If you follow any pet-related blogs or other social media, the odds are you’ve heard of Nulo, a new company that has been marketing its foods aggressively through a variety of online channels.
Nulo’s main thrust is that its foods and feeding programs will help your dogs reach and maintain a healthy weight – an admirable goal. Its foods are relatively high in protein (27 percent) with moderate amounts of fat (14 percent) and fiber (4 percent), appropriate for dogs who are overweight or who tend to gain weight easily. So I’ve had no objection to the marketing messages I’ve received from them (these messages were sent to members of one of the blogs I subscribe to).
Recently, however, a message went out from Nulo’s marketing department with the subject line, “The Dangers of Feeding Pets Human Food.” The enclosed article is entitled, “Why Feeding Your Pet Human Food Is Bad,” and proceeds to try to scare the bejeezus out of anyone who feeds their pets any food that doesn’t come out of a bag or can.
While I share the company’s concern about overweight pets and the negative effect that fatty scraps and unhealthy foods such as French fries and potato chips can have on our dogs’ waistlines, its claims go far beyond this.
“Few pet owners realize the dangers of feeding their animals human food.” Hmm – just what do they think goes into dog food – special “dog chicken” and “dog rice”? We all eat from the same food chain; dog food is made from the same sources that we eat (though not always the parts we choose). It must be a miracle that dogs managed to survive for at least 15,000 years before pet foods were invented!
It gets worse. “Even the most discerning pet owners are feeding their animals the equivalent of human fast food, leading to a surge in obesity and diabetes in dogs and cats.” Excuse me?
Those of use who feed our dogs a homemade diet use a combination of meat, eggs, fish, dairy products, grains, fruits, and vegetables. These fresh, high-quality foods supply better nutrition than can be found in any processed food. People who add ingredients such as these to their dog’s commercial diet are improving the nutrition that their dogs receive. High-quality fresh foods do not contribute to obesity and diabetes in dogs as long as calorie intake is not excessive. And dogs fed high-protein diets have a greater percentage of lean body mass than those fed diets that are high in carbs, as almost all dry foods are.
In fact commercial foods, particularly dry foods, are far more comparable to “fast food” than most homemade diets. Convenient, quick, and processed vs homemade fresh foods – which sounds more like “fast food” to you?
Who are these people?
Curious as to who was behind this new product, I went looking for more information. It was surprisingly difficult to find any substance on the slick website. The “Who We Are” page contained no names nor credentials, just this: “We are pure. We are honest. We are fresh.” Wow! Well, that’s nice!
Nulo’s FAQ page has over 80 entries. Under “Who makes your foods,” no names appear, just more hype.
Ah, finally a name under item 42, “Who founded Nulo?” Michael Landa, founder, chairman, and CEO of Nulo, has over 20 years of corporate development experience, according to the answer. (That explains the slick marketing.) His qualifications? He “has conducted extensive research” and “has become a recognized resource for the media on [pet nutrition and pet obesity].” He has made radio and television appearances. In addition, he co-founded a pet sitting and walking business. Oh, and he also owns a dog.
The original email I received from the company’s marketing department contains more empty descriptions: “Nulo is a team of veritable pet advocates that promote wellness and nutrition for animals.” (Veritable pet advocates?)
I have nothing against this particular brand of pet food, and I applaud the company’s focus on keeping dogs at a healthy weight. But when any dog food company claims that its products are better than fresh, healthy, unprocessed foods used in a well-designed homemade diet or added to a commercial diet, I can’t help getting upset. Using scare tactics to market products and making unsupportable claims such as “even the most discerning pet owners are feeding their animals the equivalent of human fast food” is just plain wrong. – Mary Straus