by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Pet food

May 14 2020

The meatpacking problem: a boon for pet food?

I am an avid reader of Pet Food Industry, a top-notch trade magazine for pet food makers.

It has been following the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic on this industry.  Because pet food is an integral part of the food supply chains for humans (it uses byproducts from human food production), anything that affects the human food supply also affects the supply for pets.

The problems now seen in the meatpacking industry affect pet foods too.

A recent Pet Food Industry article explains.

If meat processors lose capacity to supply the human food chain, the livestock may end up in rendering plants, said David Meeker, Ph.D., senior vice president of scientific services for the North American Renderers Association. “We’ve got renders ready and willing to help with that,” Meeker said. “Hopefully that can be done in a way to make good pet food ingredients out of it….We absolutely don’t want them put down with any kind of drug,” he said. “They’d have to be put down like they were meat.”

Apr 23 2020

Infographic: Coronavirus and pets

Leo Wilson, an editor at CyberPet, sent me his graphic advice to pet owners worried (for good reason) about Coronavirus.  His Infographic has 12 pieces of advice.

Here’s advice #7 about basic health care.

Mar 12 2020

What’s up with pets and pet food?

It’s bad enough to have to worry about avoiding getting sick from Coronavirus, but now we have to worry about making our pets sick too.

My pet food mantra: more research needed!

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.