adult food picture!
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Ground Brown Rice, Whole Ground Barley, Oatmeal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Peas, Tomato Pomace (source of Lycopene), Natural Chicken Flavor, Whole Potatoes, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Alfalfa Meal, Whole Carrots, Whole Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Dried Parsley, Garlic, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Turmeric, Sunflower Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Dried Chicory Root, Oil of Rosemary, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), d-Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Ascorbate (source of Vitamin C), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Choline Chloride, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Salt, Caramel, Potassium Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Dried Yeast (source of Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product
When I shop for food, one of the first things I look for in the ingredients list is anything unnecessary, like added color and corn. Dogs and cats don't care what color their food is, and corn adds no nutritional value to the food.

I also check to make sure that there are proper meat sources as the source of protein instead of soy or unspecified meat meals. Lots of people don't know that 'meat meal' means that the source could come from rejected meats from human food plants or any type of animal at all. Bone meal is another gross ingredient that you don't want to see, because it's unclear exactly what animal the bones are from and what condition they may have been in. If there has to be a type of 'meal' in your pets food, you want it to be specific. You also want the main fat source to be from a specific protein/animal source (unless there's an allergy to worry about). After the main ingredients meet my standards, I check to make sure that the remaining ingredients are fruits, veggies, vitamins and minerals.

A full belly gets in the way of editing, but makes for a happy kitty.
If most pet owners knew that the most popular foods are actually no good for their furry friends, they would get the better stuff... if it weren't for that scary price difference!

I can help explain that too!

A big bag of Blue Buffalo can run you an easy $60.00, when the same size bag of Alpo will only be between $20.00 and $30.00. No wonder it seems like a no brainer to most! Here's the catch though: you need to feed about twice the amount of Alpo that you do the Blue Buffalo. The corn in Alpo makes for more frequent poop trips. It also expands in the belly initially to give a feeling of fullness, but after a quick potty trip, the hunger will be back! A food with more quality ingredients will keep the belly happy for longer, and you don't need to feed as much. What does all of this mean? It means that in the long run, both foods end up costing a similar price! You might spend more money on Blue (or other quality foods) initially, but you'll need to re-stock on Alpo more frequently.

The added color and lack of nutrients in the cheaper food also causes tartar build-up on teeth, bad breath, and can lead to health issue later on. Lots of people will argue that they've always fed this food to their pets with no issue, to which I say that's great, but you're very lucky. Some people could live their whole lives just eating chips and hot dogs, but it doesn't mean they should. Again, these are just my opinions, based on experience and research.

If anyone has any questions about pet nutrition or care I would love to hear them! My pets mean the world to me, and so do yours :)

Hugs and poops,



  1. Walter's on a special diet - he has (I can't think of the brand off the top of my head because we literally JUST started using it) but his is fish & rice flavored I think. He has to have it because the other stuff (chicken, wheat, etc) give him skin allergies. :( But, he doesn't seem to mind it!

    1. Allergies are such a pain in the bum :(
      I used to have to help a lot of people find appropriate diets due to allergies. I was a pet food specialist :)
      I hope he's feeling better! Hopefully the fish oils will have his skin cleared up quickly!