History of Pet Food


The pet food industry in the U.S. is relatively young, which is surprising when you consider the vast and confusing array of pet food offerings available on the market.

Prepared pet food has only been around for about 60 years, and has experienced most of its growth spurt in just the last 30 years.

Before analyzing the regulation of pet food it is worth noting the development of the industry over the last 100 years.

Prior to the introduction of commercial pet food, dogs ate table scraps salvaged from their human companions.

Cats, kept for their rodent hunting abilities, mostly subsisted on their own kills.

Companion animals survived for decades on these diets.

The First Commercial Pet Food


An American by the name of James Spratt produced the first commercial dog food, a biscuit, in 1860. Spratt was a salesman in London when he noticed dogs on docks being fed left over biscuits from the ships.


His product proved profitable and was sold to English gentlemen who owned sporting dogs.

In 1890 his formula and production were taken over by a large company which then began operations in the United States.

During the 1980's the pet food industry’s monstrous profits diminished when inflation combined with increased advertising budgets started eating into earnings.

The biggest blow came in the form of new found skepticism by consumers.

During the 80's, the revelation that the world’s food supply was lagging behind population growth attracted substantial media attention.

Why Does Pet Food Cost so Much?


Consumers began wondering why they were paying so much money for their pets’ food when there might not be sufficient food for humans.

This forced a once booming industry to defend the need for its products.

Ironically, this meant that instead of selling their products as “fit for humans” complete with peas and carrots in canned dog foods, the industry began insisting that their “principal ingredients are not suitable for human use.”

Considering that the industry and its regulators claim that pet foods are safe for human consumption, and indeed, are ingested by some humans, any assertion that the main ingredients are not “suitable” for humans appears hypocritical.

Unfortunately, the pet food industry survived the 80's relatively unscathed and continues to thrive today.

To learn the shocking ingredients that are put in commercial pet foods 
click here

In fact, despite never reforming, the industry currently enjoys annual sales of  over $13 billion world wide.

The success of the pet food industry should not in and of itself trouble consumers, rather, consumer concern should focus on the inadequate regulatory regime that the industry has established and maintained. 

Many commercial foods rely on sub-standard ingredients and yet bear claims of “complete” and “balanced” with defenseless pets paying the price and unsuspecting owners paying avoidable vet bills.

Pet food, like human food, is regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (hereinafter “FFDCA”).

The FFDCA defines food as “articles used for food or drink for man or other animals...” and requires that all foods be free of adulteration and mis-branding.

Without further analysis, one could conclude from this definition that all pet foods are regulated and approved for human consumption.

This could not be further from the truth.

In fact, the website of the Center for Veterinary Medicine states that “animal feeds provide a practical outlet for plant and animal byproducts not suitable for human consumption,” a statement seemingly contradictory to the regulations of the FFDCA, which apply equally to human and animal foods.

The ASPCA handles over 160,000 animal poison related emergencies annually.

It's often pet owners who unwittingly poison their pets by giving them foods and drinks they can't tolerate, or give them dangerous "recalled" foods which can make them sick and even kill their pet. 

To see Recalls and Alerts of Pet Foods 
click here

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