Actually, 93% of all mid-priced pet food sold in the U.S. are produced by three giant companies: Smucker, Mars and Nestle.
Ever since the big human food companies saw the appeal of the pet food market – 30 billion dollars projected for 2022, only in the U.S., sounds pretty appealing, don’t you think? They started a buying frenzy. Purina (along with its brands Cat Chow, Dog Chow, Pro Plan and others) became a branch of the Nestlé conglomerate, while Pedigree, Iams, Whiskas, Royal Canin and Eukanuba ended up in the hands of Mars.
Smucker took over numerous brands, perhaps less popular, but very trusted by those who know them. For example, Meow Mix, Milk-Bone, Nature’s Recipe, Natural Balance and Rachael Ray Nutrish, among others. Smucker’s marketing motto says: “Smucker’s pet portfolio features trusted brands to meet the nutritional needs of pets and the preferences of their loving parents.” Wow. (That’s what my dog said)
OK, so the nutrition of almost all U.S. dogs is in the hands of these three big companies. What’s the big deal? After all, those companies have a lot of experience in human food.
Don’t jump to conclusions. The human food market is completely different from the pet food market. Basically, it has very different regulations. And it is precisely in the matter of regulations that the grim circle of pet food begins to get outlined.
The agriculture departments of each state are in charge of enforcing pet food market regulations, issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
But, at the same time, those departments are partially funded by revenue from the largest pet food manufacturers. The reason is that they also have the goal of promoting growth and expansion of the agricultural industry in their state.
Are you beginning to get the idea? Wait, it gets better (or worse, I don’t know).
Surely it is not easy to dictate laws that regulate activity and, at the same time, promote it.
That’s why all the state agriculture departments delegate that task to a private organization called the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Remember: it is a private organization, not a government agency.
AAFCO owns and protects the legal definitions of all pet food ingredients, to which consumers do not have public access. Don’t bother trying to Google them. You won’t find anything about them.
What have we learned so far? Let’s see.
Big pet food companies give money to the state departments of agriculture, which in turn pays a private organization to define what pet food ingredients should be, and then hide that information from consumers. If you think that large pet food companies have their cake and eat it too, you’re just looking at the tip of the iceberg.
Enter the industry trade associations: Pet Food Industry, American Food Enter the industry trade associations: Pet Food Industry, American Food Industry Association, National Grain and Feed Association, National Renderers Association. Large pet food manufacturers are members of these, which guarantees them access to regulatory authorities and gives them the possibility to define the laws that govern them. Exactly, they can define the laws that govern them.
Industry Association, National Grain and Feed Association, National Renderers Association. Large pet food manufacturers are members of these, which guarantees them access to regulatory authorities and gives them the possibility to define the laws that govern them. Exactly, they can define the laws that govern them.
Here’s just an example: in order to manage updates to pet food labels, AAFCO formed a working group called Pet Food Label Modernization. A Mars Petcare employee, called Jim Barritt, was designated head of this group. Obviously, not representing the Mars company, but as a member of the Pet Food Industry trade association. But they were secretly defending Mars’ commercial interests.