Consumers who rely on commercial pet foods while seeking optimal health have a daunting task before them. For one, the sheer size of the task is overwhelming. There are over 5000 pet food and supplement choices. One cannot use the usual senses like sight and smell as when selecting fresh grocery foods. Processed foods do not look like real foods, in spite of the ability of food technology to make bite sized toy pork chops out of starch and dye. Moreover, taste enhancers can entice pets to eagerly devour bowls that contain the seeds of serious disease. Nutrient analyses, the presence or absence of this or that ingredient, and short term feeding studies also do not reveal the true health measure of a pet food's value, namely long, active, vital life, free from chronic degenerative disease conditions.
Long term results, results consumers can only truly know after the fact, are the true measure of good nutrition. After all, humans and animals can survive on water and rice for years. Mere survival should not be the goal.
Advertising, marketing brochures, and pet food package labels can also be confusing, and even deceiving. So too is feeling safe because pet food companies are regulated (actually they are regulated to death). Although it would seem that regulation would not permit danger, this is simply not the case. Instead, regulators focus on such things as terminology, spacing on labels, and whether a comma is out of place. (Regulators in one state actually put a stop sale on our products because a sentence was ¼" out of place, we called chicken "meat," and said or implied the word health.) In the meantime, issues that truly have something to do with the well being of pets are ignored. See The "Pet Food Regulation Protects the Public and Guarantees Health" Myth
, The Pet Food Ingredient Game
So if the commonly used criteria for judging the merit of a healthy pet food
are invalid, what is the concerned pet owner to do? As in all other important decisions in life, gathering information and applying reason is the best way to the best answer. This process is even more important in food decisions because health, life and death, vitality and misery, are at issue.
Ultimately a pet food can be no better than the motives and the competency of those producing it. Everything flows from that. If the pet food producer's main objective is profit, then health will be a secondary consideration. If a producer's understanding of the sciences underlying health and nutrition is weak, so too will be the food. Evaluating companies and the people behind them, therefore, become the most critical element in making pet feeding choices.
But before that there is something else to consider–which essentially nobody does, including all the nutrition experts, the producers, and the pet food evaluators. Feeding ANY processed food meal after meal, as the 100% complete claim encourages, a claim fostered by the experts– nutritionists, veterinarians, regulators, and rankers–is the surest road to compromised pet health. See The Myth of "100% Complete and Balanced" Processed Pet Foods
But this threat to health is ignored. That's because the experts themselves lack understanding and also because there would be no need for experts if people fed their pets with the same sense they feed themselves. Granted people today are not being very smart about what they eat. But at least they have enough wherewithal to not exclusively eat some fortified food trinket in a bag for every meal, even if an expert says they should. No such sense exists in the pet feeding arena.
Unfortunately old ideas die hard, particularly when they make people money, stroke egos, and give the public ease. That's what so-called 100% complete pet foods do. So, with that in mind, and with the understanding that no processed food should be fed exclusively, what follows are the best criteria to measure commercial food merit–with health as the primary objective.
Needless to say, marketers are desperate to make their products stand out from the crowd of 5000 choices. The array of claims to beguile consumers is confusing to say the least, But if you put your thinking cap on, they also usually quite silly.
Lest the reader feel that this expose of pet foods is self serving, please consider this. I went into the field of medicine and surgery with the objective of preventing pain and suffering. Finding that conventional medicine was more about naming diseases and treating symptoms than curing or preventing, I turned to nutrition and holistic approaches to health.
Our present organization, although developing and producing products, remains true to my original ideal of helping people not need any doctor at all. In my present situation, that translates to helping people learn how to not need any commercial products at all, even Wysong's.
The following criteria are the best means of determining the health merits of products–if a person chooses to use them in variety as described in the Optimal Health Program™
. This list will also help consumers rank the rankers.
