Editorial October 2010 Issue

Can’t or Won’t

I’m not sure which is more aggravating.

It’s always interesting to call pet food companies to ask for information about their products. Some have answering machines and ask you to leave a message; some of these companies return those calls, but others don’t. Of course, it’s most rewarding for us consumers when a person answers the phone. But even then, there is a lot of variation in what can happen next.

Nancy Kerns

Nancy Kerns

Pet food makers are required by law to share only a small amount of information about their products – the ingredients in the food, listed in order of weight; and the minimum percentage of protein and fat, and the maximum percentage of moisture and fiber that their foods contain. But what about those of us who want more?

I love it when pet food makers have every bit of information about their products’ nutrients and ingredients listed on their websites. Finding the information I need on a company’s website makes me feel really good about that company. I expect them to have the information, and appreciate it when they are professional enough to keep it public and current. I recently needed to learn the ash content of a number of foods (why? see page 10). On other days, I’ve wanted to determine the number of calories in a certain food, or the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids, or some other minutiae.

I can’t tell you what a bad feeling I get when I contact a food manufacturer and am told that someone will have to get back to me with that information. This happened to me several times when I was trying to compare the complete amino acid profile of various foods. You’d think that information about the food’s protein quality would be important enough to a pet food maker that current laboratory test results would be laying around everywhere. But some companies took a week or more to get back to me with that information.

But I’m not sure which is worse: a company that can’t find the information about its products, or one that won’t tell consumers certain bits of information about its products.

Take ash, for example, and take, say, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. I wanted to include a Prescription Diet weight-loss formula among the foods we examined for author Lisa Rodier’s excellent article on carbohydrates in this issue (see page 6). To compare the carbohydrate content using the same method we applied to all the other foods we examined, we needed the ash content of the food. It’s not listed on the company website. Lisa and I both tried to get this information out of the customer service representatives who answer the phones at the corporate giant – no dice. They don’t release that information, we were told. (We did finally find a workaround method to determine the ash for our purposes.)

But wait, there’s more. On its websites, Hill’s expresses all of the nutrient values for its foods as “dry matter” (rather than “as fed”). To make sure we applied the same methodology for the Hill’s food as the others, we needed to learn the moisture content of the food. It’s usually 10 percent for kibble, but there can be variations.

Again, no luck. Reps told us that they didn’t have the exact figure for each food, because Hill’s prefers to use dry matter figures; they are more accurate. It’s true; dry matter values are much more accurate than the rough calculations we were making. But . . . really? You won’t tell us the moisture content – the one that’s on the product label? One rep conceded that it was probably safe to use 10 percent as an average.

On the other hand, the Hill’s websites offer much more detail about the carbs in its foods than most of the other companies, including breakdowns for soluble and insoluble fiber. Why dig in its heels at ash, or moisture, for crying out loud? I just don’t get it.

Comments (2)

In our part of the country central USA, OK. KS. MO. TX. This is just examples as this is the area we live. All this to say every vet. has Hills as its main line of dog and cat food. WHY is this as we personally do not like Hills but every vet. pushes it.. My vet know how we feel about Hills, so for her records and knowledge I print out a ingredients list and the analysis list for her of the food we are using. She needs this information I feel when we have CBC, Urine specific, bile acids etc. Thanks

Posted by: SHARON E | July 12, 2011 5:21 PM    Report this comment

In our part of the country central USA, OK. KS. MO. TX. This is just examples as this is the area we live. All this to say every vet. has Hills as its main line of dog and cat food. WHY is this as we personally do not like Hills but every vet. pushes it.. My vet know how we feel about Hills, so for her records and knowledge I print out a ingredients list and the analysis list for her of the food we are using. She needs this information I feel when we have CBC, Urine specific, bile acids etc. Thanks

Posted by: SHARON E | July 12, 2011 5:21 PM    Report this comment

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