Who will you trust when it comes to nutrition? Your breeder? The pet store owner? Your veterinarian? Your friends or a veterinarian with a phD in nutrition?
"During the lecture, Freeman asked audience members which pieces of information on pet food labels were most important. According to Freeman, the most common answer given is the list of ingredients, but this is yet another myth.
"The … most important thing is the manufacturer," she said. "You would absolutely be shocked at the variability in the quality of different companies."
Freeman explained that at least one full−time, qualified nutritionist, a research and development department, self−operated plants and internal quality control standards are essential for any reliable manufacturer.
According to Freeman, pet owners make the process more difficult than it needs to be. She advises customers to be skeptical of marketing, as most of the "stuff" on the label is just advertisement and has little to do with quality.
Freeman drew her lecture to a close by testing the audience on other pet nutrition myths. She revealed that animal by−products are not actually poor quality meats, and that so−called "organic" pet foods do not have to meet specific requirements defined by the AAFCO to be labeled as such. The AAFCO also does not specifically define "human−grade," "premium" and "holistic"; these are purely marketing terms, Freeman said, adding that "natural" is one word that actually has a specific AAFCO definition.
I agree with most of what she said, especially the part about the manufacturer; except this part:
"If you're feeding this to your pet, you want it to meet all the nutrient needs for that animal," Freeman said. "The best way to decide that is with feeding trials. AAFCO has regulations, and they make sure that animals fed these foods actually stay healthy on these foods."
I agree that all pet foods NEED to meet the AAFCO standards- however, the AAFCO standards are, in my educated opinion, very LAX. They aren't able to ensure the dog will "be healthy". They are a bare-minimum standard, not some kind of indication that the food will support optimal health for the life of the dog. Yes, if your dog is fed an AAFCO standard-meeting food he won't develop overt symptoms of malnutrition, but they don't ensure your dog will have all of its nutritional needs met such that optimal health can be achieved. Go look at the "real crap" brands of cheap food that somehow manage to meet the AAFCO standards (look at the one- and two- star brands on http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/ ).
I wonder if this may be what she is referring to when she talks about "choosing manufacturers"? avoid the ones that make any lines of "real crap" food? I do that in my own food selection- first manufacturer/ then macronutrient profile (guaranteed analysis list on the label)/then ingredients/ then price per kcal. I figure that if the manufacturer is willing to make and market something that is obviously junk food, they don't care enough about dog health to work hard at making sure their other lines are as good as they can be. They are willing to take short cuts in the name of profit and meeting minimal standards for the low-end lines in their set of foods; so why would you think they wouldn't apply the same kind of thinking to their high-end lines of food?
I also disagree that AAFCO's "feeding trials" are necessary or sufficient. Of course the best way to test a food is by a feeding trial- but a REAL feeding trial: feed a substantial number of dogs the food for their entire lifespan, the dogs living in a realistic setting, and measure health frequently over that lifespan. A randomized comparative trial would be most informative, Brand X vs. Brand Y, head-to-head real-life trial. No one has done this. The only long-term realistic setting large feeding trial I've ever heard of was Eaglepack's trial of their Giant breed puppy food, which went for over 2 years. You might think 2 years is enough for puppy food, but it would be better if after the dogs moved on to non-puppyfood they continued to monitor them through life to prove their puppy nutrition didn't increase rates of arthritis or cancer or what have you whatever later on in life.
AAFCO's "feeding trials" are completely inadequate- they feed 10 dogs, kept in a kennel environment, for six months. Many nutritionally inadequate/inappropriate diets take years of feeding before overt symptoms of ill health appear. So the feeding trials are inadequate- nice if they do them, but they don't demonstrate much. Formulating the food to meet the lax AAFCO standards is ok, in my opinion, but be cautious. Over and over again we've realized whoops we don't know all there is to know about nutrition, and yet again we find out that this stuff in the bag really isn't "complete". The lack of taurine causing heart disease; the lack of omega-3 fatty acids causing poor puppy brain development; the excess calcium causing poor puppy bone development: all of these debacles occurred from people feeding foods that were listed as "complete and balanced" under the AAFCO standards, and are also conditions that would have been missed by an AAFCO feeding trial. So be cautious.
It does make you wonder though about diets like Blue Buffalo, Taste of the Wild, Solid Gold, Dock van Patton's etc... that have not completed AAFCO feeding trials (how inadequate they are) and are just "formulated to meet" and do not have Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists formulating their diets.
Thanks for posting the article, but I'm afraid I didn't find it very helpful on a practical level-- e.g.-- where on the label does it give any indication of the quality of the manufacture?? Is there a list of staff (e.g., qualified nutritionist/s)? Spread sheet showing expenditures for R & D (vs Marketing)? And yes, the AAFCO's standards are appallingly lax, and the average American dog's diet so less than optimally balanced (in protein vs carbohydrates, for example), that some vets believe the "normal" some liver enzymes is lower than it optimally should be.
I was forced to do my own extended dog food trial 11 years ago when I adopted a (truly wonderful) dog with a bad case of whip worm that compromised his system so his nails would repeatedly split to the quick, necessitating painful veterinary procedures to clean up or prevent infection.... It took over 4 years to find combinations of food and a supplement (Synovia3G) which eliminated the problem. One thing I found for sure: Purina and the other big name brands totally didn't cut it-- although I know for sure they employ plenty of nutritionists. Online evaluations proved most helpful: Wellness was the first food that worked. I switched to EVO when Wellness changed their formula, and just switched to Orijens because I don't trust Proctor and Gamble, which recently acquired EVO. Recently, I've also been doing a lot of cooking for my dog, following guidelines from holistic vets. Makes sense to me that fresh, as opposed to processed food would be better for our animals just as it is for us.
Call me cynical, but I tend to believe that the large dog food companies, especially those owned by conglomerates, are much more likely to use their banks of nutritionists to develop least cost formulations to maximize profits (while remaining within AAFCO standards) than to develop the best possible diets for our animals. I've also talked to quite a few company nutritionists and found that they sound an awful lot like salespeople as far as their employers' products are concerned.