by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Pet food

Feb 6 2020

What’s up with pet food?

Although I haven’t written anything much about pet food since Pet Food Politics  (2008) and Feed Your Pet Right (2010), I occasionally run across articles of particular interest.  These come from Pet Food Industry, the exceptionally intelligent trade magazine for this industry.

The Pet Food Business

Hill’s Recall Because of Excessive Vitamin D

Protein in Pet Foods

  • Blog: Pet food protein: How much is too much? Debbie Phillips-Donaldson: The current pet food trend of pushing protein levels ever higher may not be sustainable, for a variety of reasons, and research is lacking to understand the long-term effects on dog and cat health.
Jan 9 2020

A trend for the new year: CBD for pets (and pet owners)

CBD, in case you haven’t noticed, is the hot food trend for 2020.  But for pets?  Yes, them too.

Pet Food Industry reports the results of a survey by WoofWhiskers.

Dog owners may be spending $42 a month on CBD (cannabidiol) oil for their pets.

Why?  Anxiety and stress were the top reasons given.

And then,

More than half of respondents, 57%, reported using CBD oil for themselves.

Pet Food Industry also reminds readers that sales of CBD-containing pet and human items are illegal

because they are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in animals and/or intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of an animal. Further, as discussed below, these products are unapproved new animal drugs and marketing them violates the FD&C Act.

Maybe, but I see them sold everywhere.

I wonder if anyone is doing research to see whether CBD oils do any good for dogs?  If you know of any, please let me know.

Dec 19 2019

The latest on pet food

Pet food continues to be an ongoing source of news, and pet food politics an ongoing source of interest:

Comment: My book with Malden Nesheim, Feed Your Pet Rightis actually an analysis of the pet food industry.  It came out in 2010 but holds up pretty well, I think, as a means for understanding recent events in pet food politics.

Nov 20 2019

Should dogs eat pea and lentil proteins?

Plant proteins for dogs?  I’ve written about this before, but now there’s more.

Contrary to prevailing rumor, dogs are well documented to be able to digest grains.  Whether grains are optimal for dogs is another matter and I sure wish we had some decent research on the question.

What we do have is pet-food makers scrambling to sell pet foods to owners convinced that grains are bad for their dogs.  These products are often made with proteins extracted from peas and lentils.

The FDA has gotten reports that dogs fed such pet foods have developed a form of heart disease called  Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

The FDA is investigating whether grain-free pet food could be linked to DCM, and it posts the data on reported cases online.  

When the FDA asks owners what dogs with DCM ate, this is what it finds.

Not displayed here are cases of DCM among dogs eating standard commercial pet food.  Those are listed here.

What causes DCM and why so many cases are associated with plant proteins is not known.  One hypothesis is deficiency of taurine (synthesized from sulfur-containing amino acids) in pea and lentil proteins, but adding taurine to diets does not seem to help.

Pea and lentil farmers have complained to the FDA that its warning is hurting their business.  Pet Food Industry reports that sales of grain-free pet foods have declined since the FDA announcement.

The author of a 2016 book about obesity in pets and conflicts of interest in the veterinary nutrition community, who is also the founder of a plant-based pet food company thinks that plan-based ingredients have nothing to do with this.

While the arguments are raging and the FDA continues investigating, what to feed your pet?

Basic advice (from my book with Malden Nesheim, Feed Your Pet Right,” which is actually an analysis of the pet food industry):

  • If you are using commercial foods, make sure they say they are “complete and balanced” and have been tested at some point.
  • If you are cooking for your pet, make sure your recipe includes the needed nutrients (we give generic recipes in the book)
  • Know that no evidence exists that expensive pet foods are better than cheap ones (that research has never been done)
  • Vary the products you use.  Variety, balance, and moderation work just as well for pets as they do for people.
  • Most important: do not overfeed.  Calories count!
Aug 7 2019

Want Salmonella in your pet food?  Buy Answers brands.

Since writing two books about pet food in 2008 (Pet Food Politics) and 2010 (Feed Your Pet Right), I haven’t said much about this topic but am inspired to comment by this article in Food Safety News.

