Features December 2013 Issue

"Humanization" of Dog Food

Watch out for these strategies and make sure you read the ingredients!

Industry analysts frequently observe that “humanization” has been a hot trend in pet food for the past few years. The term is used to describe products containing ingredients that are popular in the human food industry, as well as those that are manufactured and/or packaged to resemble human food.

Both “humanizing” strategies – using trendy ingredients and making pet foods look like human foods – are being used with great success to market pet food. And nowhere is this strategy being used to greater effect than in the canned food category. Because – soup! stew! yum!

As always, you have to read the ingredients list to determine whether a product has received a flattering makeover, with label art and language that make prosaic ingredients appear better – or whether the food does actually contain whole, healthy, “real” food ingredients.

Don’t fall for pretty pictures of ingredients on the labels of pet food; be advised that the “chicken” that is used in pet food doesn’t look anything like those gorgeous whole roasted chickens you see on some labels. Beautiful photographs or illustrations of dewy spinach leaves and robust whole carrots, glistening slabs of beef steak, or fat cubes of chicken breast, don’t indicate that those ingredients are present in that form, amount, or proportion.

Similarly, don’t allow adjectives to influence your perception of the ingredients. “Poached salmon” and “baby carrots” sound terrific, but “salmon” and “carrots” are the same thing, and laudable in their own right. Also, watch out for the word “flavor” – it doesn’t necessarily mean the food contains whatever food the word “flavor” is attached to; it means only that the food contains a flavoring agent!
I expect marketing efforts to be disingenuous, so I don’t take offense at these obviously manipulative tactics. However, there is one application of the term “humanization” that I find incredibly patronizing: when analysts credit humanization for the sales success of foods that contain genuinely top-quality, healthy ingredients, as if anyone who bought anything other than the least-expensive foods on the market was being silly and anthropomorphic.

Many of us buy pet foods with human-quality ingredients because we truly believe that fresh, clean, whole or lightly processed ingredients from reputable domestic sources are more likely to benefit our dogs and less likely to harm them than low-quality by-products from the other side of the globe – not because we want our dogs’ food to appear to be as good (or better) than ours.

Comments (1)

The labels and pictures get more interesting every year. Especially when you open up the can and it looks totally different. Bottom line, I use the food just to ensure my dog is getting most of what he needs for vitamins and minerals. When it comes to baby carrots, fresh spinach, whole chicken breast, blueberries, apples, etc, I provide it to my pups. I buy ground flax seed and they have been eating ground chia seed too. I just add a little to the human meals I prepare before giving it to them, since heat destroys flax seed and chia seed. I buy organic pumpkin, and they get home cooked sweet potatoes. They get a lot of stuff. Sometimes I add lima beans which one of my dogs loves or lentils. They love collards, and kale so they gets a little bit of those too. They tends to eat most vegatables as long as you don't mix in too many and they are organic. I eat a lot of organic foods so it's easy to provide them with organic foods as well. For oils I use ascenta omega 3 for their fish oils and Halo dream coat, and Flax seed. The flax seed is given only with chicken. The ascenta we give with beef. I think brewers yeast is a good choice for my pups as well, that nasty yeast has a lot of what dogs need and a little goes a long way towards their health. My particular dogs, a shih tzu and Yorkie don't tend to have reactions from it and it's loaded with all the vitamins and minerals the dogs need. All of the vets we've visited said they would prefer the dogs get some real food. One said they could care less if they ever ate dog food again. So we do the one human prepared meal during the day and then they tend to eat a serving of their dog food before going to sleep. The only balance we have is to do a thorough check up once a year, which includes a full blood panel, some titers and twice a year their urine and fecal gets checked for any abnomailities. I pay for the full panels and the titers because the pet insurance only pays for a limited blood panel once a year and they don't pay for titers, so it cost approximately 650.00-700.00 a year for a full check up per dog. The urine and fecal check ups don't cost much because we just take those in to the vet. Unless the dog is sick or needs to see the vet we usually don't take them in when we take in the samples. I feel better knowing the most about their health I can, and keeping track of it. I call it being proactive, dogs can't talk. One is 5 and one is 6, so far they tend to be pretty healthy, their immune levels are holding steady and high. Their vitamins and minerals are good. We also have their teeth checked and we have had their teeth cleaned which helps with preventing gum disease. Pearly whites mean they can eat. I think everybody just has to do what they feel comfortable with and make sure the dogs get their check ups, keep the checkups thorough and it's really not much cost to do urine and fecal checks at least twice a year. The dogs also need to stay within a healthy weight as well, which ours seem to be doing fine with. Variety helps. I don't feed them the same meals every day. It's not good for humans to eat the same thing every day and it's not good for our pets either. The only thing that makes dog food viable is the supplemental vitamns and minerals per pound and it fills the dogs tummy. By right, it's still animal feed, those labels and pictures are just to make humans feel better about giving it to them. The animal feed serves a good purpose, but I also feel real home made food could help them live longer as well. I haven't had a recall yet in my kitchen.

Posted by: FurBaby | January 22, 2014 9:11 PM    Report this comment

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