Consumer Reports on pet food...a preview
Ever thought you’d look to the pages of a mass-market magazine for advice on feeding your pets?
The crotchety, consumer-advocate periodical you know as Consumer Reports claims millions of readers who turn its pages in search of “best buy,” “smartest sale” and “look-out-you’re-getting-hosed” kind of fare. On the whole, this mag is real close--if not right on the money--when it comes to telling you what you may need to know if you care about where your cash goes.
But when it comes to pets I’m not so sure I’d trust CR. Here’s some background:
For starters--and by way of full disclosure--you should know that Consumer Reports and veterinarians don’t see eye to eye. In 2003 it ran with a story on how to get the least expensive vet care...then another in 2006...by shopping around...essentially taking quality out of the criteria. It’s not exactly the kind of advice I’d want when finding the right service provider for my anything--much less my pet. Here's the AVMA's response.
Then in 2007 they clobbered the pet health insurance industry with genius advice explaining that you’re likely to lose money if you gamble on pet insurance. OK so tell me again what insurance is for and how the industry turns a profit?
I don’t know who signs their paychecks but if I had anything to do with CR I’d suggest they stick to cars and Cuisinarts. It’s clear that consumer electronics and automobiles lend themselves to evaluation, whereas services prove infinitely more tricky, it would seem.
Yet here comes Consumer Reports yet again to try its hand at another pet industry faux pas...this time on pet foods. More their style? You judge.
There's no scientific evidence that any food is better than the next," says Joseph Wakshlag, D.V.M., Ph.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Pets can thrive on inexpensive food or become ill from pricey food. If your animal is active and healthy, the food is doing its job. A higher price could mean better ingredients and better quality control during and after manufacturing. But you might also be paying for pretty packaging, marketing, or a fancy name.
Here’s hoping Dr. Wakshlag’s comment was taken out of context. After all, we all know some “foods” are “better” than others for ourselves as for our pets. No one’s seriously trying to say that Old Roy trumps Solid Gold, or that a microwaved frozen burrito beats a home-cooked meal, right?
Though I think that sentiment is clear from the second to the last sentence, this lead-in to the actual report (which is due out this month) strikes me as disparaging of consumers who seek better care for their pets through diet. If that wasn’t abundantly clear already, here’s another snippet:
If you insist on making your own pet food, consider enlisting an animal nutritionist certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (www.acvn.org) or get help from www.balanceit.com or www.petdiets.com, which the ACVN lists as resources on its site.
First the kudos: The distribution of pet nutrition resources is brilliant. Thank you CR! Nonetheless it’s clear the editors at Consumer Reports consider you a silly human for "insisting" on making your own pet food in the face of scientific evidence that says no foods are “better” than others.
Yes, the implication is that you might as well feed Pedigree unless you have a bizarre bugaboo about quality of ingredients and safety. Nonetheless, I have to ask: If there’s no scientific evidence that any food is “better” than another, is it a negative finding born of careful research?...or is it simply the veterinary nutritionists' default claim based on slim-pickings science.
Yet interestingly, Consumer Reports urges you to keep in mind that the pet food industry may have bought and paid for their results.
We asked eight experts in dog and cat nutrition at seven top veterinary schools what you get by spending more for pet food. (Note: All but one have received some funding from the pet-food industry.)
Not that it’s easy for any veterinary nutritionist to survive in the US without pet food industry funding. After all, consider that many veterinary schools receive pet food funding by way of basic survival (nothing so sinister in that, as I’ve previously explained). But CR certainly opens the door for your suspicions with this prominent statement.
Despite my misgivings, this article appears to be headed in a far more productive direction than CR’s past two pet industry reports. Sure, that’s not saying much given its track record, but we’ll see what picture the whole piece paints when I stop by my local Barnes & Noble’s later today. I reserve any real judgment until then.