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Finances behind the processed pet food industry

Finances behind the processed pet food industry

The finances behind the processed pet food industry 
Today, my intention is to bring some insight into kibble and processed pet foods that you may not be aware of.

Often, I take a stance against kibble and pet food companies, but today, I would like to look at the current situation from a neutral observer’s point of view, and this newsletter explains in detail why.

If you prefer watching a video, it is right here below; otherwise, keep reading.

Yet, this common-sense recommendation stands in striking contrast with many of my veterinary colleagues who claim kibble is better.

Many of you have seen the raw or cooked diet transformations, and after 20 years of feeding and recommending raw food, I can only confirm that dogs who are raw fed are healthier and live longer on average.

The biggest problem is that pet food companies are in the business of making kibble, and in order to continue selling their product, they do all they can to convince the general public and veterinarians that whole food is not safe.

The situation reminds me of the tobacco company ads of the '50s. Just for pure entertainment, I have embedded one below. 

Cigarette companies knew cigarettes posed a health risk, but this information would harm their sales. They tried to discount the general public’s concerns by positioning a doctor in their ads. Can you see the striking similarity to pet food and veterinarians?

What role do vets play in this?
As an insider of the profession, I can confirm that pet food companies have strong ties with veterinary colleges. They sponsor research, participate in education, provide scholarships, and sponsor professional conferences.

This clever marketing does not stop with graduation. I have been invited to many “educational evenings” with banquets, and the irony is that they included fresh, wholesome food!

However, the biggest marketing win is that pet food companies created exclusive “therapeutic pet food” that could only be sold in veterinary clinics and made this diet an important element of the veterinary business model.

Here is an example of a diet formula for diabetes and weight loss made by a prominent pet food company:

Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Soybean Meal, Soybean Mill Run, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Pork Liver Flavor, Soybean Oil, Lactic Acid, Caramel color, Pork Fat.

Even a non-veterinarian would see that these ingredients are far from wholesome and that carbohydrate-based food is not suitable for diabetes. Whole grain corn is the main ingredient here, and cornstarch (a complex carbohydrate) digests into sugars that are not suitable for diabetic dogs.
The finances behind the vet-pet food company alliance
An average veterinary clinic’s profit is around $20 for every $100 billed, and pet food brings in about 30% of gross revenue. If veterinarians stopped selling processed food, some veterinary clinics would have to close down.

This may be one of the reasons why some veterinarians may not want to acknowledge that fresh, wholesome raw or cooked food is better for our dogs than kibble. By the time vets graduate and open a practice, their debts are too high, and it is too late to hop off the processed food train.


What can be done?
Misleading information led to people to believe that kibble is good, the same way cigarettes were advertised in the '50s, and now we have to learn and educate each other about why kibble is not good.

After all, this would not be the first time in the history of the universe that nutritional science changed. Do you remember the time baby formula was recommended over breastfeeding, or margarine was recommended over butter?

It is not a crime to be wrong; everyone is from time to time. The problem I see is when financial interests precede what everyone who has common sense knows. Kibble is inferior to a variety of species-appropriate food, and it is as simple as that.

In fact, a raw or cooked diet can be very therapeutic and help manage conditions such as kidney disease or diabetes and cure problems such as inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, chronic diarrhea, diet allergies, ear problems, and many other diseases in dogs.

Do not let anyone intimidate you
If your veterinarian recommends kibble, remember that you are the client and a decision-maker. Set a clear boundary and openly communicate to agree to disagree. If your vet continues to give you a hard time, you may want to look elsewhere. In most places, there are more vet clinics than needed, and finding someone who is more respectful of your opinion should not be hard.

There may be another funnier way to approach your vet. Tell him or her that you will feed your dog kibble if he or she eats nothing but processed food for a lifetime.


A message to my processed food selling colleagues
I understand and empathize with the reasons why so many veterinary clinics still sell processed foods, however, this is not good enough reason to put money ahead of the health of our dogs, and this must change.

Perhaps the way out is to transform the veterinary healthcare model, increase consultation fees, and charge per time spent with patients as opposed to flat fees. There are many ways to make vet clinics sustainable.

It just should not be done by acting like blind followers of the pet food companies, because it erodes the trust of our clients and reduces our ability to help their pets.


A message to raw diet feeders
Similar to people eating wholesome food, many of us see the difference in raw-fed dogs. They live healthier and longer lives.

However, if we want to prove this in black and white, we need to continue to share data on the lifespan of dogs who are fed kibble versus a raw diet.


© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM
About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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