From Raw To Commercial To Natural: The Story Of Dog Food
Today, the shelves of even grocery stores, let alone pet supply stores, offer customers an impressive number of dog food brands. This has not always been the case. Dogs, unless they belonged to the wealthy, lived off whatever scraps they were thrown. Farm dogs often lived off whatever they could hunt and kill or find already dead. If they were lucky, they got the offal and other cheap scraps of meat the butchers and their owners rejected.
The First Commercial Dog Food Arrives
The Industrial Revolution resulted in increased mechanization and an increase in the wealth of the Middle Class. They listened to the general wisdom of the time and sought to “civilize” their dogs. This meant listening to the new notion that they should not feed them raw meat. By the late 1800s, this had become the gospel.
This perception of a clear distinction between wild and tame dog food had already been abetted by the “invention” of the first commercial dog food in around 1860 by an American visiting England. James Spratt created a new dog food based on Sea farers’ “ship’s biscuits,” or hard tack that were frequently tossed on the dock after a trip. He had seen the dogs devouring them and decided to create his own version.
Spratt’s Patent Meal Fibrine Dog Cakes appeared for sale in England in 1860. They were so successful, he decided to expand into the United States in 1870. By 1890, the American dog food industry was booming. The obvious interest in the public resulted in the creation of other dog food products including several that claimed health benefits e.g. A.C. Daniel’s Medicated Dog Bread.
Dog Food in the 20th Century
The marketing of dog food continued throughout the early 20th century, however, the most movement or improvements in dog diets do not really have a major impact until after the 1930s. The now well-known Milkbones began manufacturing in 1931. Canned dog food continued to have a strong market until World War II saw the metals required elsewhere. It then became more common to feed animals the two types of dry dog food available at the time – a kibble made of crumbled biscuits and a pellet form.
In the 1950s Ralston Purina came up with a new formulation. This new dog food was processed like no other dog food had been before. The dogs (through the help of clever marketing) ate up this easily digested food. The era of readily available, light and easy to serve dry dog food had truly begun.
By this point cereals and other grains were being combined with other ingredients in increasing amounts. Meat by-products were also making their way into the canned dog food of the time. These two trends were to dominate the next few decades as companies vied for a market share in the dog and other pet food market.
The earliest special diets for dogs appeared as early as 1947. They addressed the health issues of kidney and heart disease. However, over the years since then, many different special diets have been formulated in response to a perceived need by owners, vets and even dog food companies, to address the various health issues, ages, sizes and breeds of dog. Hills was among the first to specialize in health issues foods but others have since followed including Royal Canin and Iams. Many others now formulate dog food that is said to address health, gender and other breed or age specific matters.
The Natural Way
These are the major commercial contenders, but those who have dogs no longer view commercial foods as the only answer. Many turn to natural dog food. Since the problems with deadly dog food, many owners are now reading the content labels with greater intensity. They are cutting back on extraneous additives and products they see as at best filler, at worst potentially harmful.
It is a new age where dog people and cat owners as well, are becoming more aware of what is in their pet’s food. They are making their own decisions based on research and not that provided by the major commercial pet food companies. Dog food has become a massive industry. However, dog owners now realize that they can turn to other natural and healthier choices to provide their furry companion with the best dog food available.