PET HEALTH PHILOSOPHY:
Does the pet health philosophy expressed by the company make sense, have scientific backing, and clearly put health as the number one priority? Or do they make mere claims designed to generate sales? See Pet Nutrition Is A Serious Health Matter
, Comparing Pet Foods Based Upon What Matters
, and The Real Problem in Pet Feeding
The pet food arena swarms with misinformation, much of which can cause serious health consequences. A company taking on the responsibility of health must make its primary product education, not simply product sales. Such education must include teaching consumers how not
to use any processed commercial products at all. See Learn
LEADER SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE:
Most pet food companies are led by a marketing person, movie star, venture capitalist, or a board of directors concerned primarily about profits. Yes, all pet food companies have a story about how their leaders love pets, had health problems with all the brands of pet foods, and that their pet did not improve until they cooked something up in the kitchen or consulted with so and so nutrition guru. But supplying foods that have the best prospect for achieving health is not about lore. It requires competency in health, nutrition, biochemistry, food science, nutraceuticals, nutrigenomics, epigenetics, and processing technology. See Comparing Pet Foods Based Upon What Matters
, Pet Nutrition Is A Serious Health Matter
and Developed by Veterinarians, Kennels, Breeders, etc.
Is the pet food company also the owner of the manufacturing facility or in close control of formulations and manufacturing parameters? That is the only way true innovation can take place. Consider that anyone off the street can go to any number of pet food manufacturers and have them make a "new" food. Such contract manufacturers have files full of ready-to-go formulas. Then the marketing company can add a "special" ingredient, or remove a "demon" one, create a beguiling label and then make unsubstantiated claims about the superiority of the "revolutionary new" product. But, in fact, all the different brands of foods coming off the same production line are essentially the same. Some companies with large volumes find it more economical to have their own facility rather than paying a contract manufacturer. For us the choice was forced upon us because no contract manufacturer could innovate and create the specialized healthy foods we desired. That choice for us, a small specialized organization, was and is a tremendous added cost and added burden, not a profit center. See Wysong Processing Methods
People can choose a career in an attempt to make money, or to do some greater good. Obviously, consumers should choose products, especially those having to do with health, coming from people with a preeminent greater good motive. One can only determine that motive by evaluating the company based on the criteria listed here, not just someone's words. This is not to say "profit" is not necessary to run a business, even a non-profit business. See Wysong and Profit
. Nor is profit, per se, evil as it is so often painted these days. Everyone earning a paycheck or getting a government handout is profiting, not just evil corporations. Nevertheless, when profit becomes the primary objective, and when health is involved, health is bound to suffer.
THE "100% COMPLETE & BALANCED PET FOOD" MYTH:
Does the company promote the claim of "100% complete and balanced"? This claim is a myth and is directly responsible for far-reaching nutritional diseases. Promotion of the claim proves a manufacturer does not properly understand animal nutrition and pet health and is under the mistaken (but profitable, since it misleads consumers into thinking they should feed only their
processed food) view that manufactured foods can be complete, in other words, perfect. See The Myth of "100% Complete and Balanced" Processed Pet Foods
Does the company either supply or advocate the use of raw foods in the diet? There is no creature in existence, other than humans, that cooks food. Rawness is as essential to health as is air, sunshine, and water. It is the stuff of nature. If the company does not understand this, then they should most certainly not be trusted in supplying foods they expect your pet to eat at every meal. See Should You Feed Raw to Your Pet
MEAT AND PROTEIN:
Carnivores require meats and organs, and the high protein and quality fats (including omega 3, 6, 9) these foods provide. A small amount of vegetable material is also important. Carnivores receive this by incidental browsing and by consuming some of the ingesta in their prey. This does not mean finding one high protein, high meat food and feeding that continuously. Variety and rotation are critical. Companies that do not provide foods or education matching these principles, or, if they do, advocate feeding them exclusively, do not properly understand health or nutrition. See www.WysongEpigen.net
VARIETY AND ROTATION:
Given modern circumstances, pet health is best served by a variety of foods combined in various ways, rotated, and supplemented. This can include processed canned, dried, frozen, and TNT™ (True Non-Thermal™) dried, as well as fresh foods and supplements. This optimizes nutrition as well as minimizes the chances of toxicity. No it is not as simple as one product from one bag meal after meal. But health is not easy. It takes thought and effort. Companies that do not provide products to accomplish such a method of feeding, or teach how it can be accomplished, are not serving your pet's health interests. See the Wysong Optimal Health Program™
, How to Rotate Wysong Pet Diets
and Can Pet Health Be Simple?
