Riding the grain-free petfood wave
Grain-free petfoods are all the rage, but are they really better for dogs—and are they sustainable?
Pet owners spent US$1.7 billion on grain-free petfood products at US pet specialty stores from September 2012 to September 2013, according to GfK (p. XX). That represents a 28% spike in sales at the 11,000+ US outlets tracked by GfK, which includes national and regional pet store chains and independent pet shops.
And that's just in one retail channel in one country; the grain-free trend is also zooming up the sales charts in other developed petfood markets, as well as in channels like the US mass market. Certainly these products have captured the attention and wallets of many pet owners, who seem to believe marketing claims that grain-free is how "pets would eat in the wild" or "nature intended dogs and cats to eat"-never mind that there is absolutely no scientific evidence backing up such claims.
"On the contrary, the available evidence indicates that dogs thrive on grain-containing, carbohydrate-rich, dry foods," wrote Anton Beynen, PhD, head of research and development for Vobra Special Petfoods and a leading researcher on the nutrient requirements of dogs. (See www.petfoodindustry.com/48374.html. He's speaking on a similar topic at Petfood Forum Asia 2014; see p. XX.)
Beynen didn't disparage grain-free foods; his point was that many types of formulations, with and without grains, can meet dogs' nutrient needs. Thus, he also debunked some arguments against using grains, which include that dogs are carnivores not designed to consume grains as part of their natural diet (that "as nature intended" claim) and that they…