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Pet Food Trends

Kibble was first invented in 1860. It was only for ‘civilized’ animals, not the ‘working class’. The trend moved towards canned food until the meat and metal was necessary for World War II. The pet food companies took advantage and pushed for the cheap, convenient form that cost them little to produce. They tried different branding methods: using brightly coloured packaging, buzzwords like ‘meat-flavour’, and spraying the kibble with coloured chemicals to appeal to consumers. In the 1980’s when people became interested in more alternative and natural methods of food, they wondering the same about their animals.

Consumers began pushing for more ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ pet foods. The pet food labelling laws were updated to include these terms but most pet parents don’t know what they mean. The word “natural” means only natural plant, animal, or mineral sources were used, but synthetic vitamins are allowed. The term “organic” simply means the animals or ingredients were produced or handled in compliance with USDAs National Organic Program. This essentially means that no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers were used on the products.

Grain-free pet food was a trend that started because dozens of studies determined that high carbohydrate diets have higher rates of skin diseases, ear infections, lymphomas, anal gland infections, metabolic diseases, obesity, and cancer. At the time grain-free pet food became relevant, most commercial brands of pet food had 50-75% carbohydrates with less than 25% protein. What took consumers many years to figure out is that even supposedly ‘grain-free’ kibbles still contained starch, often at a higher rate than ‘regular’ kibble. The process to ground meal shaped into pellets requires starch and high temperatures.

The Ketogenic trend in pet food followed this as researchers found they could halt or stop cancer growth in dogs with a ketogenic diet. Ketogenic diets have a higher fat and lower carbohydrate content which stimulates a state of ‘ketosis’ in the animal’s body. The body then uses ketones as a source of energy instead of glucose and since Warburg theory proposes cancer cells feed on glucose, you effectively starve the cancer.Research centers such as KetoPet Sanctuary have some of the world’s top animal nutrition researchers working to figure out the optimal balance of nutrients.

The Raw food trend is probably the fastest growing. The pet food sales more than tripled from 2012 to 2016 and costs slightly more than a high end bag of kibble. The supporters of raw food diets for pets agree with the ancestral model. If wolves and jungle cats thrived for thousands of years on flesh of their kills (and the contents of the herbivore’s stomachs), then so can our modern pets. Raw food is un-processed, chemical-free food with nutrients in their natural, biologically-accessible form. Typically these are formulated with ground meat, organs, fruits and vegetables, oils, vitamins, and minerals. They come in patty form, slab form, or ‘prey’ form which you can sometimes get from a butcher.

As we look to the future, we notice the reflection of trends in human food with those in pet foods. Alternative protein sources such as pea protein, cricket powder, and krill are showing up in the market place. Consumers want ethically sourced, cruelty-free, sustainable options for their animals as well as themselves. With the pet food industry in 2019 being estimated to be worth $1.995 billion USD in Canada and almost $29.8 billion in the United States, that is a massive demand for healthier options.

For more information on this, I have two short webinars available in the shop. In addition to a nutritional e-book with feeding guidelines for vitamins and minerals.

Copyright of Birch Animal Wellness, 2021

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