The pet food industry is big business. There are hundreds of players in the market, ranging from local manufacturers to huge multinational conglomerates.
As a result, it is no surprise that accurate and unbiased information can be overshadowed or drowned out by the volume of marketing hype.
The pet food industry is loosely regulated by the FDA on a federal level and the USDA on the state level. There is a movement in Washington which may lead to more FDA enforcement and regulatory control over the industry.
The most direct “structured” control over the pet food industry direction is administered by the Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO). AAFCO consists of state and federal regulatory officials who oversee the safety of animal feed, although they have no enforcement authority. Since AAFCO is made up of government representatives, it is also open to the same type of industry lobbyists that other large industries employ. Industry representatives often serve on AAFCO committees.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s that pet food began to become a large industry. KenLRation introduced canned horse meat to the US after World War I and in the 1930s pets began eating dry kibble made with meat meal. During WWII most of the metal used for canned pet food was diverted to the war effort.
The larger companies producing pet food were also manufacturing human products, and now had an ideal market for their by-products.
The emphasis in the industry continues to be skewed towards profit over health. Many of the healthiest foods come from the smaller manufacturers, who choose ingredients based on quality before price.
Very few companies now manufacture their own lines of food. It is typically contracted to a manufacturing facility with its own quality control procedures. This has at times been a contributing factor to some of the problems related to the recent recalls.
Here is an interesting video tracing the development of the pet food industry