FOCUS ON ANALYSES:
Although some general information about a food's ability to maintain an animal can be gleaned from the analysis on the package, focusing on such is misleading. Pets should be fed a variety of foods, not one food with the supposed "correct" percentages or ingredients. If this is done using quality foods, the body will select what it needs for health. Animals in the wild do not eat by analysis and yet have robust health. Pet foods with the "proper" analysis have been (and are) responsible for terrible disease and countless deaths. See The "Don't Feed Your Pet Table Scraps" Myth
, chapters 4, 5 and 14 of The Truth About Pet Foods
and Does Your Pet Need a % of Something?
A focus on analysis leads consumers to believe the lie that feeding one food meal after meal with "just the right analysis" is the key to health.
FOCUS ON PATHOGENS:
Although regulators are devising ever more stringent requirements with regard to food borne pathogens, creating a gnotobiotic (germ free) food does not advance health. For one, we live in a world of microbes, many of which are essential to health. Secondly, studies have proven that animals raised in germ-free environs actually are more susceptible to disease. And thirdly, carnivores thrive on germ infested prey and carrion in the wild. "Germ free" products are not the answer to health. They simply distract from what truly does cause health and natural resistance to disease. See Germs Don't Cause Disease, We Do
: A variety of manufacturing certifications are now being imposed on food manufacturers by the FDA and USDA. These add tremendous costs to manufacturing (passed to consumers) but do little to advance health. In fact, there is no evidence that facilities with an alphabet soup of certifications produce products that are any more healthful than products produced by facilities with no such certifications. True, good manufacturing practices are prudent and beneficial, but they are not the key to health in pets.
Ever since toxic melamine was introduced into the pet food supply by China, people have been suspicious of nondomestic sources. The assumption is that the US has cleaner and safer ingredients than elsewhere. So consumers query manufacturers about their ingredient sourcing in the belief that by so doing they are protecting their pet's health. But there is no evidence that this will achieve the health desired. China, for example, produces almost all of the world's vitamins and amino acids. These have been consumed in millions of doses everyday by humans and animals without event. Not only are there no untoward events, such nutrients are responsible for raising the health status of millions upon millions of humans and animals. Taurine, the amino acid responsible for curing dilated cardiomyopathy and other maiming and deadly diseases, is supplied by China. The deficiency of this amino acid, caused by feeding fully "proven" 100% complete and balanced US pet foods containing only US ingredients, killed and maimed thousands of cats in the 1980s. Nondomestic taurine solved this problem. The solution to pet health is not about finding domestic ingredients. A simple solution, yes, but so are all non-solutions.
NATURAL VS SYNTHETIC
: Given ordinary (natural) circumstances, natural is safer and more beneficial than synthetic. We all intuitively know that. However, processed pet foods are not ordinary. They are, by definition, synthetic regardless of the natural ingredient components. Processing subjects natural foods to unnatural temperatures, pressures, shearing, hydrolytic forces, racemization, oxidation, Maillard combinations, acrylamides, chemical reactions, chelations, and the like. These alterations from the natural state diminish nutritional value and create potential toxins. The only way to protect such foods and salvage their value is with the concentrated effects of synthetics that duplicate natural elements, such as vitamins. Products that are processed but them claim no synthetic vitamins and minerals are a danger, not a solution. See No-Vitamin Mineral Processed Foods
PET SPECIFIC DIETS
: Testifying to the silliness of some pet food claims are diets designed for "morning" meals, different shaped nuggets for different breeds, breed specific diets, "indoor" pet diets, and so forth. Certainly everyone loves their pet and thinks it is very special. They want to do all they can to fulfill its individual needs. This has not escaped marketers. So, in the quest for a market, they lead consumers to believe that pet foods are capable of being fine tooth tailored to every conceivable pet and circumstance. Compare such nonsense, to the sense of what carnivores (your pet) consumes in the wild. They all eat basically the same thing, regardless of their age, size, tooth configuration, color of their hair, or time of the day. That is the model to keep in mind.
