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Premium food vs. grocery store food: big difference?

Gina KimGina Kim AmsterdamMember Posts: 10
edited 26 February, 2008 in Food & Nutrition
Hey all... I'm mom to 8-month-old Russell and Scarlett, and being a discerning Meowmy,'I've always been under the impression that my babies HAVE to have premium pet shop only food, aka the expensive kind. I'm not sure why I make the automatic assumption that expensive = better, because sometimes I think about it and wonder if the stuff that you get at the grocery could be just as good and nutritious, and not nearly as costly. Any thoughts?


  • edited 23 February, 2008
    Premium foods, IMO, are NOT expensive. If you think paying $7.99 for a bag of cat food is good, well, I don't know what to say. But to me thats like buying a happy meal for your kid everyday. (I.e. Purina). Good food SHOULD cost more like $20 a bag. I pay $25 for a large bag of Taste of the Wild. When I used to feed the Chicken Soup for Cat Lovers brand, it was more like $20 for a large bag. To me, thats not expensive, but very worth it. Brands like Purina, Iams, Friskies.. cause cancer, diabetes, etc., and are just bad.
  • Mary ComminsMary Commins AntiochMember Posts: 55,502
    edited 23 February, 2008
    We haven't had anything you could buy at the grocery stores since the big food recall a year or so ago. That recall scared me half to death and when I asked our vet he told me to try Innova. He is a vet that doesn't even sell Science Diet! =; Foods that are made by smaller companies and with better ingredients makes a lot more sense to us. I would rather pay $30 a bag (like I do for Solid Gold at Petco) and $1.49 for a 5.5 oz can of Wellness than worry about what my "furkids" are eating. Not to mention that since we have started feeding better foods the cats and the dogs look better, have less winter dandruff, are shinier and seem to have more energy! My peace of mind is worth the extra and so are my "kids"! When I went on, I found Iams to be more expensive per pound than Felidae or a few other good brands. A few years ago my cat Maggs developed Inflammatory Bowel Disease and almost died. I was feeding Iams then. Now he eats Evo, Solid Gold, wellness, etc and has not had one episode in the past year. Considering it cost us over $1000 to treat him, I would have to say that spending a few more dollars on food is definitely worth it!!
  • Leanna GeorgeLeanna George Member Posts: 1,036
    edited 23 February, 2008
    My meowmy feeds us Solid Gold KatzNFlocken... it's 7.99 a 4 lb bag at Petco. Its prolly one of the bestest foods and cheapest foods in the store! So many foods have a lot of corn and grains and artificial colors and preservatives that aren't good for us. My meowmy was first told about Innova several years ago when she was taking care of my grandmeowmies kitty's (I guess they're my uncles), but mommy wasn't convinced then. Penta had very bad problems throwing up cheap food, vet said Purina One was about the best food you can get at the grocery store, and it helped some. Mommy and grandmommy finally broke down about bought something called Blue Buffalo and he only threw up like once every 3 months instead of 3 to 4 times a day on most other foods (mommy had been feeding Whiskas back then cause she didn't know better). Just because a food is expensive doesn't mean it's really good. Neither does a food that's cheap (my KatzNFlocken is very cheap) mean it's not good.
  • Beastie_and_the_BoysBeastie_and_the_Boys Marquette, MI / ChicagoMember Posts: 17,807 ✭✭✭
    edited 24 February, 2008
    I agree with Mason that it's pretty much impossible to make generalizations based only on price or which stores a food is available in. There are expensive foods sold only at specialty stores that are garbage and there are relatively inexpensive foods sold in grocery stores that are better than even some "premium" brands. The same is true when you take the recalls last year into consideration--some of the premium brands like Nutro and Royal Canin were involved, while one of the most popular supermarket brands, Purina, was not. I guess all we can really do is educate ourselves on what constitutes good vs. undesirable ingredients and read the labels. :?
  • Lucybelle GLucybelle G Member Posts: 96
    edited 24 February, 2008
    Beatrice is right. Learn to always read the labels. You can then easily make a comparison between one brand and another by the ingredients listing. As a general rule, premium food is more expensive but your kitty also eat less to feel satiated. One plus point in feeding premium is less waste management! More nutrients get absorb by your kitty system and you will see the changes in her litter box. My kitty poops once a day although she tends to urinate more since she eats mainly wet food.
  • edited 24 February, 2008
    Oh I'm not saying you can't find good food for cheap. But for example, in shop rite a large (15lb?) bag of Purina cat chow was $7.99 To me, thats feeding your kid a hot dog every day for lunch and dinner. I'd much rather spend the $20-$30 on a 15lb bag and provide my cat with real nutrition.
