By Olivia Harper,
It’s bad enough to find out you’ve been buying human-grade products that have been tested on animals. But what about your companion animal’s food?
Did you know that many pet food manufacturers use laboratory animals for what are called “feeding trials” to test new pet food recipes?
Sure, maybe it doesn’t sound so cruel to offer a dog or cat an all-you-can-eat pet food buffet. But what if they don’t like the new food or it makes them sick and they have no other options?
Plus, how would you like to receive all your meals and snacks in a holding cell with a bunch of white coats standing around staring at you while you eat?
No way. No thanks. You love animals. And you sure as heck don’t want to support pet food manufacturers that don’t treat animals with the same care that you treat your precious companions.
That’s why you are reading this article now. That’s why you are already on the hunt for information to make sure your pet isn’t unwittingly chowing down on the same dog food that another dog suffered to bring to market.
So don’t worry. I’ve got your back on this. In this article, you’ll learn about cruelty-free dog food brands that have developed humane pet food recipe testing methods. You will also meet the brands still known to use feeding trials and testing on animals so you know who not to support.
Most importantly, you’ll learn how to do your own research if you want to try a new pet food that is not listed below.
How to Find Out If Your Dog Food Is Cruelty-Free
There are two main ways to research any dog food you want to offer to your companion animal.
1. Check the food’s packaging and/or manufacturer’s website.2. Call the manufacturer directly.
How to Check the Dog Food Packaging For Cruelty Indicators
Most dog owners do not realize that the back of the dog food package has a lot more information on it than just the ingredients list and nutritional analysis.
What specifically are you looking for?
1. Use of feeding trials or tests.
2. Use of flavors.
How to find information about feeding trials.
Usually information about feeding tests or feeding trials will be printed on the back or side of the dog food packaging near the section titled “Guaranteed Analysis.”
Once you find that area, you want to look for some kind of language about AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) feeding protocols.
Why is this so important?
Many veterinarians and animal hospitals believe pet foods that have been subjected to AAFCO feeding trials are nutritionally superior to pet foods that don’t use inhumane laboratory animals and feeding tests to develop their recipes. Sadly, this helps to perpetuate use of inhumane feeding trials and tests within the pet food manufacturing industry.
This same mindset also perpetuates the breeding of dogs who are then sold to the laboratories that perform dog food feeding trials and other animal testing.
If the dog food package or the manufacturer’s website touts the use of AAFCO feeding protocols, this tells you that some type of formal feeding trials or tests were performed.
But it still doesn’t tell you what kind of tests were done and to what degree. Most importantly, it doesn’t tell you whether the food testing subjected dogs to undue stress or distress.
There are three main ways that feeding trials or tests are done today:
1. In a laboratory setting at the pet food manufacturer site.
2. In a third-party laboratory setting (manufacturer contracts testing out).
3. In intermediate settings such as in private pet owner homes or by having pet owners bring their animals to the laboratory to sample the food.
Because pet food testing can be done in different ways, this makes it extra important to call the pet food manufacturer directly and ask rather than assume. Some ethical pet food manufacturers actually only test their foods with volunteer owner/pet teams or even with their own staff members’ animals.
Other pet food manufacturers do the full-on laboratory-type testing. This is the type of testing that more frequently (but not always) puts dogs in harm’s way as new recipes are tested, evaluated, re-tested and so on and so forth.
You just need to know the truth about how a dog food gets to market before you make the decision to purchase that dog food for your own pooch.
How to find information about use of dog food flavor ingredients.
It is true that dog food recipe testing is big business today, but so is dog food flavoring testing.
You may have noticed that the ingredients list on packaging for your dog’s food includes references to natural flavors or other flavors or flavoring agents. The next question to start asking is what those flavors are and how they were made and tested.
Unfortunately, dog food flavor additives, whether natural or otherwise, are often flavor tested separately on – you guessed it – laboratory dogs.
So when you see “flavors” in the ingredients list of a pet food, this is another prompt to dig deeper. Finding information about flavors used and how they were tested is often more difficult because the pet food manufacturer may have bought the flavor agent from a different manufacturer.
Here again, you will need to contact the dog food manufacturer to ask if flavor tests were performed and, if so, whether these tests were done with laboratory animals.
In some cases you may be able to find detailed information on the manufacturer’s website about both feeding trials and flavor testing. But in most cases this information will not be readily accessible.
Cruelty-Free Dog Food Brands
Each one of these dog food brands has found alternate, ethical ways to abide by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations regarding pet food ingredients and nutritional guidelines.
These brands are listed in alphabetical order to help you find your brand quickly.
- Almo Nature
- Answers Pet Food
- Artemis Pet Food
- Azmira Holistic Animal Care
- Bravo Raw Diet
- Burns Dog Food
- Dynamite Marketing
- Feline’s Pride
- First Mate & Kasiks
- Flint River Ranch
- Forza 10
- Fromm Family Foods
- Happy Dog Food
- Holistic Blend
- I And Love And You
- Just Food for Dogs
- Lily’s Kitchen
- Lucy Pet Products
- Newman’s Own / Newman’s Own Organics
- Oma’s Pride
- Open Farm
- Pet Chef Express
- Pet Guard
- Pooch & Mutt
- Primal Pet Foods
- Raw Advantage
- Real Meat Company
- Sauder Feeds
- Sojourner Farms
- Solid Gold
- Stella & Chewy’s
- The Honest Kitchen
- Timberwolf Organics
- V-Dog Vegan Dog Food
- Veterinary Nutritional Formula
Non Cruelty-Free Dog Food Brands
These dog food brands (parent company in parentheses) are still known to use feeding trials to develop their pet food recipes.
- Bakers Complete (Nestle)
- Blue Buffalo (General Mills)
- Cesar (Mars)
- Eukanuba (Mars)
- Friskies (Nestle)
- Iams (Procter & Gamble)
- Hill’s / Hill’s Science Diet (Colgate-Palmolive)
- Natural Balance (J.M. Smucker)
- Nutro (Mars)
- Pedigree (Mars)
- Purina (Nestle)
- Royal Canin (Mars)
- Whiskas (Mars)
Remember, as transparency increasingly becomes the norm rather than the exception, new information can become available any time. It is always a good idea to research any new food, especially if the parent company is one of the “big four” (Mars, Nestle-Purina, Colgate-Palmolive, Proctor & Gamble).
Olivia Harper is the co-founder of the blog Daily Dog Stuff. Read more of Olivia’s guides and tips by visiting her blog.
The opinions and recommendations expressed above are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Anti-Vivisection Society.