PET SPOTLIGHT: Global Pet Expo In Orlando Highlights $28 Billion Dog and Cat Food Industry
By Maria Sonnenberg // April 23, 2017
Choices Can Seem Overwhelming To Consumers
You are what you eat pertains to both humans and their pets. Fortunately, we have become aware of what we ingest, both for ourselves and for our pets.
As consumers take more interest in the food they put in their own mouths, the demand for nutritious, wholesome food has also spilled into the pet food industry, according to the American Pet Product Association’s pet owners’ survey, which named premium and natural foods the most popular type of dog and cat food purchased.
Pet food is big business, as the rows upon rows of manufacturers’ booths at the recent Global Pet Expo at the Orange County Convention Center revealed. This part of the pet industry represents more than $28 billion in annual sales in the United States alone. The choices can seem overwhelming to consumers, so it pays to do some research.
“Always read the label,” said Barbara Davis, training director for the Indian River Dog Training Club in Palm Bay.
Davis, who has extensively researched dog foods, considers buying top-quality food such as Fromm and Honest Kitchen, both manufacturers that use only human-grade ingredients, a form of health insurance for her Shetland sheepdogs, both her own and the many rescued animals she oversees through Mid-Florida Sheltie Rescue.
Penelope, one of Davis’ shelties, lived well past her 18th birthday, and Davis believes feeding her Fromm all her life had something to do with her longevity.
“She never had any health issues,” said Davis.
Pam Shaia, owner of Tails at the Barkery pet store in Cocoa Village, suggests consumers check dogfoodavisor.com. to see what is in the specific foods they are feeding their animals.
“It tells you which foods have been recalled and helps you compare ingredients with other manufacturers,” said Shaia, who carries kibble from Fromm and freeze-dried patties and raw foods from Stella & Chewie, and also bakes her own natural dog treats for sale at the store.
Dogfoodadvisor.com, which receives no advertising revenue from pet food companies, is impartial in its review of more than 4,500 different types of dog food. The research can be sobering.
PLENTY OF CHOICES
As carnivores, dogs and cats need protein, and meats, whether chicken or beef or even game such as venison, should be among the top three ingredients on the label, but in some foods, it’s almost nowhere to be found.
Many brands, typically available at grocery or super stores, meet the minimum nutrient requirements, but do so using cheap sources of protein such as hoof, hair and skin, instead of kidney, liver or muscle, and thus limit the amount of usable protein the animal can assimilate into their body.
Fortunately, these days consumers have plenty of choices, as pet food manufacturers have integrated superfoods such as spinach, kale and blueberries and introduced grain-free pet foods with fewer hard-to-digest carbohydrates and more proteins.
“Grains are empty calories,” said Davis.
There are no empty calories with the treats marketed by Einstein Pets (einsteinpets.com), which launched its all-natural treats at the Global Pet Expo, including grain-free Sweet Potato & Banana and Sweet Potato & Cranberry Smart Strips.
Among other notable foods and treats at Global Pet Expo were those from Vero Beach-based Caru (carupetfood.com), a company that manufacturers stews that would look mighty nice on the dinner table, not just the dog bowl.
Made with 100 percent human-grade ingredients, with no GMOs, preservatives artificial colors or flavors, Caru is prepared in small batches in a human food plant. Caru also offers free-range chicken broth for dogs and cats, formulated without artificial colors, flavors, added hormones, antibiotics or preservatives.
Beef, lamb or turkey are the primary ingredients in Happy Howie’s (happyhowies.com) Premium Meat Rolls, and with its deli store packaging, it is also pleasing to the eye. Tender & True (tenderandtruepet.com) is one of the few companies that make USDA certified organic dry dog and cat food that consists of certified humanely raised ingredients.
For cats, Cat Sushi (cat-sushi.com), offers treats that are fished, prepared and packaged in Japan. The company uses the same human-grade technique that are used in traditional Japanese cuisine.
Barkworthies (barkworthies.com) depends on superfood ingredients such as blueberries, carrots and pumpkin.
Touted as a healthy alternative to rawhide, SmartBones (smartbones.com) are made using vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots and peas, combined with chicken breast.
Kitty Krak from Pet Healthy Family (pethealthyfamily.com), is 100 percent natural bonito fish with no additives. Small retailers such as Tails at the Barkery in Cocoa Village, Pet Pros in Rockledge and Natural Pet Specialty Shop and Wags and Purrs Specialty Pantry in Melbourne are the best bets to find some of these high-end products.
Using poorly made pet food can be false savings that can translate into higher vet bills, thanks to allergies, irritable bowels, weak bones and cancers associated with poor nutrition.
The benefits of spending more upfront with food also have important repercussions out back.
“They poop less, because their bodies are consuming the nutrition,” said Davis.
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