Back in the days of yore, people mostly fed their pets table scraps and allowed them to forage for the rest on their own. Today, we largely rely on commercial pet foods to satisfy their hunger – and, hopefully, their nutritional needs. And that's not to say the new way is bad, especially when we also supplement with healthy raw and table foods. Many times, a healthy commercial diet can provide things that are good for pets that they wouldn't otherwise have exposure to. But how do we really know that the ingredients used are safe and beneficial?
The Pet Food Improvement Movement
When many of us were growing up in the 70s and 80s, people didn't think that much about what was in their processed food. Now, people are not only concerned about what makes up the food but also what makes up the container it resides in. In general, society is getting smarter and more aware when it comes to what we buy, and we're not so easily led by labels and pretty boxes as we used to be. “All-natural” and “organic” are now widely-recognized terms on food labels these days, and we've even found out, after these terms became so popular, that they don't always mean what we think they mean.
Do companies really have our best interest at heart, or are they merely labeling certain ingredients as “bad” in order to edge out their competition? Well, we believe that there are just certain things that do not need to be in pet food and that certain standards need to be upheld. That's why we only carry specific brands of food that we feel are most likely to be trustworthy and genuine in their efforts. There is a whole host of brands you might find in grocery or big box pet stores that you will never find on a Park Pet Supply shelf. And that's not just due to the small size of our shop...it's due to the small size of our approved list!
Non-GMO Craze: the New Way?
The latest phrases to hit food labeling terminology are “non-GMO” and “USA-sourced.” With so many recalls originating from ingredients and manufacturing plants in China, “USA-sourced” is pretty obvious as to why risk is reduced when we keep it more local (not to mention the environmental benefits). As for “non-GMO,” what does that even mean, and why is it important that we label-watch for it?
GMO is an acronym for genetically modified organisms – basically, organisms that have had their DNA modified to “improve” traits like pest resistance. Sounds good on the surface, maybe, and the original intentions might have been good. But lack of regulations and lack of time for true long-term studying (GMOs were first widely introduced in the mid-90s) haven't allowed us to prove whether these organisms are safe - and some studies say they aren't. The FDA doesn't even require that food labels specify if any ingredients were genetically modified, and even foods labeled as “all-natural” might contain GMOs somewhere. So if GMOs are on your list of concerns, several pet food manufacturers are now phasing out GMOs and putting “non-GMO” on their labels. Wellness, a brand that we carry at Park Pet Supply, is one of the headliners for this movement in pet food. It undoubtedly took a great deal of time, money, and research to make this transition happen...think about potential ingredient sourcing overhauls and expensive packaging changes!
The Trust Factor
Let's just keep it real. A certain amount of trust is required when buying any product for you or your pet. With many major companies behind any number of products in our modern world, food or otherwise, bureaucracy and misleading marketing tactics abound. That's not to say that all big companies are lying suits who only care about their bottom line. There are plenty of honest manufacturers out there who are truthful in their marketing efforts. But there is still no way for the average consumer to know everything about their pet's food, starting with the farms the meat and veggies came from to whether any ingredient used might contain a toxin. Even if you prepare all your pet's food yourself, there are still no 100% guarantees. It's enough to make your pet parent head spin!
Based on our own research, years of experience working in the pet supply industry, and our commitment to only providing the best products possible, we believe there are certain brands you can trust more than others.
We're Always Here for You and Your Pet!
We're not here to fear-monger. Instead of living a lifestyle of worry, sometimes all you can do is the best you can with the tools and knowledge you have at the time. Do your own research (but remember not everything on the internet is true), ask questions of our knowledgeable employees and your vet, make the best informed decision you can...and then feel good about your choices.
After all, staying consumed with worry is definitely not beneficial to your pet either. Being emotionally balanced and aware helps your animal's health, just as good food does. (Just ask Diana Young, our friend and customer who also happens to be an animal communicator and upcoming contributor to the Park Pet blog.)
We hope you've enjoyed our three-part series on demystifying pet food (find part 1 here and part 2 here) and have come away armed with a sense of empowering knowledge, not more things to be scared about. We are always here to answer your questions and help you make selections for your pets that help keep both of you happy!
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Victoria Park is the owner of Park Pet Supply in East Atlanta Village, established in 1999. Park Pet's goal is to help your pet live the healthiest and happiest life possible, with affordable prices and incomparable customer service for you.