Transparency is significant for a pet food consumer trusting a pet food manufacturer. But what if that transparency could risk the safety or quality of the pet food? Should a manufacturer be open and transparent regardless to the risks?

In gathering information for, I speak with many pet food manufacturers. Some recent conversations have shed a light on a Catch-22 of pet food that hurts both quality minded pet food manufacturers and educated concerned pet food consumers.

The Free Dictionary defines Catch-22 as “a situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions.” In this case, the ‘desired outcome’ is transparency from a pet food manufacturer…the straight and open answers to pet food questions from a pet food consumer. The ‘inherently illogical conditions’ are…

In a recent conversation with a pet food manufacturer (who will remain nameless), I asked the plant manager if they would participate in our Pledge to Quality and Origin program. He shared he was familiar with it, but they couldn’t participate. With my mouth hanging open in shock, he went on to share with me some information I’ve heard from other quality minded manufacturers (though in a bit different perspective).

This pet food manufacturer used the ingredient taurine to make his point. You should know, China is the world’s largest supplier of taurine. He shared that if he told me the country of origin of their taurine, before the day was over Big Dogs of Pet Food would swoop in and steal his supplier right out from under him. He said ‘they’ would find his supplier with just the information of country of origin. He shared that his company has searched long and hard for safe suppliers of ingredients and they have to protect themselves and their suppliers.

This company felt if they stated publically the country of origin of some of their supplements, they were at risk of losing these trusted suppliers and thus perhaps risking some quality or safety to their pet foods.

In agreement, I know that Big Pet Food has the buying power and commercial muscle to put a ‘hurt’ on smaller manufacturers. It is not so much they are in search of non-China made taurine or other supplements for their own pet foods, it is more that ‘they’ know non-China is important to educated petsumers. With minimal effort, Big Pet Food could make it impossible for the small manufacturer to remain Chinese ingredient free – leveling the pet food playing field so to speak.

In disagreement, other manufacturers have found a way to provide their customers with the information they ask for and need. Some pet food brands openly and promptly will provide who and where the pet foods are manufactured, the country of origin of ingredients, and even the grade or quality of each ingredient (and just about anything else you want to know).

So what is the answer? On one hand, petsumers deserve to know the country of origin, grade/quality of each ingredient, where it’s made, how it’s made…just about everything of the food they provide to their pet. On the other hand, there is the concern for small manufacturers of corporate bullying/supplier stealing. Where is the middle ground? How can pet food consumers learn everything they need to know about the pet food in order to trust their pet’s life with it while still protecting the pet food company?