by Marion Nestle
May 10 2010

Feed Your Pet Right: Out at last!

The book about pet food and the pet food industry that I wrote with Malden Nesheim – Feed Your Pet Right (Free Press/Simon & Schuster) – comes out tomorrow, May 11.  At last!

Why would two human nutritionists interested in food politics write a book about pet food?

  • Pets eat the same food we do, just different parts.
  • The five major companies that make pet food – Nestlé, Mars, Procter & Gamble (Iams), Colgate-Palmolive (Hill’s), and Del Monte – also make food for humans.
  • Pet food is a huge business that generates $18 billion in annual sales in the U.S. alone.
  • The marketing of pet foods is just like the marketing of human foods (health claims, production values).
  • The safety issues are identical.
  • And people do love their pets.

These are all reason enough to be interested in this segment of the food business, whether you do or do not own a cat or dog (which we do not, at the moment).

This book came about as an extension of what I wrote about in What to Eat.  I could see that pet foods took up a lot of supermarket real estate but I could not understand their labels.  But Mal, who taught animal nutrition for many years, knew exactly what they meant.  Hence: this book.

We signed on to write it in February 2007, three weeks before the melamine pet food recalls of 2007.  I intended my comments on the recalls to be an appendix to this book, but the writing got out of hand and ended up as Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine (University of California Press, 2008).

Feed Your Pet Right is out at last.  You can find out about it at Free Press/Simon and Schuster or Amazon or Borders or Barnes & Noble or IndieBound.

You can follow it on Facebook (Feed Your Pet Right), where we will deal with current issues about pet food, answer questions, and respond to comments.

Here’s what it covers:

1. Introduction

The origins of commercial pet foods

2. What pets ate

3. What pets need

4. Inventing commercial pet foods

5. Pet foods as an industry

What’s in those packages?

6. Pet foods: wet and dry

7. The ingredients

8. The rendered ingredients

9. Who sets pet food rules?

Commercial pet foods: the market

10. What’s on those labels?

11. The pet food marketplace: segments

12. Products at a premium

Special products for target markets

13. For young and old

14. For special health problems

15. For weight loss

The pet food extras

16. Snacks, treats, chews, and bottled waters

17. Dietary supplements

18. Do supplements work?

Alternatives to commercial pet feeding

19. Unconventional diets

20. The raw

21. The home cooked

Thinking about pet foods

22. Are commercial pet foods healthy for pets?

23. Do people eat pet food?

24. Do pet food companies influence veterinarians?

25. Is pet food research ethical?

26. Concluding thoughts

Acknowledgments

Appendix 1. The U.S. pet food industry: facts and figures

Appendix 2. Recent history of the pet food industry

Appendix 3. The history of pet food regulation

Appendix 4. Estimating pet food calories

Appendix 5. Food needs of Alaskan sled racing dogs

Appendix 6. Resources

List of Tables and Figures

Notes

Index

Enjoy!

Tomorrow: Where and when we will be speaking about the book.



1. Introduction

The origins of commercial pet foods

2. What pets ate

3. What pets need

4. Inventing commercial pet foods

5. Pet foods as an industry

What’s in those packages?

6. Pet foods: wet and dry

7. The ingredients

8. The rendered ingredients

9. Who sets pet food rules?

Commercial pet foods: the market

10. What’s on those labels?

11. The pet food marketplace: segments

12. Products at a premium

Special products for target markets

13. For young and old

14. For special health problems

15. For weight loss

The pet food extras

16. Snacks, treats, chews, and bottled waters

17. Dietary supplements

18. Do supplements work?

Alternatives to commercial pet feeding

19. Unconventional diets

20. The raw

21. The home cooked

Thinking about pet foods

22. Are commercial pet foods healthy for pets? 23. Do people eat pet food?

24. Do pet food companies influence veterinarians?

25. Is pet food research ethical?

26. Concluding thoughts

Appendix 1. The U.S. pet food industry: facts and figures

Appendix 2. Recent history of the pet food industry

Appendix 3. The history of pet food regulation

Appendix 4. Estimating pet food calories

Appendix 5. Food needs of Alaskan sled racing dogs

Appendix 6. Resources

List of Tables and Figures

Acknowledgments

  • http://www.culinate.com Mark

    Congrats Marion… I can’t wait to read it. Of course the dogs and cats, not having opposable thumbs, will need a little help on their read-through. Cheers on keeping on this subject.

  • Anthro

    At last! I can’t wait to get mine–bookstore just opened, I’m off!

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  • Genie

    Congrats Marion!

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  • Alexandra

    This is a very important book; thanks for taking this on. My dog developed a tumor in her liver and eventually died early because of pet food prescribed by her vet. I eventually learned that vets don’t necessarily know much about nutrition and that many pet foods are very very bad, filled with all kinds of cancer-causing chemicals…

  • http://www.happenstance.net Maureen in Oakland

    Excellent! I can’t wait to read it. I have 2 cats, age 2, that are littermates that couldn’t tolerate conventional cat foods, even the high end stuff. Luckily I have a great vet and we figured out that they needed to be on a raw diet, which solved all of their many problems 2 days after they were switched to it. Having this book during that process would have aided in our search to find a solution for my kitties.

