Sponsored by Open Farm Pet Food
Choosing the right food for your dog is a daunting task. Advertising is often misleading, labels are long and confusing, and some dogs are just picky eaters! Finding a dog food that works takes trial and error. But there’s one area where you shouldn’t compromise: quality ingredients from ethical sources.
In the past, people would feed their pets whatever extra food scraps they had on hand. But these days, we know a lot more about how proper nutrition benefits pets. We’re also a lot more aware of how safe and ethical food practices—including humanely sourced meat—benefits livestock, humans, and pets alike.
Read on to learn about where dog food comes from, how to choose a dog food that’s good for your dog and the planet, and why we think Open Farm is right choice for your furry friend!
How dog food is produced
Commercial dog food is manufactured in plants that turn raw ingredients into kibble through a process called extrusion. In extrusion, a mix of dry and wet ingredients are cooked under extreme pressure and high temperatures. The cooked material is then forced (extruded) through small holes, and cut into small pieces that puff and harden. Voila kibble!
So what exactly goes into the “mix of dry and wet ingredients” that makes up dog food? One common ingredient in major pet food brands is rendered meat products.
In the rendering process, a bunch of “leftover” meat products are mixed and ground together into a sludge. Then, the sludge is transferred to a cooking vat and heated at high temperatures for several hours. Fat, grease, and solids float to the top and are skimmed off and repackaged as “meat meal” or “meat by-product.”
Why meat by-products might be bad
Experts have mixed opinions on whether or not it’s okay to feed dogs meat by-products. According to nutrition and public health expert Marion Nestle “the pet food industry serves an important ecological function by using up food that would otherwise be thrown out” (source). But according to some sources, meat-rendering plants might use questionable meat. Rendered meat products are a mix of different types of protein, and you don’t always know what you’re getting. That’s why pet food labels list “by-products” or “by-product meal” instead of easily identifiable meat sources.
Aside from the ick factor (it’s no fun to think about what goes on in a rendering plant), rendered by-products aren’t well regulated. As a result, it’s hard to know their nutritional value. That’s why many people prefer to feed their dogs food with single source proteins and human-grade ingredients.
We stand behind Open Farm Pet Food for this reason. They only use the highest-quality, healthiest meat out there. Not only are their recipes centered around high levels of fresh, human grade meat, but they go one step further by sourcing their meat from third party verified farms that employ humane farming practices. With Open Farm, you can trust that in every bowl, you’re getting the most nutritious and healthiest ingredient profiles.
Why you should look beyond the label
According to this Slate article, “there is essentially no federal enforcement of standards for the contents of pet food.” In other words, you can’t always tell by looking at the bag what exactly your dog is eating.
Technically, the Food and Drug Administration requires that all animal foods “be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled.” But that truthfully labeled part can be tricky. According to research conducted by Time Magazine, individual states can enforce their own labeling guidelines. And although pet food companies report on the contents of their food, it isn’t always scientifically tested.
Dog food labels shouldn’t be misleading, and quality pet food companies will back up the label with additional information. The bottom line is, you should know what you’re feeding your dog. A high-quality pet food company will be transparent about their manufacturing process and ingredients. Click here for more info on how to decipher dog food labels.
How to sniff out the best dog food
Because labels can be misleading and there aren’t universal regulations in place to simplify them, it’s important to go beyond the bag when researching dog food. When considering which dog foods to buy, consider the following:
- Is the first ingredient whole, identifiable, single source protein?
- Is the protein a product of humane farming practices and/or sustainable fishing practices?
- Are other ingredients whole fruits and vegetables, and are they raised naturally and responsibly?
- Does the food have the appropriate supplements for complete nutrition?
- Where do the raw ingredients come from? Premium pet food brands are avoiding products from China after some high profile pet food recalls in recent years.
To a certain extent, you have to take pet food companies at their word that the information on the bag is accurate. That’s why transparency is so important: it’s much easier to trust a pet food manufacturer if they’re 100% open about their process. A high quality dog food company will tell you exactly what you’re feeding your dog.
Open Farm is one such company. They’re a family run business that’s committed to making the highest quality pet food from farm to bowl. Open Farm takes their labelling seriously, allowing pet parents to instantly trace the origin of every ingredient in their bag of Open Farm pet food. All you have to do is enter the lot code on the back of your bag, and you’ll see where each ingredient came from and was purchased.
Not only does Open Farm provide unprecedented transparency for pet owners, but they also maintain a deep commitment to high-quality nutrition and humane sourcing. Their single-source protein ingredients are certified throughout the supply chain by independent partners like Humane Farm Animal Care, Ocean Wise, Seafood Watch and Terracycle. Open Farm is creating a better food for our pets while also helping farm animals, family farms, and the environment. It’s an impressive approach in an industry often clouded by mystery.
The bottom line
Dog food doesn’t have to be a mystery. With a little research, you can find a top-notch dog food that nourishes your best friend with ethically-sourced, safely-made ingredients.