drawing of woman holding a small kitten

Are Pet Food Reviews Legit? Think Again. Most Are Just Ads in Disguise

I was shopping the other day at the health food store, looking for the holy grail: un-scented certified organic shampoo, when my eyes popped out of my head. There, on the shelf was a – drum roll – a Certified Organic, Human Edible, Animal Welfare-Approved pet food! This was the day I had been waiting for!

Do you know why I didn’t know about it? I don’t get out enough? Well, yeah. But the real reason is I never read pet food recommendations or reviews. Why? Because – I’ll be blunt – they’re bullshit. Really.

I can tell you (because who else would know this) that nearly every site that reviews pet food sells it. Either directly – with glowing recommendations with links to Amazon or Chewy’s, or the sneakier way by using affiliate links.

Even more, insidious and nefarious is the veterinarians’ professional advice on a university website, which, upon closer inspection, could be co-sponsored by one or more pet food companies.

But, here’s the thing: At the end of the day, people just want to feed their pets decent food. They want a recommendation. That’s it.

I hate passing pet food customers in the aisle or scaring them with stories about the dark side of the pet food industry, which is basically what I do here. I scare the shit out of people.

But, what really kills me is the pet food aisle in the Dollar Store, which I avoid looking at if I possibly can—shielding my eyes to America’s poverty where maybe that’s all someone can afford. I weep when I see the people turning over packages, mulling over their worth, who love their pets as much as I do.

But I can afford to be a snob—most of the time. Even when I can’t afford it, I still spend a shocking amount on food for my cats. And I’m in the privileged position of being an insider. My reputation as an independent has been hard won. I pride myself that I’ve never sold out.

My problem is, how do I recommend pet food and it not be an endorsement? Because let’s face it – it is one. How could I continue to report on the pet food industry and pet food companies without complete and absolute objectivity? I couldn’t. How could you trust me if I was biased towards one brand and not another? You couldn’t.

Aside from general advice, such as avoiding decomposing animal tissue, feed-grade ingredients, denatured meat and poultry, meat meals, raw meat, rendered ingredients, and a bunch of other horrible stuff like 4D meat and euthanized animals, the only solid advice I can give you is to buy human-edible pet food. And organic if possible. And if the company mentions animal welfare concerns, that’s even better. And my highest hope for the future of pet food is insect-based protein – crickets, mealworms, fly larvae, and other bugs. And please, don’t fall for greenwashing claims such as sustainability. And by all means, do not buy into the natural claim – it’s bullshit.

The good news: I think we’re getting pretty close to being able to buy the holy grail of pet food: Human-edible, Certified Organic, Animal Welfare Approved, dehydrated, insect-based protein cat and dog food – that’s not a kibble.

Next time I pass a pet food consumer in the grocery store, maybe I’ll give them that advice and leave the scare tactics for another day. 

On another – super important – note: I need your financial support – as always. As everyone knows, I’d rather starve than do affiliate marketing or get paid for endorsements; instead of selling my soul, I sell my drawings of pets and the people that love them on Saatchi Art. The featured image is a portrait I did of the animal activist and actor Amanda Seyfried.

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