  • Elizabeth KElizabeth K ChicagoMember Posts: 11,036
    edited 24 February, 2008
    Short answer is yes, there is a big difference. However as others mentioned, just because a food costs more per bag or is only sold at "boutique" type stores doesn't necessarily mean it's a great food! However, a higher quality food will generally cost more than the lower quality foods because they are using better quality of ingredients, which are more expensive. Companies can't afford to charge you $3 a bag and then fill the kibble with actual chicken meat and quality veggies and supplements! The exception here is for overpriced foods. Some of the larger pet food companies in particular charge a LOT of money for foods that are not especially high quality in ingredients. These companies tend to advertise a lot and IMO you are paying $$$ for the advertising, rather than for what's in the food! You may notice that the more higher quality pet foods are not very well-known because they do very little advertising... For example of foods not necessarily being high-quality if they are high-priced, there is S.D. "Nature's Best Feline with real Ocean Fish." You can buy it at one online store for $11.59 for 3.5 pounds. That's around $3.30 per pound. Here's the first half of the Nature's Best ingredients list: Brewers rice, corn gluten meal, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), turkey meal, dried egg product, ocean fish, ground wheat, peas, carrots, chicken liver flavor, dried beet pulp, l-lysine, dl-methionine, oat fiber.... Now for comparison let's take Innova Adult Cat Food. It costs $14.79 for a 6.6 pound bag, or $5.79 for a 2.2 pound bag from that same online store (it doesn't come in 3.5 lbs sizes). That's about $2.25 to $2.60 per pound, depending which size you buy. Here's the ingredients list for Innova: Turkey, Chicken Meal, Chicken, Potatoes, Eggs, Ground Barley, Chicken Fat, Rice, Herring, Sunflower Oil, Apples Carrots, Whole Pasteurized Milk, Fish Oil, Taurine, Alfalfa Sprouts, Vitamins/Minerals Now, it helps if you know the AAFCO's official definitions of the ingredients in the foods, but even without knowing them you can probably figure out which one is higher in quality. Keep in mind that the ingredients are listed by weight and you can see that the first food lists several inexpensive grains first, and you don't even have actual meat until the 4th ingredient. If you don't want to try to learn all the ingredients definitions but you want to be able to pick out high quality foods, just remember that the more specific the ingredient name, the better/higher quality so for example "chicken fat" is better than "poultry fat", and both are better than "animal fat". Also keep in mind that whole is better than fragments or by-products so "rice" is better than "rice meal" and both are better than "corn gluten meal" which is a by-product. Brewer's rice is also a by-product, officially it is defined as "the dried extracted residue of rice resulting from the manufacture of wort or beer." Since cats are carnivores you also want to see a (specifically named) meat such as "chicken" or "chicken meal" as the first ingredient, or preferably as the first few ingredients; and the fewer grains, the better.
  • Kat WhickerKat Whicker ToledoMember Posts: 1,695
    edited 25 February, 2008
    Sneakers pretty much hit the nail on the head. It really does pay to educate yourself on whats in a bag of cat food. I use to be a die hard Iams person. Because growing up, Iams was the best around. you could only get it at the pet store, thats what vets recommended, ect. so it only made sense to me to feed my first pet as an adult Iams. She was a husky pup who ended up having digestive problems. I spent alot of money on vet care and meds before i relized that it was her food that was making her sick. She couldnt handle the amount of "fillers" and grains in the dog food. I saved myself alot of time and vet bills by sitting down and learning about what is in pet food. Now that people are getting smarter about whats in there pets food, the pet food companys are starting to cater to that. The ones that arnt are relying on there old reputation, advertising and promotion (think the whole "vet recommended" thing) it really does pay to know what your getting. good luck!
