I’m passionate about species-appropriate feline nutrition, and have written extensively about the topic. I maintain a small list of brands of raw or grain-free canned food that I’m comfortable recommending after doing thorough research. These are brands that I either currently feed Allegra and Ruby, or have fed them in the past.

The pet food industry, like the food industry in general, is not known for its transparency, so it can be difficult to obtain accurate and current information. This is why I’m so appreciative of organizations like the Cornucopia Institute, whose mission is to provide information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement. While their focus is on promoting justice for family scale farming, the work they do benefits the health of all living beings, from humans to animals to plants.

The Cornucopia Institute just released a new report that exposes serious problems in pet food industry regulations and how specific loopholes allow for the use of questionable ingredients that could negatively impact companion animal health. The report accuses some brands of using cheap ingredients, carcinogenic additives, and preservatives that are bad for long-term pet health, as well as attempting to intentionally deceive consumers with pet food labels.

The report contains important information for every cat guardian. I’d like to highlight some of the report’s findings today:

  • As with people in the US, the most common causes of death for both cats and dogs include diseases associated with poor diet, such as obesity, heart disease, gastrointestinal disease, and cancer.
  • In many cases, consumers get what they pay for, but price doesn’t always indicate high quality.
  • Different brands are owned by a few multi-national corporations, and nearly identical food is merely packaged differently.
  • Many premium pet food manufacturers do not own their own production facilities and contract with co-packers that produce low quality foods.
  • Legislation and regulatory oversight of pet food is aimed at the feed industry.
  • Pet food is highly processed, often resulting in hidden and questionable ingredients.
  • Ingredient labeling can be confusing.

You can read the complete report here. The report also includes an eye-opening buyer’s guide, which explains what to watch for when companies get creative with marketing and labeling.

Moe Kastel

I found it particularly poignant that the report is dedicated to Moe, a beautiful grey cat who Cornucopia co-founder Mark Kastel adopted about ten years ago. When Moe had a crisis with a urinary tract blockage, he was put on a canned high carb low calorie prescription diet. Mark was concerned about putting him on conventional (non-organic) food. Ironically, just as the Cornucopia Institute began its research into the risks of carrageenan in human diets, Moe began having gastrointestinal problems. Mark looked at his food and discovered that it was loaded with carrageenan. Sadly, Moe succumbed to intestinal lymphoma. Mark dedicated the report do Moe’s memory in hopes that it will spur changes in the pet food industry.

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19 Comments on Report Sheds Light On Serious Problems in the Pet Food Industry

  1. Ingrid, thank you for posting about the dangers of carageenan. Not only has it probably been the contribution that instigated colon cancer in two of my cats, but it turns out that I have a problem with it as well. I switched “my cats” (who are snickering at my calling them that) to one of The Cornucopia listed non-carageenan foods and started reading the labels of the very few processed foods in my home. Who knew that heavy cream had carageenan in it?

    Not only do “my cats” have glossier coats an more energy, but I do as well. Thank you from all of us.

    • It’s quite startling what you find when you start reading labels, isn’t it, Eva? I’m glad your kitties are doing better on the carrageenan-free food.

  2. After reading this, I called Wellness yesterday for the third time in 2 years and asked them why the continue to include carrageenan in most of their canned cat food. It’s always the same response: that it’s approved by the FDA and they only use the ‘food grade’ type. They also sent a full page email explaining their decision which I forwarded to Cornucopia. I refuse to purchase food for humans or pets that contain carrageenan.

    • Thanks for letting us know what Wellness’ response was, Carmen. Not surprising, but frustrating! Would you mind forwarding their email to me?

  3. Thankful, that we have people trying to help us pet owners by informing us of these products n what these companies r putting into our pets food. I will NEVER trust Purina’s products ever again. Great job Ingrid and Cornucopia Institute.

  4. I didn’t see fancy feast on this list and that’s all my 12 year old stray will eat? What would that be under? Thanks!

  5. This is a topic which regularly manages to piss me off… We spend a small fortune on pet food, yet the industry largely takes advantage of people wanting to do the right thing for their pets.
    If I pay a lot of money for food I fully expect the companies to at least properly disclose of the ingredients in their food products.

  6. This is why I feel confident about my choice to purchase pasture-raised, free-range meat and meat/bone/organ mixes from qualified local small farmers through a long-time local meat market that wins awards for its quality and cleanliness. On occasion I’ll purchase a few cans or one of the raw or cooked mixes, but I want real food for my real cats. I gave up processed and packaged foods and began growing my own organic vegetables decades ago, and glad to give my cats whole local foods too.

  7. This is such an important post. I’ve shared it all over social media. We stopped feeding food with carrageenan a few years ago. I was a little disappointed that the report didn’t mention Fancy Feast or Sheba with commercial food because that’s the food of choice for many cat parents.

  8. Well I have been wondering if they have been changing the ingredients in the cat food. I used to feed many many years ago my cats nothing but mainly dry food and they all stayed very healthy. But now days that doesn’t work. I am talking 50 years ago. It is just a crying shame that we can’t get just a plain healthy cat food without spending a fortune.
    Thanks for this great post Ingrid.

  9. Thank you so much for passing this Report on. The Report makes it easier to research these these food companies offerings than going Co. by Co.

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