The search for the fountain of youth is a concept that has existed since ancient times. Today, we know living a long and healthy life requires proper nutrition and an overall commitment to wellness. This means in large part how you eat can have a significant effect on your quality of life.
This is equally true for our pets, although the understanding of pet nutrition some would argue is 20 years behind human food practices and understanding, particularly amongst consumers.
What Metrics Matter Most When Choosing the Right Nutrition For Your Dog?
While navigating the minefield of pet nutrition, pet formulas and processing practices are more than overwhelming for us as pet parents, thankfully, there are tools available to help. They give us the ability to properly analyze two key metrics that matter the most when it comes to choosing the right food for our beloved fur babies. These two factors being the nutritional goodness of a food and its cost to you on a per day or per month basis.
The Two Key Metrics: Nutritional Goodness and Cost
If consumers could properly evaluate these two metrics, the whole food selection difficulty would be over. It would certainly be nice to know we have made the best choice for our pets and give us peace of mind that the right decision was made. Thankfully, we can know these metrics. In terms of cost, we can know 100% which is the best value food choice, and we can get a pretty good idea in terms of nutritional quality...with some caveats. Well, on to the subject at hand, let’s look at the easiest metric first...the cost.
Costs: How to Price Compare
Have you ever considered why price comparison between pet foods is so difficult? It’s because you are shown the price by weight or volume. But that gives you no idea how long that food will actually last.
This means to properly compare various types or brands of pet food; for example, you would have to compare across multiple products and do the math necessary to figure out how long each individual food would last. That takes a lot of calculation power. In many instances, this challenge will result in you just buying a pet food that seems to give you a lot of quantity for not so much money. Guess what that results in? That’s right, BOOM, you have chosen an unhealthy food option for your pet without even realizing.
Caloric Intake Is What Determines Cost
When beginning our journey towards optimal pet nutrition, we were surprised by just how much variance there was in food prices. The universally adopted approach towards determining how long a particular bag of food will last is the caloric needs of a pet and the calorie density of a food. Unfortunately, calorie density can vary as much as 10x. For example, a wet canned dietary food can have 450 Cal/Kg (its calorie density), while a super-dense freeze-dried formula can have as much as 5,000 Cal/Kg. This means some foods are highly concentrated while others require large quantities. This is why you should benchmark foods by price per calorie and then base this on your pet’s caloric needs to figure out the cost per day for your individual pet.
Price Varies Even When Bags are Similar Weight/Size
There are many price variations even when the food bags are virtually the same size. For example, a 20lb bag of dog food can vary from as little as $0.15c per day to up to $20 a day. You might wonder, does the expense mean the food is better? Is the expensive food actually 150x better than the cheaper one? Is there enough of a nutritional difference to justify such a price difference? Well, this is the million-dollar question in the pet industry and a big secret they would love to keep. It’s also why it's challenging for you to find affordable food that is nutritionally beneficial. Here’s the honest truth about the cost of pet food and its nutritional value and the answer to the pertinent question:
- The cheapest foods are usually much more processed and less healthy. Good ingredients cost money, meaning healthier foods often cost more as do better ingredient sources.
- The most expensive foods are a rip-off. They are usually a form of veterinary or prescription diet that purports to be medically necessary.
Somewhere in between these two industry extremes, you find amazing foods at a great value.
The Cost of Food Processing
Processing also has a great deal to do with the overall cost of pet food. Here’s a rough guideline to keep in mind:
- Kibble is the cheapest food.
- Kibble sprinkled with dry food is next.
- Canned food is one step up from that in terms of cost.
- Dehydrated food comes next.
- Fresh food follows this.
- Freeze-dried food is the most expensive option.
Interestingly enough, the most expensive food is not process-based but its branded foods such as prescription food, special diets or veterinary diets. Surprisingly, there are near identical formulations for these foods available that aren’t branded veterinary or medical in any way, which you can purchase for a fraction of the price. This is an example of a common branding trick within the pet food industry. In fact, there is a class action lawsuit about this very issue leveled against many major manufacturers.
Bottom Line: The Cost Metric
To sum it all up, it is possible to know for certain the cost per day of any food you are buying for your pet. Consequently, the cost metric is one factor that should be key in choosing the right food. Why overpay unnecessarily for food? We understand that you are wired to believe that paying more equals better quality, but in the pet food industry, this is far from true in all cases. Keep this in mind and don’t be tricked into paying more for no benefit.
The Nutritional Quality of a Food
Now onto the second metric you should consider when evaluating a pet food, its nutritional value. We all know our pets face health issues, just like us humans. We also know that their food is key in terms of creating a healthy animal. Some pet foods are amazing in this department, some less so. Obviously, giving them junk food has medium and long term consequences. The challenge before us is figuring out which is which, what foods have good nutritional value and which do not?
Is There a Rating System for Nutritional Value?
Rating foods for their nutritional value is complicated, even for the experts. In actuality, none of us know the quality of the raw materials used to make a specific batch of food or from where those ingredients came. We also don’t know the important research that was behind the nutritional design effort to create a particular recipe or the safety or quality control practices of a company or what has been neglected. We can’t possibly know how a company processes, stores or ships finished goods, no one can except the manufacturers themselves. So, we have to use the information we do know to make the best choice for our pet.
Common Sense Reasoning to Quantify Nutritional Value
While we can’t know EVERYTHING about how our pet’s food is manufactured or produced, we can use common sense to evaluate our options. For example, we know that highly processed foods, like biscuits, are bad for us, while natural, fresh produce is good for us. Sugar is bad but fresh veggies are good. This understanding is important to evaluating what our pets consume but by itself is not sufficient. The balance of nutrients is also an essential part of the picture.
Knowing What Ingredients Are Good/Bad For Your Fur Baby
While you know the good versus bad options for your own diets as mentioned above, knowing what is good and bad for your pet in terms of ingredients is less than obvious. Thankfully, we have done the hard work for you and identified the ingredients in various foods and labeled them good or less good. We have also explored the amount of each type of ingredient that is necessary to create a healthy food choice and give you this information. In essence, this is our way of helping you learn the tricks the expert formulators use, allowing you to see through the noise and properly quantify the nutritional value of any given food choice. Unfortunately, we still lack the information about where the ingredients in a food come from, how they are stored, prepared, the food safety measures used, etc. However, as outlined previously, no one knows this except those who work within the manufacturing plant itself.
Data and Well Designed Algorithms Are Key
Our ability to help you by giving you this information is only possible thanks to years of dedicated data gathering pertaining to each food choice. Our algorithms that use this valuable data are created in consultation with experts in nutrition, food science, pet recipe formulation and they run independently of human motivation. This means the answers are at least objective, even though we understand that the information is less than complete. The usefulness of our nutritional ranking is undeniable. It opens the door to finding surprising solutions for our pets that can significantly increase the nutritional rating of their food and often does so without us having to spend more money, and in some cases, saving big.
The Metrics of Cost and Nutritional Value Matter
While we would all love to find that fountain of youth for ourselves and our pets, increasing the chances of them living a long, healthy life, understanding how to choose the right food or even being able to figure out what is and is not a healthy option is anything but easy. Thankfully, by considering the two metrics of cost and nutritional value, you can at least better evaluate any potential pet food choice and make a more educated decision regarding your pet’s health needs and their current diet. We welcome you to use our resources to help you in this quest of finding the very best option for your pet both in terms of cost and nutritional value. Above all else, remind yourself that you are doing the best you can to care for your most valued treasure, your precious pet and we want to make that as easy as possible for you going forward.