People are more concerned than ever over the quality of the dog food they are choosing. How do you determine whether a dog food is healthy? Is it even possible to determine the quality of a dog food? Choosing the best dog food requires gaining some level of knowledge about dog food ingredients. Unfortunately, if you want to guarantee you are purchasing a quality food, you need to do some background work on the manufacturer as well.

Can Dog Food Labels be Trusted?

A recent article by dog food activist, Susan Thixton, casts doubt on whether consumers can even trust dog food labels. Another post at Dog Food Advisor tells consumers to not be so sure your dog food doesn’t contain ingredients from China, even if it is labeled “Free of Chinese Ingredients”. A dog food brand several Freckled Paws clients use, recently disclosed the first ingredient in their foods is dehydrated meat. The following is from comments section at this blog post:

Update on Great Life:

I called Great Life on Monday and spoke with the office manager, he told me that all Great Life dry foods contain real meat and not meat meals.
I asked him how that is possible without Pied Piper having refrigeration. He told me Dr Harvey would call me back.

Yesterday I called Great Life and spoke with Ellliott Harvey the owner/founder. He told me that all Great Life kibble except the vet preferred line contains real meat and not meat meal. I have the pork and venison varieties of the vet preferred kibble and the label reads venison and pork not venison meal and pork meal. I told Elliott this and he said “it has been taken care of”. I said: so the labels are wrong? He said again “it has been taken care of”
I then asked him how it is possible that Pied Piper makes your food with real meat when they do not have any refrigeration at their plant. He told me that they have off-site refrigeration and he hung up on me.

Today I called Pied Piper and I asked them if Great Life’s dry foods contain real meat and they told me that all of Great Life’s dry foods contain meat meal and not real meat. They told me they cannot make a dry food that contains real meat and that all the dry foods they make contain meat meals not real meat.

So for years now Great Life has been lying to consumers about what type of meat is in their dry foods.

Here is the contact information for Great life and Pied Piper:

Great Life Performance Pet Products
420 E. Easy St. Unit 2
Simi Valley, CA 93065

Phone (805) 577-9663
Fax (805) 577-6618

Pied Piper Pet & Wildlife, Inc.505 East Lake Drive Hamlin, TX 79520-4240Phone (325) 576-2277 (manufacturing dept)
After reading your comment, I emailed Great Life and promptly received a response from the company’s owner, Dr. Elliott Harvey.

His reply included a copy of a letter dated February 7, 2012 from Derek Moore of Pied Piper Pet Foods, Hamlin, Texas:

“Pied Piper Pet Foods maintains a strict policy for food safety. We chose as a company not to keep our fresh meat supplies in house. We do this as an extra safety precaution to keep the foods we prepare from any contamination. We have highly reputable partners that air dry our fresh meats off site to help us maintain this high standard. We want to provide our customers such as Great Life Pet Products a safe and nutritious product.”

Should something like this be considered intentional mislabeling?

That is a judgement I’ll have to leave to others (including the FDA).

As I’ve mentioned to you previously, in the case of a dry kibble, whether an ingredient is sourced from air dried meat, meat meal or the raw tissues themselves, it’s still an animal based protein.

And once this material has been heat processed and extruded into a machine-made food pellet, I don’t see the need for any noteworthy distinction.

Dr. Elliott Harvey, then why not list the ingredient as “Dehydrated Meat”? This is obviously an attempt to intentionally mislead the consumer. When a company employs a shady practice such as this I wonder, what else aren’t they telling us about their food?

Considering almost 50% of the dog foods in the ELISA Technologies Survey were mislabeled, I would eliminate from consideration any food manufactured by a company mislabeling their ingredients list in any fashion. Trust is an important virtue. Unfortunately, too many companies are only interested in the bottom line.

The pet food business is huge. Competition for market share is fierce. And there is little regulation on pet food ingredients or labeling practices. As Susan Thixton pointed out, the ONLY way to be 100% certain your furkid is getting quality ingredients in their food is if you cook for them. Even the controversial, “Raw Food Diet” pet foods are not exempt from recalls.

We, at Freckled Paws, are convinced the explosion in canine cancer has a lot to do with the poor quality food our pets are eating. It isn’t only cancer, though. Just as is happening with humans in America, canine diabetes is becoming an epidemic, along with a host of other disease conditions. There is no doubt a quality diet has a higher initial cost versus feeding your pet a cheap food. In the long run a high quality diet will save money in reduced health care costs.

If you are unable to cook for your furkids, we recommend making a donation to Susan Thixton for her “Trusted Pet Foods List”. Susan publishes the list every year. We recommend getting the list every year. You might ask yourself…Why get it every year? One reason is, what if the company manufacturing your chosen, quality food sells out to a large conglomerate, who in turn moves the manufacturing to a factory where there have been several recalls? This happened to us. And our trusted food was recalled before we were aware it was no longer a small boutique dog food company. Susan lets you determine the donation amount. And the money helps her continue her very important work educating consumers and advocating for changes in the pet food industry. Freckled Paws does not receive any affiliate money or commissions of any kind if you make a donation to Susan. We recommend you do so simply because we feel Susan’s list is made without prejudice and contains the best the industry has to offer while saving the furparent many hours of investigative work.

It is a shame that it is so difficult to feed your furkids a quality diet. Many furparents believe they are doing the right thing but are being conned by greedy, unscrupulous companies that would rather spend their money on clever marketing than they would putting a quality product in the market.