Thursday, January 24, 2013

feed this, not that: episode 1

Before my life as an accidental stay at home Dog Mom, I worked at a premium pet food store in the Savannah area. I'm not going to name any names, but let's just say that the end of my position in the company didn't come on my terms and it had more to do with a conflict in core values than my abilities. I've been on the job hunt for a while now, but I've continued to help friends and family (and even some former co-workers) to determine what's best for their fur babies, as well as pointing out pet food industry recalls, new research, and new products.
Part of the goal of this blog is to help bring further to light what really happens beyond that bag of dog food- not only if it's a good food or a bad food, but what actually goes into the product, where it comes from, WHY it's good or bad, and what's the value for what you're going to spend. Let's face it, not everyone can spend $98 for a 24 lb bag of Addiction Kangaroo and Apple dog food. I compile most of the information about different kinds of both wet and dry dog food from 2 sources: the manufacturer's webpage and From there, I do the ultimate test- we see if dogs like it. And not just any dogs- but my dogs. And one particularly picky pup is Radar, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. If it makes it into his mouth, then I know that it must be tasty.
When I was still working for that company, I was given A LOT of dog food to try- this is a way that manufacturer's try to get their product into stores. But, one food has always been popular in this house and it's a food that I began feeding after we got Link. Before Link, Radar had been raised on Blue Buffalo Life Protection dog food, and we did well on it.  However, after Link came along, his tiny little belly was too fickle to eat the very rich food that Blue Buffalo makes, so we had to find another alternative. At that time, we switched to Nature's Recipe dog food.
Nature's Recipe is produced by the Del Monte Company based out of San Francisco, California.  And no, you're eyes are not mistaken. The Del Monte Company IS the company responsible for those little fruit cups your Mom used to pack in your lunch box. Something you learn very early on in the pet food industry is that there are very, very, very few independent companies, and most of them get bought out early on if their product is popular. Del Monte produces this particular line of it's food at it's company owned Lawrence, Kansas plant. This plant also produced Kibbles and Bits. The canned variety of Nature'd Recipe is produced in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania (go Huskies!!) along with 9 Lives, Kibbles and Bits, Gravy Train and Skippy, as well as the Wal-Mart owned brands Special Kitty and Ol' Roy. This probably also needs verification- there are only a few processing plants in the US that produce dog food so many times you find premium pet food being made alongside base dog foods, cat food, etc. Because of the limited number of plants, you'll also find that one company will own the facility and oversee the production of several other brands.
Anyway, onto the food itself. Nature's Recipe offers 3 different lines, what they refer to as "lifestage recipes , "special needs" and "ultra premium". These lines then break down further into "flavors" like venison, catfish, chicken, lamb and vegetarian as well as breed sizes, grain free and one specialty line called Farmstand Select that feature bits of dried fruits and vegetables. We're currently eating the Adult Lamb Meal and Rice Recipe  so I'll be basing my review on that "flavor".
The first ingredient on the back panel is Lamb Meal, a source of protein that is essentially concentrated lamb meat. Some companies debase meal as an evil of the pet food industry, but the inclusion of lamb meal in this product ensures us that most of the protein level is based in actual meat and not protein rich filler like soy. Meals generally contain around 300% more protein than fresh meat. What's more, this is a "named" meal source, meaning it's not a mystery meat. Many bottom barrel pet foods will list Meat Meal as a protein  and this meat can come from ANY source- the FDA does not require pet foods to specify what is exactly in these ingredients. The next ingredient is oatmeal, a gluten free dietary fiber. Following that is barley, another dietary fiber, but also one that is great for dogs with blood sugar issues, since barley is low on the glycemic index. Following are rice, poultry fat (believe me, this is a good additive!) and fresh chicken.
From there, the other ingredients comprise only a small percentage of the actual composition of the kibble. However, some ingredients may be highlighted, such as tomato pomace. This is a controversial ingredient in that proponents of tomato pomace claim that it is a throw-a-way additive from the production of things like ketchup. However, tomato pomace contains Vitamin C, Vitamin A and is high in fiber, making it a popular ingredient in pet food. Also listed is brewer's yeast, a popular supplement in the ongoing fight against fleas. While brewer's yeast may cause allergies in dogs with actual yeast allergies, the ingredient is also full of vitamins and minerals.
This food reigns supreme in our home. Not only is the kibble a good size for all three of our pups (ranging from 19 lbs to 48 lbs), a 30 lb bag lasts us for an entire month. What's more, the 30 lb bag is under $40 at PetSmart AND it goes on sale constantly (It's currently on sale for only $35.99). While the venison, catfish, Farmstand Selects and Grain Free varieties will cost you a little more, it's always nice to switch up your "flavor" to keep them interested, and to introduce different amino acids into their diets. After we've completed the bag of lamb, we're moving on to chicken here.
Nora Jones doesn't really care, as long as she gets to eat it.

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