I started this trade association because I have a passion for nutrition. When I was a practicing veterinarian, I treated 80% of what walked through the door with nutrition. I co-authored a cookbook of balanced recipes using people food without supplements with my amazing friend Susan Thixton (Dinner PAWsible ). And I feel very strongly that home cooked meals are a great way to go for pets. But I also am enough in touch with reality to realize that most people don’t even cook for themselves, therefore, cooking for their pets may be a bit of a stretch. In fact, I’ve had numerous clients tell me that!
The great news is that there are many, many small companies manufacturing the right foods. These companies make it possible for pet owners to have more than one option to feed healthy pet food. They have more options that just home-cooking – now they can also purchase fantastic quality food. And that’s the purpose of this trade association: to make sure these foods remains available to the public.
The way laws are currently worded, the FDA and certain state regulators are very anti-raw (frozen, dehydrated, and freeze-dried) pet food. However, there’s a reason why these companies are growing at 40% a year when the overall market is stable at 6% growth – they’re manufacturing what people want to feed! So if pet owners don’t make their food, they should have access to what is available on the market. (Note: there are other wonderful methods of pet food manufacturing; because they are not “raw” they are not the focus of FDA and state regulatory efforts.)
It is a fact of life that barriers present themselves making it hard for us to move forward – potential recalls are just one such barrier. Different departments of agriculture blanket test raw foods in the marketplace to detect presence of pathogens. The goal of such blanket testing is to force a recall before the laboratory has done its due diligence and completely identified the presence of a pathogen.
Another barrier to moving forward, surprisingly, relates to continuing education. The hallmark of a great pet food manufacturer is the desire to always improve. For this reason, many owner/manufacturers of nutritionally defensible pet food companies attend continuing education led by “experts” in the field. The unfortunate consequence of these training events is the manufacturers are often left feeling like they are not providing a quality product; when in truth they are. One person’s definition of “ideal” it’s not the same as another. The body of evidence regarding “ideal” nutrition is not yet large enough to determine what constitutes truly “ideal” pet nutrition. Therefore, all manufacturers do the best they can. The customers’ pets actually answer the question pertaining to the quality of the diet: if the diet is optimal, the animal looks better, feels better. The coats are no longer greasy, they shed less, their allergies are reduced, the red tear staining is reduced in animals eating quality diets.
Our colleagues who present a “better way” do so because they have everyone’s best interest at heart. Their effort is not intended to make other manufacturers feel inferior and exit pet food manufacturing; it’s simply intended to raise awareness and encourage everybody to deliver their best possible. The companies who stick with “status quo” are the ones who do not grow. These are the pet food Giants.
I remain passionate about pet food because I know not only does great food cure 80% of what walked in my clinic door, but it’s also 80% of what people do for their pets, and it’s where 80% of the satisfaction of pet ownership comes from – people love to feed their pets and love to know that their pets feel good because of great food/nutrition. This is why I started Next Gen PFMA – to support you. To keep you in business. To do everything I can so that the people who can’t or won’t home cook for their pets have the options available that they and their pets deserve.