  • Mike BlancheMike Blanche Member Posts: 89
    edited 25 February, 2008
    You know, you're going to have to call me a skeptic on this subject. Why? Because as a trucker, I've been to too many places where many brands of food were coming off the same production line. I would have to be able to trace the entire ingredient chain before I was completely convinced. Why do you think so many foods were affected by the wheat gluten contamination? Because there are only a very few suppliers of almost anything in our country. That's not to say there aren't some really superior foods available, only that it's very difficult to find out what they might be. Add in another problem, and that is that the smaller a producer is, the more likely it is to have quality problems. It doesn't make sense, does it? But a company that produces tons of food per day is much more likely to be consistent in quality, and is much more likely to have procedures in place for correct cleaning, sanitation, etc. Compare it to human food. Where are you most likely to get food poisoning? Your kitchen, actually. Second most likely is a small, mom-and-pop restaurant. Least likely is a big chain. Let me give you a couple of examples on the narrow range of suppliers. When you buy green beans in the store, no matter what brand you buy, the odds are good it came off a production line at Allen Canning in Siloam Springs or Alma, Arkansas. Yes, there are other brands, but when you go to most stores, everything from the premium brand to the house brand came from the same beans from the same fields cooked in the same vats and canned on the same lines. Another example is clay cat litter. Almost all of it is produced by one company, Oil Dri. They bag most different brands at their factory, but some of it is shipped in huge 5,000 lb bags to local suppliers who bag it in their own plant. What, you thought all those different companies mined, processed, and bagged their own brands? Very few of the "premium" pet food brands have production facilities capable of producing all their own ingredients. I've been to the Science Diet factory in Kansas, and I've seen the trucks coming in from other companies carrying the various ingredients. By the way, pet food factories smell great. I've also been to the Alpo plant in Crete, NE, and another one in El Paso (forgot the brand). In all those cases (except Science Diet), I've picked up truckloads of pet food, all produced on the same line, but with as many as 5 different names on the labels. We need more regulation of this industry by the FDA, that's for sure.
  • Elizabeth KElizabeth K ChicagoMember Posts: 11,036
    edited 25 February, 2008
    First I wanted to mention that you are right, many pet food companies do outsource their production. However this is now becoming more well-known and many of the higher end pet foods are now being open about where their foods are produced since the pet food recalls. In fact the Whole Dog Journal published information recently about where the dog foods they recommended are made and which ones use their own manufacturers, and why this is important. They included information on which companies refused to say where their food was manufactured, and would not include the foods of those companies in their list of approved foods. Personally I don't think that a food being made at a factory that makes other pet foods is necessarily a big problem. I would be leery of foods which were manufactured by a plant which makes many dozens or hundreds of brands, but not every pet food company is able to have their own plant and so not every food is going to be made in a separate plant. If the pet food company is careful and clear in their contract with the manufacturing plant (specifying quality-control processes to be used, sources of ingredients, etc), there should not be a problem. This can be seen in the recalls with Menu Foods. They made many brands of pet foods, but not all foods they made were contaminated or affected by the recalls. If a pet owner is concerned about foods being outsourced, they should find out where the foods are manufactured and choose a brand that owns their own plant, like Natura (makers of Innova and CA Natural.) You can find a lot of information about where many pet food products are manufactured and where they get their ingredients at this website:
  • wanda bulligwanda bullig Member Posts: 1
    edited 25 February, 2008
    well it is expensive,i gave lucy felidae and merrick but we accidently discovered fancy feast and she loves it.the organic food is 40cents more per can than fancy feast.i cook fresh ground turkey(cheap)chicken breasts it can be left over from preparing chicken salad(boiled plain)i give her dannon plain natural yogurt and ocean spray has a cranberry juice thats all natural.i hope this helps do the best you can and read all you can.i understand the worry and we are not all rich!good luck wanda
  • Mike BlancheMike Blanche Member Posts: 89
    edited 26 February, 2008
    One problem we have is that Punkin won't eat meat, raw or cooked. Not in any form that we've ever discovered. I'll be honest with you; the information you have is good and useful, and should certainly be considered, but contracts don't mean anything, when it comes down to it. Do you think any of the brands who bought from Menu Foods had a contract with them that allowed that kind of contamination? I'm sure you don't think that, and it wasn't the case, since there are very serious legal ramifications in the whole situation. There was a time that all cats and dogs ate table scraps. Processed pet food is a pretty new development, really.
  • Elizabeth KElizabeth K ChicagoMember Posts: 11,036
    edited 26 February, 2008
    The companies whose foods were affected by the Menu Foods recall may indeed have had less specific contracts with them. You will notice that there were a number of foods made by Menu Foods which were NOT affected by the recall, even though they were made at the same locations. It is possible to have a contract that is very specific and includes things like specifying the sources of the ingredients used and things like third-party audits of the manufacture of the food, testing of the food or ingredients, and performance of specific procedures to assure quality control. The audits and quality control procedures help to insure that the food is being prepared to the food company's specifications. Some companies (mostly those selling lower-quality/cost foods) choose not to include these things in the contract and instead allow the manufacturer such as Menu Foods to outsource the ingredients or choose lower-cost alternatives as long as the food actually contains the ingredients they specified. When this happens, the manufacturer is likely to search for the lowest cost source for the ingredients possible and this is the type of thing which led to the food recalls. If you are concerned about these type of manufacturers, you can always choose a food company that has their own manufacturing plant(s) and makes their own food. Of course there is no real way for us to be 100% sure that any food company is really putting the ingredients in the food that they claim on the label unless you do your own testing of the foods, because the industry is not highly regulated.
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