FADS OVER FACTS:
Does the company follow fads or does it lead with solid responsible information? Fads include: high fiber, low cholesterol, low fat, no preservatives, four food groups, human grade, domestic sources, grain free, and the like. Such singular focus on faddish pet food fallacies demonstrates either an incomplete understanding of nutrition or a motive to profit from misinformed and gullible consumers. See Fluff, Puff, and Smoke
and Grain Free Pet Food
Does the company fear monger about "boogeyman" ingredients? Current examples of such nutritional boogeymen include: soy, corn, wheat,
grains, fat, by-products, 4-D meat, garlic, digests, seaweed, ash, meat meal, yeast, menadione, magnesium, and others. Popular misconceptions, dubious field reports, selective examination of the scientific and medical literature, and poorly conducted science lie at the base of such beliefs. If a pet food company uses such fallacies to promote their products, they either do not understand pet nutrition or desire to play on popular ignorance for financial gain. See chapter 10 of The Truth About Pet Foods
, The Pet Food Ingredient Game
, Fluff, Puff, and Smoke
, Grain Free Pet Food
and Are By-Products Bad?
There is a basic principle in toxicology that is essential to understand. It is: the dose makes the poison. Anything can be toxic in high enough dose, even oxygen and water. What may be toxic at one dose may be life saving at another. In the literature, somewhere, can be found a study proving that this or that ingredient fed to mice at levels that would choke a horse is toxic. Producers who champion such scare tactics in order to sell their products (without the "poisonous" ingredient) are either misinformed, naive, or purposely using fear to create sales. As a rule, ingredients that have been used for thousands of years by humans and animals are safe if fed in variety and in reasonable amounts. Yes, some things can be toxic. But that can only be determined by understanding the relationship between dosage and toxicity. Since these understandings are constantly changing, the only safe way to feed is by rotation and variety using quality products from competent producers who do not mislead. See chapter 10, page 142, and page 144 of The Truth About Pet Foods
, Vitamin K
, Fluff, Puff, and Smoke
and Does "Organic" Mean Healthy?
: While highlighting a host of features that have nothing to do with health (as in this list), pet food marketing companies and ranking sites remain silent about the dangers inherent in food processing itself. Processing destroys or vitiates nutrients, or perverts them into toxins. At least a passing glance is made by some by way of vitamin, mineral, amino acid, and antioxidant fortification. Others, due to lack of understanding, or sheer irresponsibly in a quest for a marketing niche, use no such fortification in order to claim "natural." Processed foods need technology to address the dangers of amino acid and vitamin racemization, oxidation of essential fatty acids, cholesterol oxidation products (COPS), Maillard reaction toxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heterocyclic amines, acrylamides, and more. Such technology is not evident on a label; it is within the mind and efforts of the producer. The inevitable consequences of processing are particularly dangerous when companies are ignorant of them or ignore them, and then urge consumers to feed their products consistently because they are "tested," "complete," or rank high on a pet food pledging or ranking site.
Many pet foods are marketed using the claim that they do not contain this or that allergenic ingredient. However, practically anything can be allergenic, particularly if it is fed meal after meal. Also, there is no clinical or laboratory test that can determine the allergenicity of a mixed processed pet food regardless of its ingredients. See The "Food Allergies Are Cured by Eliminating Certain Pet Food Ingredients" Myth
. The only way to know is to test feed. So claiming the merit of a food because it does not have supposedly allergenic ingredients that have been used successfully for thousands of years (such as corn, soy, wheat, etc.), and instead has rice, potato, peas, buckwheat, tapioca, etc., is misleading. The key to immune health and food tolerance is variety and rotation, not finding the "one perfect food" without a supposed allergenic ingredient. See Allergen Free
Organic foods produced at sustainable farms are a step in the right direction. But no one thing is ever the answer to everything, especially with respect to the complexity of health. Merely being pesticide and herbicide free in order to garner the organic label does not mean the products are produced in a sustainable way using permaculture methods. That issue aside, promoting a pet food to be fed exclusively meal after meal just because it is organic, misses the point. It will increase susceptibility to toxicity since even organic foods can contain tens of thousands of natural toxins. Good nutrition cannot be obtained by feeding the same food meal after meal. Whether organic or not, foods need to be rotated to optimize nutrition and avoid toxicity. See Does "Organic" Mean Healthy?
