I am not a Luddite. Admittedly, though, I do tend to keep using my electronic gadgetry for periods well beyond their optimal utility. Thus, it was a rare and auspicious occasion when I recently retired my 12-year-old cell phone in favor of both a new smart phone and a new tablet computer (I won’t divulge the brand name of these items, but it rhymes with “Snapple”). With that update in equipment I quickly became exposed to the wonderful world of Apps (short for applications) and became particularly interested in those related to petfoods.
By coincidence, the free iPad and iPhone Apps for Petfood Industry were made available almost to the day I purchased my new gadgets, so they were the first downloaded. As I understand it, there is also a Petfood Industry Mobile Web Reader compatible with other brands of equipment. The applications provide the reader with full issues of Petfood Industry (starting with October 2010) along with more frequently updated news bites and new product information.
Please note that I tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to my preference in reading materials—i.e., I enjoy the more tangible qualities of something printed on paper rather than on an electronic screen. However, I found the application for the tablet to be easy to navigate and very readable. In fact, I personally found it much better for me to use compared to the web-based version of the magazine. Admitted advantages of the App format over physical copies include the ability to:
- Search on keywords across multiple issues;
- Immediately go to a cited website by clicking on its link; and
- Quickly retrieve your favorite articles via bookmarks.
Honestly, the smart phone version of the App was less useful. At least for me, there are definite limitations in navigation and readability due to the small screen size. Still, while my first preference would be for the tablet App, it’s good to know I can also access Petfood Industry on my smart phone if needed.
I could find a few petfood company-sponsored Apps, but those I located dealt with pet-related issues rather than petfoods per se. For example, two major manufacturers offer Apps that help consumers find pet-friendly hotels, off-leash dog parks and other pet-related places or services. Another company is reportedly sponsoring a game wherein it will donate food to shelters as you play, though I was unable to download it.
While my search was far from exhaustive, I have yet to find an App in which a petfood company provides information on its products, which is disappointing. As opined in a Petfood Industry editorial a few months ago, as of yet manufacturers do not appear to have taken advantage of the App phenomenon to increase awareness about their brands or to provide nutritional information.
On the other hand, there are number of independent Apps that provide information on feeding dogs and cats. These include at least three that, in part, help consumers and/or veterinarians calculate daily caloric requirements for individual animals based on weight, lifestage and other factors. Another App gives health ratings for a large number of human food and petfood ingredients. There are a few more Apps that offer advice on commercial petfoods and feeding in general, but in my cursory review I found them lacking in scientific accuracy (some much worse than others).
As far as regulatory-related Apps, I downloaded both Titles 21 and 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Thus, I now have easy accessibility to both Food and Drug Administration and US Department of Agriculture regulations in compact form. I also bought the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act and associated FDA laws (21 USC). The search function on these Apps works much better than on the government’s own websites for these documents. If needed, I can effortlessly clip and e-mail a pertinent regulation or law to a client.
What I would really, really like to see is the Association of American Feed Control Officials Official Publication in App form. Although I have used the publication for decades and have become very familiar with its contents, even I occasionally have trouble finding what I need. Notwithstanding the book’s table of contents and index, an electronic search function would greatly increase its usability. Priced accordingly, an App would appear to have high potential as a revenue-generating opportunity for AAFCO.