Our dogs are our family, and we all want nothing but the best for them. To many of us that means giving them the healthiest food we can find. Here at Cuteness, we all want our four-legged best friends to be around forever.
More than half of pet parents choose premium kibble for their pups, but recent recalls, confusing ingredient labels, and new studies have left us wondering...Is premium kibble actually the healthy solution we think it is?
1. The difference between human-grade and feed-grade is everything
You'll notice that some premium kibbles are now sporting a new label: human-grade. Which leaves some of us wondering, what is everything else?
We learned that pet food traditionally fits under a USDA classification of 'feed-grade', meaning the regulations of how it can be made and what goes into it vary from what is approved for human consumption.
In terms of ingredients, feed grade can include everything from simply lower-quality produce, to dead, dying and diseased animal proteins, or even animal by-product. In terms of production, feed grade means food can be made in facilities that have not been inspected or approved by the USDA. Certainly news to us.
Human-grade food, on the other hand, means that all food is suitable for human consumption. Facilities need to be frequently inspected, and there are restrictions on ingredients that can be used and how they can be prepared. It's the highest-level of quality control possible in pet food, yet it only shows up on a handful of pet foods (and none of them kibble).
2. Reading ingredient labels is essential
When shopping for pet foods, we often see words like 'all-natural', 'organic', and 'grain-free', which most of us trust as healthier options. While those are all great components of a healthy pet food, it turns out they don't mean everything.
When purchasing a pet food, we were told it's essential to look for 'red-flag' ingredients on a pet food label. An organic dog food recipe may include organic ingredients, but could also have artificial coloring added (many of which have been proven to cause cancer). Fillers, preservatives, and other harmful ingredients are often snuck into even the most premium pet foods, and Veterinary Nutritionists say learning how to read a label is essential in making a diet choice for your pup. (Use this list of common 'red-flag' ingredients to help you choose wisely.)
3. Processed food should be avoided
We all know processed foods aren't good for ourselves, yet many of us still consider a select few processed pet foods to be good enough for our pups. But are they any different than the processed foods we know to be so unhealthy for humans?
Turns out, the same logic to apply to your eating habits applies here. If something can sit on a shelf for months, you probably don't want to put it in your - or your dog's - body. If something doesn't look anything like real, whole foods you recognize? It probably isn't made with them either.
After reading a few articles on kibble and how it's processed, we learn that extremely high pressures and temperatures are used to take real foods and turn them into what we recognize as kibble. Throughout this process though, a majority of the nutrients are lost. Artificial ingredients are used to help it get the color and form we expect, greatly altering the nutritional profile of the food. In the end, our dogs end up with the equivalent of junk food: processed, artificial, filler-stuffed, and providing little nutritional value.
So, what is the solution?
Choosing a healthy pet food is rarely simple, though learning about the processes, quality levels, and ingredients of most 'premium' pet foods taught us that 'premium' has little meaning at all. Only once you confirm that a dog food is held to human-grade standards, has no additives, and is minimally-processed, only then can you know you're giving your pup the best.
"Really, the question shouldn't be, can dogs survive on kibble?," says top Veterinary Nutritionist Dr. Justin Shmalberg, "the real question is, do we want them surviving on a product driven by convenience? Or do we want them to thrive on real foods just as we would choose to eat?"
Companies like fresh dog food brand NomNomNow are leading the pack with natural, human-grade recipes that are finally offering a truly premium pet food option as studies urge us to move towards whole, real foods and away from kibble. Now it's up to us pet owners to take it upon ourselves to feed our pups only the best-- no more, no less.
*NomNomNow is currently offering an offer of **50% off your first two orders** for those interested in trying this healthy alternative to premium kibble. Their website has more info on recipes, ingredients, and is really easy to sign-up and try for a week or two!