I find this seemingly endless pet food recall so discouraging and it’s hard not to be cynical, especially when Del Monte, Purina, and Hill’s are using phrases like “voluntary withdrawal” instead of calling it what it is, a recall. At least two of these recalls were announced on a Friday and one on a Saturday—days when people are less likely to be paying any attention to the news. A shameful thing to do when pets’ health and lives are at stake.
So, what can we do? The first thing you can do is start educating yourself about pet food, but this can be tricky, especially right now when there is so much fear. Unfortunately, veterinarians often aren’t a great source for information about pet nutrition. It is my understanding that they are often not well educated about nutrition in school and the big pet food companies have close ties with schools of veterinary medicine. Add to that, the practice of vets selling pet foods from their clinic and you can see why they may not be the best source for unbiased, up-to-date information. In fact, The American College of Veterinary Nutrition has an inexcusably poor list of brands on their links page. And their annual conference is sponsored by Nestle-Purina (bottom of page). Then there is the confusing language in the pet food industry—chicken meal, chicken, poultry by-product meal, chicken digest. And there are the fanatics further clouding the issue.
I don’t think there is one place I can point you to in order to find THE answer. In fact, I spent many frustrating hours trying to find somewhere I could, in good conscience, link to for information on pet nutrition. I wanted a site that wasn’t biased or inflammatory, but that was complete and grounded in science. At the very least, you can read the FDA’s information on understanding pet food labels. I try to read a lot about pet foods, I take the fanatics’ advice with a grain of salt, and I look for companies that are open about their products, but remember every company is marketing to you at some level.
I feed our pets a mix of high-grade foods, instead of just one brand day after day and I rotate brands. I also add some fresh foods to their diet, although this is hard to do with our cats—they’re pretty picky. I feel our pets are better off having some variety. Not because of the taste, but because of their nutritional needs.
This crisis has understandably eroded peoples’ confidence in pet food safety, but there are high-grade foods that are safer and healthier. Most of these companies have been proud to describe their ingredients in some detail because it’s what their reputation is built on. Now many of them are taking greater steps to be even more transparent about where they source their ingredients. This is not a complete list, but it’s what I’m most familiar with and it’s a start.
Update: Here’s a long list of up-to-date and safer foods for your pets. I say ‘safer’ because we’ve seen what can happen. But this list has been researched by calls to the companies and they note if questions were not answered.
You can find out much more on the recall on my Pet Food Recall Archive Page.