  • Jill

    Congratulations! I just got notified by Amazon that my order had shipped (I pre-ordered the book a couple of months ago). Looking forward to reading it over the summer.

  • Erika

    Congrats, Professor!

  • http://meandtheblueskies.com Preston

    About 6 months ago I switched my dog’s food to Merrick’s Senior Melody. He seems to like it and it’s reduced his stool production by at least 2/3rds. I’m gonna have to get this book. :)

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  • http://www.cookusinterruptus.com Cynthia Lair

    Hi Marion! I was thrilled to find out that you had sleuth-ed out this topic. Thank you!

    I have taught in the nutrition dept at Bastyr University (Seattle) for over a decade and am a long-time fan. Did a blog post on my web cooking show about your new book http://www.cookusinterruptus.com/blog/?p=1327. Have a look.

    Once a month on Cookus Interruptus we have a book give-away offering an autographed copy of a food-related book. Would we be able to obtain a signed copy of Feeding Your Pet Right? Who would I contact?

  • Leslie

    I am pleased that you are publishing a book on this subject: There is not enough information about this topic. Two years ago, my cat was diagnosed with diabetes. I personally eat a diet that is mostly whole foods, and I realized that that my cat should, too.

    When I started researching commercial pet foods, I couldn’t believe that almost all of the cat foods at my local store were made by the same company and marketed under different names. When my cat got diagnosed with diabetes after eating Purina, Purina of course offered a pricey prescription-only food for diabetic cats! I had to learn on my own about better animal foods. I have since switched my three cats to Evo, a 95% chicken-turkey diet, and they are healthy and happy.

    More people need to be aware of the poor quality of most commercial pet foods, and that changing their animal’s diet is completely worth it.

  • http://studioofgoodliving.com Phoebe

    Congratulations Marion! Looking forward to reading it!

  • Anthro

    I had a terrible time finding the book at Barnes and Noble because I didn’t know it was in PAPERBACK–kept searching the “new arrivals” in hardback! Nice man at the desk finally found it for me. I’m skimming through now to see what’s there and look forward to a thorough read.

    I find it odd that so many people write in with anecdotes about their own pets. This book is about the science of animal nutrition, not the fads and anecdotes of “alternative practitioners” such as produced by Bastyr. It is this kind of nonsense spread all over the web that made me wait in wild anticipation of this book. I think that some of the commenters will be quite surprised if they actually read the book.

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  • http://www.DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Marion… “Feed Your Pet Right” is the book I’ve been waiting for. Read it cover-to-cover… with a yellow highlighter.

    I especially like Chapter 10… “What’s On Those Labels”.

    This book now sits on the closest shelf to my computer… right beside my dictionary.

    “Pet Food Politics” was instrumental in turning me into a kind of dog food “geek”. It came out at just the right time in my life… right after I’d lost my sweet little shelter dog, Penny, to the infamous 2007 melamine pet food recall.

    “Feed Your Pet Right” finally answers those many practical questions I’ve had… and makes it easier than ever for anyone to know what to look for in feeding their cats and dogs.

    Bravo to both you and Dr. Nesheim for a job well done.

  • Anthro

    Well, I’ve read most of it and learned a lot; most shockingly, that all those vets recommending Science Diet, may (and I emphasize MAY) be compromised by Hill’s influence on their training. It’s hard to believe that even if the vets don’t INTEND to let Hill’s structure their views, the world of marketing knows better and knows that enough repetition and positive rewards will often do the trick.

    My only complaint is that I was hoping for one or two recipes or a few more charts on appropriate quantities of food for cooking homemade food. It’s a little hard to extrapolate from the only chart for a 40 lb. dog to my mini-dachshund at 14 lbs. I’ll figure it out. Also, I was hoping for a balanced enough home made food that supplements wouldn’t be necessary. I don’t use them (except for Vit. D) and hate to have to get them for the dog. Oh well.
    I may simply stay with the kibble as the book has eased my mind about the value of bagged food.

    The book is well worth the price and the wait and will be a great reference when questions come up. It is such a relief to no longer have to wade through the mostly dubious websites for basic, science-oriented information. Thank you both for doing the book.

  • Ciara

    I’m hoping the book addresses the serious illnesses and deaths afflicting dogs and cats after they were fed irradiated pet foods and treats. It seems the WHO, FDA and the pet food and food irradiation industries are choosing to ignore the data from the suffering of these pets and their owners who were unethically drafted into disastrous fields trial of that food technology.

    http://shiningthelight.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/lessons-learned-from-pet-food-irradiation/

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  • http://www.acnetreatmentdigest.com Acne Remedy :

    cat foods should be high protein and should be soft to with lots of dieatary fiber~~*

  • http://www.bar-fridge.com Bar Fridge ·

    cat foods should always be high in protein and also in dietary fibers so that they are always healthy ‘~.