The term "human grade" has more to do with language and aesthetics than nutrition and health. In the wild, eating the ideal diet, pets consume nothing that is human grade. They eat the dead, dying, diseased, and disabled ("4-D" meats) and thrive so long as there is sufficient food available. On the other hand, "human grade" white meat, white flour, white rice, white sugar, white salt, candy, pop, hydrogenated oils, and additives can starve pets of nutrients and cause severe disease. Claiming that a pet food is human grade is a play on human ignorance. See chapter 9 of The Truth About Pet Foods
and The Pet Food Ingredient Game
I am not comfortable with genetically modified foods. Not only is such modification not necessary to provide the world's food supply, nobody knows the long range consequences. No intervention by humans into the natural order changing it has ever resulted in more benefit than harm. Modern medical intervention (other than crisis care) is a case in point. More death and suffering result from these interventions than from any other cause. See Stopping the Number One Killer
. The body is a microcosm of the world at large. Intrude upon its natural balances and genetic expectations and harm will eventually result. With that said, there is, at present, no evidence that GMO ingredients in pet foods have caused harm in pets. Further, GMO ingredients are so ubiquitous that it is near impossible to find those that are GMO free. Should manufacturers seek non-GMO sources and use them to the degree possible? Yes. Does health likely hang on this one feature of pet food feeding? No.
Many nutritious parts of foods would be discarded if not used in pet foods. Animals do not have the aversion to names like "by-products" (and remember that is just a human invented word) that humans do. In fact, many of the parts of food animals considered distasteful to humans (such as viscera and organs) are the most nutritious part of the carcass. To discard such because of our human tastes–imposing those frivolous tastes on our pets–is to cause enormous waste. This practice diverts human grade products to pet foods that could instead go into the human food supply. It is also inhumane to slaughter animals and then discard healthful parts that could be used by pets to great benefit. It also wastes land, feed, shipping, and other resources by increasing the demand for just the "pleasing" parts of the food animal carcass. See Are By-Products Bad?
Everyone knows the cost of select cuts of meat at the grocer. They also know the cost of pet foods. Nevertheless, some pet food producers portray their products as containing prime steaks, barbecued chicken, grilled salmon, and the like. A half-pound grilled salmon dinner can easily cost $20 in a restaurant. So how can a grilled salmon pet food that is processed in a ten + million dollar plant, spiked with vitamins, minerals, and other expensive ingredients, packaged expensively, shipped and marked up through salespeople, distributors, and retailers cost something like fifty cents for a half-pound? It can't. Honesty and character matter. If you are being misled into believing you are receiving something you are not, then why should claims about the healthiness of the food be believed either? See chapter 9 of The Truth About Pet Foods
and The Case Against Raw Frozen Pet Food
FOODS AS DRUGS:
Just because a food is marketed by prescription is no reason to believe the food is either healthy or safe to be fed at every meal. Many such foods contain a variety of low quality ingredients–such as food fractions, additives, sugars, and starches–that are known to cause, not prevent or reverse disease. The best prescription for health is whole natural foods that mimic the genetic expectation of the animal. Any company theme other than this, even if presented as high tech medicine, is misleading. See The Myth of "100% Complete and Balanced" Processed Pet Foods
COSMETICS AND MARKETING OVER PET NUTRITION:
Many pet food producers target food cosmetics rather than real nutrition. Flavors, shapes, packaging, bonuses, discounts, coupons, pricing, guarantees and the like are essentially unrelated to health and nutrition. Nutrition is serious business, not recreation to be promoted with balloons and raffles. See Fluff, Puff, and Smoke
Since nutritional science is a rapidly growing and expanding field of knowledge, a producer truly interested in pet health should be innovative. Adapting new knowledge to formulations, processing, packaging and education should be ongoing and these innovations should be clearly communicated to consumers. Most pet food companies don't lead, they follow. Consumer should seek leaders, not followers. See Special Wysong Pet Food Features
, Archetype™ Special Features
, Wysong Processing Methods
, Healthy Packaging
, and Wysong Raw Pet Food Safety Innovations