For the past few months, I've been working closely with my company on a national education campaign around premium quality pet nutrition. In response to what we learned from our survey, we have added at least two nutrition certified associates in every PETCO store to help customers find a premium quality pet food that's best for their dog or cat. In my nearly thirteen years working in the pet industry I have gained a strong working knowledge of dog and cat foods. That's why I've been asked to help spread the news that feeding a better quality food to your pet will make a significant difference in their quality of life. In the coming weeks, you may be seeing or hearing me speak publicly about the benefits of a premium or natural pet food. Check out this news release that was issued yesterday:
Whether choosing food for themselves, their families or their pets, most Americans pay particular attention to nutritional value. Eighty-three percent of American pet parents consider the nutritional value of their own food to be critical (31%) or important (52%). As pets are increasingly treated as members of the family, pet parents show a similar level of interest in choosing the right food for their pets, with 79 percent putting the same critical or important emphasis on their pet’s nutrition.
But despite these good intentions, the survey highlighted a significant disconnect between pet parent confidence in the nutritional value of their pet’s food (78%) and their ability to evaluate pet food value by reading package labels. Only 43 percent of respondents understand how to evaluate the nutritional value of their pet’s food by looking at ingredients; only 41 percent report knowing which ingredients are the most nutritious or which ones to avoid; and only 39 percent know the nutritional difference between basic, premium, natural and organic pet food.
“The human food industry has done a great job educating consumers on how to read labels to select healthy ingredients and steer clear of unhealthy ones,” said Rick Rockhill, Vice President of Merchandise Innovation for PETCO. “We want to arm consumers with the same kind of knowledge to make the best choices for their pets. We’re confident that by providing pet parents with the tools and by staffing our stores with trained nutrition experts, we can increase the number of pets enjoying the health benefits of great nutrition, and living healthier, happier lives with their human companions.”
PETCO provides the largest selection of premium, natural and organic dog and cat foods of any national retailer. The company is extending that leadership with a full nutrition education campaign that includes:
• In-depth training and certification for at least two staff nutrition experts at every PETCO store;
• Pet Nutrition Workshops for consumers, to be held in all PETCO stores at 2 p.m. on Nov. 14; and
• Providing educational materials and pet nutrition guidance, including a complete Food Finder, to consumers online at PETCO.com/nutritioncenter.
“Many people would be surprised to know that human nutritional needs can be very different from those of our pets,” Rockhill said. “For ourselves, we’ve been trained to look for low-fat, unprocessed foods that provide energy with the right balance of protein and carbohydrates. But dogs and cats actually get most of their energy from fat and have an easier time digesting foods that have been correctly processed. So instead of looking for food that mirrors human nutrition, pet parents need to understand and reference a different set of guidelines for their pets.”
Pet parents also often mistakenly believe that premium or natural pet foods cost much more than less nutritious food. But while premium formulas sometimes cost more for the same size bag or can of basic food, they are made with higher-quality ingredients and are more nutrient-dense, which allows pets to absorb more of the nutrients they need with less food.
To help pet parents make informed decisions about pet nutrition, PETCO has created the following guidelines on how to choose the right food for your pet:
Recognize that humans, cats and dogs have very different nutritional needs
- Don’t select your pet’s food based on your nutrition needs. Dogs, cats and humans have very different body processes, which create different nutritional needs. For instance, while we’re trained to eat a low-fat diet, dogs and cats get most of their energy from fat, which should account for at least 20 percent of their overall diet.
- Don’t share food among species. Even with the best of intentions, many people make the mistake of feeding their pets food from their own dinner table, making their own pet food, or allowing multiple household pets to share the same food. Make sure your pet’s food is specially formulated to provide the right balance of nutrients for each species’ unique needs.
- Start with your pet’s age, breed, activity level and any special needs. There is always more than one food that may be right for your pet. To narrow your options, understand the basic needs of your pet’s breed (size, species), life stage (puppy, adult or senior), activity level and any special health needs (overweight, food allergies, joint issues, etc.).
- Different food categories are designed for specific lifestyles and nutritional needs. Premium foods typically exceed minimum standards to provide complete nutrition and are based on extensive research into the unique nutritional needs of dogs and cats. You know a food is premium when it contains a balanced mix of easy-to-identify, high-quality proteins, fats and carbohydrates without any added sugars or artificial colors.
- Don’t judge a food’s quality by how the package looks. Just because a package is covered with wholesome-looking ingredients doesn’t mean the food inside is nutritious. Read the small print on the ingredient list and nutrition label, instead of depending on illustrations or advertising on the package.
- Look for high-quality proteins. Read the full ingredient list to evaluate all the proteins provided, and don’t assume a meal or by-product meal is less nutritious. As long as the origin is specifically named (for instance, chicken meal or salmon by-product, rather than meat meal or poultry by-product) the ingredient is a high-quality protein source.
- Use the Guaranteed Analysis. Similar to human food nutrition facts, the guaranteed analysis, a panel included on every pet food package label, will tell you the food’s overall protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber and moisture content.
- Determine the primary ingredients and protein sources. Ingredients on pet food labels are listed by weight. Look at the first five to eight ingredients and ensure there is a healthy combination of correctly processed, high-quality, specific protein sources.
- The combination of ingredients is more important than any single ingredient. Food can contain more than one form of the same ingredient, so read the whole label for a healthy balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate sources with natural names you recognize.
PETCO is a privately held specialty retailer that provides products, services and advice that make it easier for our customers to be great pet parents. We operate more than 950 stores in 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as a leading pet products and information destination at PETCO.com. Our nonprofit organization, The PETCO Foundation, has raised more than $50 million since its inception in 1999 to help promote and improve the welfare of companion animals. In conjunction with the foundation, we work with and support more than 6,200 local animal welfare groups across the country to help find homes for more than 200,000 adoptable animals every year.
The survey was conducted on PETCO’s behalf, from Sept. 10-13, 2009, by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC). Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,010 adults in a random sample of U.S. households (one interview per household). ORC weighted the survey results by four demographic characteristics: age, sex, geographic region and race to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population 18 years of age or older. This report is based on a weighted total sample of 527 respondents who have at least one cat or dog in their household. The sampling error associated with a sample size of 527 is no more than plus/minus 4.3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level. This means that if this survey were repeated 100 times with separate samples, the results for individual questions would be within plus/minus 4.3 percentage points in 95 surveys out of 100.