Tag Archive for: dcm dogfood marketing

Grain-Free Dog Food Controversy: We Need Less Marketing and More Science

Since the controversy surrounding grain-free dog food and its potential association with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), pet food companies have been working hard to market their products as safe and healthy. However, two main marketing campaigns have emerged among these companies, and they may not be entirely truthful.

The Two Marketing Campaigns: Grain-Inclusive and Grain-Free

One campaign promotes grain-inclusive products, claiming that they have always offered them, but they have now revamped, re-released, or repackaged them in response to FDA announcements regarding DCM. However, it is important to note that grain-inclusive foods do not guarantee protection against DCM, and some of these companies may be exploiting the issue for profit.

The other campaign involves companies that predominantly offer grain-free products, which may have rushed to market with grain-inclusive products in response to the DCM controversy. Unfortunately, there is not enough data on the digestibility of many of these ancient grains to support their effectiveness in preventing DCM, and some grains may even negatively impact nutrient absorption. Additionally, there are ethical and sustainability concerns surrounding some ancient grains.

Knowledge Gap in Animal Nutrition and the Need for Scientific Education

The DCM controversy highlights a significant knowledge gap in animal nutrition and the need for more rigorous testing standards and scientific education for consumers. Pet food companies have been complacent in formulating to consumer demand without adequate scientific backing, leading to misleading marketing and a lack of transparency.

Rather than pandering to consumer demand and perpetuating misinformation, companies should prioritize scientific education and transparency. Adding taurine stickers or claiming to offer ancient grains does not solve the problem and may only contribute to consumer confusion and mistrust. Private marketing companies and consulting groups should also be held accountable for contributing to the problem instead of working towards a solution.

reading pet food ingredient labelSteps towards True Transparency

Pet food companies can take steps towards true transparency by improving testing standards, educating consumers on nutrition and testing methods, and being honest about the limitations and potential risks of their products. The private marketing companies and consulting groups are also just as guilty – taking advantage of an opportunity instead of contributing to a solution. It is time for the industry to prioritize science over marketing and truly work towards improving the health and wellbeing of our pets.

Necessary Changes for Transparency

What should have been done is ask companies to make several changes leading in the direction of real, instead of perceived transparency:

  • Tell consumers who formulated your food. What are their qualifications and experience? 
  • Release both 3rd party digestibility data and 3rd analytical data for all formulas they offer.
  • Rethink before using the word proprietary with retailers and consumers – it’s certainly not an impressive or appreciated tactic and raises more questions than answers.
  • Focus on education and science: help consumers on how to understand these reports. Since data can be intimidating, don’t use it as a way to hide from answering the hard questions. And don’t use the fact that they’re complicated keep you from making them publicly available.
  • Admit that we have significant knowledge gaps that need to be addressed and examine how your company could contribute to bridging those gaps. 
    • Does that mean contributing funds to new and/or ongoing research?
    • Does that mean designing and conducting new research?
    • Or both?
  • Honesty still goes a long way, especially when it comes to our pets – nobody has all the answers!

Prioritizing the Health and Wellbeing of our Pets

At the end of the day, everyone needs a break from marketing. Retailers and consumers need to demand better. Demand that companies take time to examine, and re-examine the data, talk to the consumers and retailers in order to learn where education opportunities are – rather than marketing opportunities. Ignorance of these problems will only breed more of the same. It’s time to break the cycle.