Pet food aisles are starting to resemble their humans counterparts, with natural and gourment items increasingly taking up space. But owners educate themselves on which foods really are a health benefit.
Now days, our pets may be eating better than we are. Big-box pet stores and precious pet boutique shelves are increasingly stocked with gourmet edibles that are corn-free, wheat-free, locally sourced, byproduct-free, free-range, minimally processed and raw. Many come with homey, inviting labels, and some look palatable even for humans. At Petco, a number of locations now have a wood-floored store-within-a-store for natural foods.
As more of us turn toward more healthful foods, we’re doing the same for our pets, and the market has caught on. “If there’s a trend in human food and supplements, you’ll see in on the pet food aisle,” said Bob Vetere, president of American Pet Products Assn., based in Greenwich, Conn. “Gluten-free, vitamin supplemented, breed-specific, senior formulas have all taken over the pet marketplace, and we’re seeing the competition growing.”
“Consumers are starting to demand more from pet food companies,” says Lucy Postins of San Diego, who started a line of dehydrated raw pet foods in 2002 after trying to feed her puppy a homemade raw food diet to eliminate preservatives. Her business, the Honest Kitchen, sells to 2,100 U.S. stores. It uses free-range chickens and cage-free turkeys and no genetically modified organisms.
Pet foods are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which requires the food to be safe, produced under sanitary conditions and bear truthful labels. The agency also makes sure manufacturers back up any claims on the packaging, such as “controls tartar” or “eliminates hairballs.”
Instead of trusting pet store employees, we suggest pet owners talk to their vet. Learn to read pet food labels and check out studies in peer-reviewed journals.