Monday, March 26, 2007

Soylent Green is Kitties

Like most pet owners, I recently received the same apology letter and pet food recall list from Petsmart regarding the recall of certain types of dog and cat food, tainted with rat poison no less. What does create the undercurrent of astonishment is the range of the ‘brands’ involved. How could all of the different brands all get contaminated the same way? Of course we know the answer – the contamination happened all at one plant operated by Menu Foods, which is an outsourced provider for all of the food made by these different companies.

Of course, that’s not entirely true. This event reveals a rather unsavory secret in the industry, which is that despite the incredible proliferation of pet food options for those worried about getting the food ‘just right’ for their precious little furry ones, there is no difference between what’s in the different brands. Because all of the brands are just the creation of fevered minds in marketing departments.

It’s fun to troll the web and see the debates between those who prefer Iams over Eukenuba and vice versa, but they are actually owned by one company (Iams), who treats those two brands differently (they have two separate websites, etc). But of course that is only a small part of the story. For Iams is not a company itself, but is instead a division of Procter and Gamble. Science Diet is ‘owned’ by Hills. But ‘Hills’ is a division of Colgate-Palmolive. Pedigree and Royal Canin are owned by Mars. And of course Purina owns half of what else is out there. Except Purina is owned by Nestle. There are almost no ‘mom and pop’ healthy pet food companies. And those that do exist end up within a few years being part of the big machine. And yet another ‘brand’ is created, owned by one of 4 companies who either originally made chocolate or household chemicals.

So it's hardly a surprise to find out that half the pet food brands in existence all have the same contamination. When we pick Iams over Science Diet, all that we're doing is picking a favorite color or type font. The manufacturing process that Procter and Gamble uses to make their pet food and their shaving cream is going to be the same, whether or not we are paying any extra for a brand with 'nutro-' or 'orgo-' or 'healthy-' in the title.

Of course much the same is true about what people eat. All of those healthy drinks and stuff make for fun reading. Tropicana, SoBe, Quaker, Aquafina, Lipton… all owned by Pepsi. Dasani, Dannon, Earth and Sky, Eight O’Clock, Fruitopia, Five Alive, Hi-C, Minute-Maid, Mutivita, Nestea, Nature’s Own, Odwalla, Powerade, Schweppes, Sobo, Vital, Viva and Vegitabeta…all owned by Coca Cola.