The term ‘premium’ implies the highest level of quality; something that is ‘top-drawer’ or ‘first class’. Google produces around 5,930,000 results for the term ‘premium pet food’. Wow – so many great and nutritious options for Fido and Spot! But, wait: if you really look closer, the term “premium” seems to apply to almost all pet foods that are free of artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
Although manufacturers of so-called premium pet foods often use lower quality animal and fishmeal, gluten or fish oil, they exploit this very effective marketing term to advertise and sell their substandard products. Sometimes these manufacturers even combine the terms “premium” and “holistic” to describe their products.
So let’s talk about many pet food manufacturers’ choices of ingredients for products they label as ‘premium’. First of all, what’s wrong with animal meal? On the one hand, these kinds of ingredients are not well defined, and may even pose a risk to your animal’s health. Animal or fishmeal is defatted and the fat is often sold generically as “animal fat”.
Although this type of degreasing makes it easier for companies to produce pet foods with very specific nutrient contents, it does not necessarily contribute to a healthy diet for your animal. Chemically, these pet foods may contain appropriate amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals; unfortunately, intensive processing produces products that are far from natural and certainly far from healthy for your animal.
Aside from the use of low-quality ingredients, most manufacturers of premium pet foods add sludge from vitamin and mineral premixes, allowing them to designate their foods as “complete” or “balanced.
Considering the low quality of over-processed and altered ingredients used in most premium pet foods, it is understandable that vitamins (mostly synthetic) should be added as a last-minute idea to provide some nutritional quality. But such premixes are often of poor quality and are generally produced with little quality control in countries with minimal regulatory oversight.
Now, if the ingredients were of good quality, the use of such premixes could be greatly reduced, and even replaced by any other high-quality nutrient that cannot easily be supplied by the primary ingredients themselves. Due to lack of regulation, low operating standards and minimal ethical concerns on the part of some pet food manufacturers, quality feed ingredients are generally not healthy choices as ingredients for so-called “premium” pet foods. Honestly, food quality ingredients cannot be a healthy choice for any pet food.
The truth is that very few premium pet foods that are not USDA certified contain ingredients that are based on natural, minimally processed foods.
A truly healthy, premium pet food is simply holistic. Certainly the formulation of such a pet food would begin with ingredients based on whole foods that are USDA certified organic. In the United States, organic certification is currently the only guarantee that a given pet food contains no genetically modified ingredients or synthetics of any kind, and that it is free from most of the toxic residues that can accumulate during both ingredient production and food processing. And, of course, it should not be forgotten that both genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and agricultural toxins have been implicated in various diseases.
True premium holistic pet foods use only unrefined ingredients that are processed with care. Refining ingredients alters their nutritional composition, can degrade their nutritional quality and, in extreme cases, even render them useless or unhealthy.
For example, thermal processing destroys most ingredient-based nutrients and is therefore another reason why questionable mixtures of nutrients and vitamins are added to pet foods. In addition, some manufacturers seem to ignore the fact that neither dogs nor cats eat grains naturally.