Pet Food Prices, Is Expensive Pet Food Always Worth It?
It may surprise you to know that while price of pet food can hint at quality, a high price does not always mean a good quality pet food. There are many factors that determine what the final price tag on a bag of cat food, or dog food, will be. To note, we are primarily talking about dry pet food, (kibble) as for cats and dogs.
Ingredients in Cat Food and Dog Food
The Ingredients are a big contributing fact to the price of a cat or dog food. Quality ingredients drive a price up, cheap ones, enable the manufacturer to sell the food for less. We will not discuss every ingredient here, just some of the most common.
Be aware that ingredients are listed in order from what is most in the food to what is least in the food. Some companies try to hide lower quality ingredients by classifying them separately (corn might appear as corn meal in the second spot on the ingredient list, and corn gluten meal in the fourth spot, but combined it can represent the main ingredient).
Meat is more expensive than corn, but corn is often used as a cheap source of protein. It should go without saying that corn is harder to digest, particularly in cats who are true carnivores, it is also a common source of allergy problems in dogs. Foods that use more corn, and less meat, will be cheaper.
Even within meat there are variables. By-Products are cheap meat, Meat meal is more expensive, specific meat sources, even more expensive (meat meal can be any dead animal including cat, dog, horse, specific meat sources name the animal it came from). Lamb Meal is more expensive than Chicken Meal, and Human grade meat is more expensive than not human grade meat.
How the meat is prepared for the food (the extrusion process) makes a difference in price as well.
How the cat, or dog food is preserved effects the price even more so. Pet food preserved using chemicals such as BHT, or BHA, are cheaper than ones using the safer preservative Tocopherols (Vitamin E). Dangerous chemicals are often found (legally) in cheap cat foods and dog foods.
*You may note that cat food should contain more meat than dog food so is typically more expensive, as well kitten and puppies need more meat than adult animals so their food is also generally more expensive.
One of the biggest things that affects pricing is how a pet food is marketed. You will note that some foods are so cheaply prepared with ingredients that they would not sell a single bag without good marketing.
Some of the lowest quality pet foods are the ones you will see the most commercials for. Indeed these foods are putting money into marketing rather than ingredients. Commercials are expensive but they sell millions of bags of food so in the end it is an expense well worth it.
Food Representatives are paid individuals who promote the typically better quality foods. The travel from store to store (not to grocery stores or department stores) and to various groomers to talk about and promote their food. They may be on salary but are also often paid on commission.
Some food companies go even further with their marketing strategies. They target people in training to become veterinarians. They put money towards gaining support from the people that the public often turns to for pet food advice. Oddly veterinarians are not pet nutritionists and most receive only very little, if any, training on pet food ingredients other than what these pet food representatives tell them. Some veterinary colleges allow certain representatives exclusivity to talking to their students (indeed these food companies also offer a lot of funding to these Colleges, promotional items, and scholarships to their students). In this way some poor quality foods can have grossly inflated prices.
Other factors come into play when pricing pet foods, Packaging being the main one. It costs more for a manufacturer to package food in several smaller bags rather than one larger one, so buying several small bags is usually more expensive than buying one larger one.
Endorsements also can raise the price of pet foods. Some pet foods went through paid food trials and have paid for endorsements. These foods are often lower quality, and this can be considered part of their marketing strategy.
Each store will have its own mark up, but typically pet food is not marked up as high as other pet supplies and items.
Price does NOT indicate Quality of a cat food or dog food. The consumer MUST learn about Ingredients and read the label themselves.