Where Does Your Pet’s Food Come From?


Merrick Bought Out By Nestle Purina –

As more and more pet owners become skeptical of the ingredients in their beloved family members food dish, they are opting to purchase higher quality kibble to help keep their furry friend healthy. But, just like everything else, big corporate sees that the dollars are not flowing thier way, so they buy up the competition. That’s just what happened when Nestle Purina bought out a very popular higher quality brand of pet food, Merrick.

I have not purchased pet food for many, many years because I just didn’t trust the quality or ingredients of the products. It was difficult to find any pet food, dry or moist, which contained only one protein. In the wild, dogs & cats only ate one protein at a time as their digestion is designed that way. Domestication has de-natured the modern pet’s diet. Preparing your pet’s meals isn’t as difficult or time consuming as you may think. Prepare in bulk for weekly meals, refrigerate or freeze for meals later on. The only kitchen tool you need is a food processor.

Article below written by Dr. Karen Becker of Healthy Pets-

According to Packaged Facts: http://americanpetproducts.org/pubs_packagedfacts.asp

“The big three mass marketers of pet food – Nestlé Purina, Mars, and Big Heart Pet Brands (recently acquired by J.M. Smucker) – are all investing heavily in the natural segment via brand reformulations, new product introductions, and acquisitions.”

Pet Food Giants Are Buying Up Smaller Companies with High Quality Products

On the surface this may seem like a positive trend. It may seem as though big US pet food producers are trying to offer higher quality formulas to meet the needs and demands of consumers. And perhaps they are… but many pet owners and holistic vets are skeptical, to say the least.

Per PetfoodIndustry.com:

“Within hours of the Nestlé-Merrick announcement, comments – mostly negative – were flying on social media. Merrick’s Facebook pages received thousands of posts for several days, with many lamenting the company’s ‘selling out’ to a larger corporation of which many commenters apparently have a very low, even adverse, opinion.

Merrick gamely responded with assurances that it would not change its formulations, ingredients, manufacturing practices, or quality standards, but most of these consumers weren’t buying it.”

Here’s one typical exchange on Facebook between a pet owner and a Merrick representative:

“Pet owner: Have you changed your formulas now that you’re owned by another company?

Merrick rep: We are focused on doing what we have always done… making the best recipes for the best pets ever… yours.

Pet owner: Ok… so same formulas? I appreciate the response, but that wasn’t exactly my question.

Merrick rep: No changes have been made as a result of the recently announced purchase agreement. We’re excited to continue to do what we’ve always done and that’s why we wanted to let you and other pet parents know about our newest offering… Grain Free Turkey. Gobble gobble!”

Merrick’s statement, “No changes have been made as a result of the recently announced purchase agreement” appears repeatedly in their responses to concerned pet owners. Sounds a little wiggly to me.

Perhaps changes have been made, but not as a result of the acquisition? Or perhaps changes will be made in the future, putting distance between the “recently announced purchase” and the actual changes.

In any event, there’s about a 99.99 percent probability that at some point in the foreseeable future, Purina will make changes to its Merrick formulas that probably won’t be obvious to consumers; AAFCO’s incredibly evasive labeling suggestions make it nearly impossible to navigate through a pet food label without significant doubts about quality and raw materials in the end product.

Purina’s Purchase of Merrick Is Being Downplayed

One interesting development in Purina’s recent acquisition of Zuke’s that may also take place with the Merrick purchase, is that so far there is no evidence Nestlé Purina owns Zuke’s on the brand’s packaging, website or trade show booths.

“In fact, the name Nestlé Purina PetCare doesn’t appear anywhere on Zuke’s website,” according to PetfoodIndustry.com. “Even a press release issued about six months after the purchase reiterating the treat maker’s ‘intention to maintain its past product development and distribution strategies’ makes no mention of its new owner.”

PetfoodIndustry.com attributes part of Purina’s under-the-radar approach with both Zuke’s and Merrick’s to consumer backlash. Pet owners are growing very vocal when big industry players swallow up smaller brands known for their high quality products.

As one blog commenter observed:

“Isn’t it sad (that’s one word for it) that Nestle-Purina has to maintain *complete* invisibility when it comes to companies they buy that have stellar quality reputations with their customers – just to protect those companies from ruin due to their association with Purina? That ought to tell Purina something about their own company and that major quality changes are in order!”

Expect More Acquisitions, and Know Where to Look for Ingredient Changes

Purina’s acquisition of Merrick is another sign that pet food consolidations will continue just as they have in other industries. As PetfoodIndustry.com points out, whether this is positive for the industry, pet owners, or the pets we all feed is yet to be determined.

If you happen to feed Merrick products to your dog or cat, keep in mind that ingredient changes will appear on the company’s website long before they appear on product labels (in most cases, manufacturers are allowed to use up all the labels and packaging they have in stock before switching to updated labels).

Class Action Lawsuit Against Purina’s Beneful Is Expanding

A few months ago, I wrote about a class action lawsuit filed against Nestlé Purina charging that Purina’s Beneful brand dry dog food sickened two dogs in one family and caused the death of a third. The suit was filed on behalf of Frank Lucido, owner of the three dogs, in California federal court.

According to the lawsuit, owners of sick or dead dogs that were fed Beneful kibble have made over 3,000 online consumer complaints. The symptoms most consistently mentioned were vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, internal bleeding in the stomach, and a problem with or failure of the liver. You can read a sampling of the complaints in the original court filing.

This past June, the original class action complaint was amended to include over 26 pet owners in 15 states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

Is Purina Trying to Silence Its Online Critics?

Purina’s public response to the initial charges was unsurprising, blaming the lawsuit on “social media-driven misinformation”:

“Like other pet foods, Beneful is occasionally the subject of social media-driven misinformation. Online postings often contain false, unsupported, and misleading allegations that cause undue concern and confusion for our Beneful customers.”

However, according to NBC News, Purina is working behind the scenes to attempt to silence online critics:

“The amended suit claims that Purina has been contacting consumers who post negative experiences with Beneful to social media, denying liability while offering them cash settlements in exchange for restrictive confidentiality agreements. The lawsuit claims to include a copy of a non-disclosure agreement for a complaint involving Beneful.

Schopp, the Purina spokesman, said any customer service agreements and compensation were ‘good-will gestures’ by the company and a common practice in many industries.”

So What Does All This Mean for You and Your Pet?

It’s important to realize that your pet’s first line of defense in avoiding low quality or contaminated commercial pet food is you. Don’t depend on pet food companies or government regulators like the FDA to have your dog’s or cat’s best interests at heart.

My first recommendation, if you’re worried about the quality of the commercial pet food you’re offering your dog or cat, is to prepare pet meals yourself in your own kitchen with ingredients you select (and based on balanced, species-appropriate recipes).

Alternatively, I recommend buying from small pet food companies who offer fresh, whole, species-appropriate, preferably organic, human grade, and non-GMO diets for dogs and cats.

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