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More and more of us are spoiling our pets with premium pet food and taking a little extra care to check out the nutritional labels.

Natural and Premium Pet Foods: Pricey, and Booming

Natural pet food section
Natural pet food section

Fur babies, fur children, man’s best friend, cats of Instagram. For many of us, our pets are way more than just pets, and we are willing to spend a little more on their happiness, health and well-being.

From designer outfits to premium pet food, pet care is a huge industry in the U.S., with Americans spending about $10 billion on premium pet food in 2014 alone, the Washington Post reports. The pet industry has been on the upswing since the 1980s, but the recent surge in premium pet food spending may be a result of American’s current obsession with gluten-free, grain-free, natural, organic, raw, non-GMO and non-processed foods.

It makes sense that as we begin to gain awareness of what goes into our own bodies we would naturally second-guess that bag of kibble we give to our pet every day, and American pet store chains like PetSmart are reaping the benefits big time. PetSmart reports that sales have doubled since 2000, to $22 billion for 2014. The company has done so well that, as USA Today reports, it is “being acquired for about $8.2 billion in what would be the biggest private equity deal of 2014,” and for stockholders, the “sale works out to $83 a share in cash.” Not bad for a little pet store started back in the late 1980s, which now boasts 53,000 employees and 1,352 stores nationwide. This acquisition speaks volumes for the industry moving forward. We might even say that 2015 is the Year of the Pet.

A survey of people’s views on the nutritional intake of their pets conducted by market researcher Mintel, cited in the Washington Post article on American’s spending habits on fancy dog food, found that 79 percent of those surveyed agreed that “the quality of their pet’s food is as important as their own.” Seventy-two percent of those surveyed felt their pet was in fact a part of their family. And David K. Lenhardt, PetSmart’s president and chief executive, would agree, saying that “we see the continued humanization of pets, people treating their pets like family.” For example, Purina offers 84 different types of dog food, specialized for a number of different pet “needs.” The company even sell nutritional supplements for dogs in the form of “power bar” type treats, called PRiME and ReFUEL, just as you would find in the protein bar aisle of a grocery store.

Spoiling our pets with premium pet food and taking a little extra care to check out the nutritional labels isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but pet owners should be wary of certain pet diets that encourage “people food” or certain supplements as there are a number of foods pets should never consume, and to avoid nutritional imbalances, experts recommend that treats should never make up more than ten percent of your pet’s total diet. Just be smart about it, talk with your vet and do your research.

So how do you know if your premium pet purchase is worth it? That’s hard to say, since, as cited in an article on vets discussing pet food pitfalls, “most pet owners don’t know that companies are not required by law to test the food before they put it out on the market,” so be cautious of marketing that touts labels like “raw” or “grain free” that may just be pricier but no better than the budget brands. The one thing to look for that is always present on legitimate pet food is the nutritional adequacy statement that is required for approval by the Association of American Feed Controls Officials. This statement tells you if that particular pet food was “formulated or if it went through a feeding test.” Still, as with any other product, it is a good idea to look at the labeling yourself and even do a little research on the company and its products and read some customer reviews.

About Alyssa Sellors

Alyssa Sellors was an English and Journalism educator for eight years and now works as a freelance writer and journalist. She is a regular contributor to a number of publications. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her husband, baby boy, and two chihuahuas.

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