If you are a pet food maker, and the FDA finds Salmonella in your products and insists you recall them, what should you do?

A.  Recall the products immediately

B.  Apologize to your customers and promise this will never happen again

C.  Hire a food safety expert to review and revise your food safety procedures

D.  Train all employees to follow food safety procedures diligently

E.  Sue the FDA to allow you to continue selling Salmonella-contaminated pet food

The correct answer?  E, apparently.

Incredible as it may seem, Lystin LLC, the parent of Answers Pet Foods which sells raw meat and poultry, is suing the FDA on Constitutional grounds to allow it to sell foods contaminated with Salmonella. Why?

According to this company, people should be able to feed their pets whatever they like, especially because its brands already carry this warning:


You want to continue buying this pet food?  OK.  You were warned.

Personally, I’d find another brand more committed to the safety of dogs and their owners.

I can’t wait to see who wins this one.

May 1 2019

The latest in lab-based meat: mouse treats for cats?

Ah the wonders of modern technology.

Cats like to catch and eat mice (that what cats do), but if you believe in mouse rights and are appalled at the idea of killing mice for food there is a solution to this problem in the works.

Meet Because Animals, a company devoted to feeding pets “safer and more nutritious foods without harming the environment and other animals.”


Lab-grown, cell-cultured mouse cells made into meat for cat treats. 

These are not yet on the market—regulatory issues are involved—but stay tuned.

And no, you can’t make this stuff up.


Mar 21 2019

Supplements for pets: has collected articles on this topic into a Special Edition: Supplements for pets

The market for supplements for pets is valued at around $2.6 billion, according to the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC).

Issues driving the market growth include an increasing market share of premium supplements positioned as natural and organic; the rise of obesity/weight management among the nation’s pets; and maintaining the health of older pets, which are living for longer.

In this special edition, we explore the key trends (including CBD!), opportunities, and a couple of brand success stories.

Malden Nesheim and I discuss pet supplements in our book, Feed Your Pet Right (which is actually an analysis of the pet food industry).  Just as with supplements for humans, little evidence exists to demonstrate that supplements do any good for pets.  But they make owners feel like they are doing something useful.  As for CBD for pets?  That may make owners feel better too.

Nov 15 2018

Pet food: a roundup of recent stories

I maintain an active interest in pet food, even though my books on the topic came out a few years ago

Here are some recent items:

  1. Pet food is big business ($63 billion last year).  It brings people into supermarkets and boosts sales.  [OK.  You already knew this, no?]
  2. Evangers, a pet food maker occasionally in trouble over ingredient and food safety problems has been caught with horse meat in its products. It says it doesn’t use horse meat, even though it has a license to use it.  It blames its beef supplier.Private label pet food brands are selling well.   They are cheaper.  For the record: all complete-and-balanced pet foods are required to meet the same nutritional standards and to support dog and cat reproduction, growth, and development (they are like infant formula in that regard).
  3. Food safety issues for humans also mean food safety issues for pets. The CDC is warning people not to consume certain turkey products because of illnesses caused by Salmonella. “Evidence collected by federal officials investigating the illnesses has revealed the outbreak strain in samples from live turkeys and many kinds of raw turkey products, including pet food.”
  4. Raw pet food  continues to raise food safety risks: Rad Cat Raw Diet has been recalled due to Listeria contamination.   A case of human Salmonella illness has been linked to a Darwin’s raw pet food.
  5. And the FDA announces the recall of Nutrisca dry dog food with levels of vitamin D so excessive that they made dogs sick.
  6. Mars Veterinary, the biggest manufacturer of pet foods, is working on some new products made from—get this—lab-grown mouse meat.  No, I did not make this up; I got it from Business Insider.
  7. Wild Earth, Inc., a biotech pet food startup, sells treats made with lab-cultured protein from the koji fungus, Aspergillus oryzae.
  8. The humanification of pet food, says The Atlantic, is nearly complete.
  9. Whole Dog Journal asks this burning question: Should you feed ice cream to your dog? (The short answer is no, but this gives me a chance to praise Nancy Kerns’ admirably sensible advice about dog feeding, care, and training).

You can see why I love writing about pet food.