Big Kibble: A book about a pet food movie

Most of the time, there is a movie taken from a book. In this case, I read a book, “Big Kibble: The Hidden Dangers of the Pet Food Industry,” that appears to be based on the movie “Pet Fooled” and married the JustFoodForDogs brochure. Although the industry may not have liked Pet Fooled, this book was a plagiarism, disguised as a “call to action” for the industry that included an advertisement for its own brand of foods and vitamin-mineral blends.

Book Overview: Great Potential

I think this book, written by Sean Buckley and Dr. Oscar Chavez (founder and chief of medicine at JustFoodForDogs, respectively), has great potential, starting with the history of dog food from the days of Spratt’s Dog Cakes until today. The book touched on everything from aflatoxin-related recalls (Diamond Pet Foods), melamine, chicken jerky, pentobarbital contamination (Evanger’s and Smuckers), the DCM disaster, vitamin D recalls (Hill’s), and lack of official approval. . or review of results of AAFCO feeding trials by regulatory groups and the ultra-low bar for market entry.

The authors even covered the well-known and often overlooked topic, “Kibble Cash in Vet Schools” (pp. 109-117), and the lack of feeding courses in veterinary schools. Finally, the issue of the lack of regulatory enforcement has been addressed by both the Food and Drug Administration and the states — which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone in the industry. How many stores sell CBD based treats, cricket based pet foods and other non-approved food products/ingredients for dogs and cats? Unless I missed the headlines, these products have not been pulled from the market.

The Big Mistakes in ‘Big Kibble’

Outside of the history lesson and raising awareness about issues known in the industry, the book’s authors failed in several ways. After the third chapter, it became a long, educational handbook on why they should be fed their food. On page 59, they asked the question, “Where, oh, where’s the nutrition in all of this?” This made me laugh, because as a board-certified animal nutritionist, I had asked the same question a few pages ago.

The book briefly covers why carbohydrates and grains are good for dogs (sorry, raw food lovers!); However, the authors never provided any nutritional data to support the nutrition in their food. In short, they never answer their questions, they focus only on ingredients that have nothing to do with nutrition. They also briefly discussed work underway by the Institute for the Nutrition and Wellness of Companion Animals and the University of Georgia, to investigate advanced glycation end products from high heat extrusion and their effects on canine health. Again, this does not answer the question they originally asked on page 59.

Also, the authors missed the opportunity to dig deeper into good food safety programs. Claims subject to human scrutiny and the USDA alone do not provide food safety for food products. If this is the case, how does romaine lettuce enter the market and stay there when contaminated with E. coli? (Which always happens by chance when I want to start my weight loss diet!)

Sadly, even JustFoodForDogs fell victim to this type of marketing mindset, which ultimately resulted in a lack of transparency. Do you remember calling Listeria tethered to green beans? A good food safety program (perhaps a third-party certification such as Safe Quality Food or SQF) would have helped identify hazards and critical control points (ie cooking) to ensure that the product never reached the market or the ingredient never entered their kitchens.

Sorry, raw pet food feeders!

For all those who believe in raw nutrients and “dogs only need meat,” you will “enjoy” Chapter 10, where they say there is no benefit to raw food or higher meat products. In short, according to Buckley and Chavez, you should cook your dog’s food, grains are good and so are the carbohydrates!

I will not be angry about it. If you wrote a 320-page pamphlet, wouldn’t you make anyone else the bad guy? The only groups not included in the results list were other direct-to-consumer brands such as Ollie, The Farmer’s Dog, and Pet Plate. In other words, anything sold in a traditional retail environment is considered junk! At least according to them.

For the record, The Farmer’s Dog is the leading dog food brand made with whole foods that are USDA certified and fit for human consumption. It’s not JustFoodForDogs, as the book’s cover claims.

Do not throw stones if you live in a greenhouse!

In a previous blog post, I discussed the need for more transparency in the pet food industry. This book and the authors cover that need as well. However, there is irony in their quest to advocate for the industry to be more transparent. For example, the authors complain that they are not allowed to put “excellent Icelandic fish oil” on their product labels according to pet food regulations, which prevents them from telling people about this wonderful ingredient. However, they do not tell you which countries the remaining ingredients come from. I wonder why? Is this not a lack of transparency?

Also, if you go to their website and search for the chicken and white rice recipe (see screenshot below), you won’t even be able to find the real ingredient statement. Instead of listing “Added Vitamins and Minerals” as all the other companies do, they only list one ingredient, the “JustFoodForDog Nutrient Blend.” Doesn’t this conflict with the section titled “The Art of Creative Writing AKA Pet Feed Labels 101” (p. 127)?

It’s a bit daring to call the industry for its lack of transparency if you yourself aren’t transparent about something as simple as an ingredient statement, don’t you think? Especially when a company uses the exact “marketing spin” that they defend in their book, through how they present the ingredients on their website. Based on their site, this formula appears to contain only nine ingredients. I would call that disingenuous.


Recipe on JustFoodForDogs for Chicken and White Rice. Arrival date: December 3, 2020

What is really in food?

If you want to know the full ingredient statement for this JustFoodForDog formula, you’ll have to visit your pet food “feed” store, online or in person, to see that JustFoodForDog’s nutrient blend actually contains 14 ingredients, which include: Dicalcium Phosphate Dihydrate, Natural Calcium, Sodium Chloride, Choline Bitartrate, Kelp, Zinc Oxide, Magnesium Bisglycinate Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Bisglycinate Chelate, Copper Bisglycinate Acetate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Calcium D-Pantothenate, Riboflavin and Cyanocobalamin.

Even worse, the company still does not disclose the source of the “natural calcium”. Breaking news: Transparency goes beyond telling the consumer that you are transparent, especially when you trick them into paying for a $25 brochure! What I find amusing is that they’ve partnered with a retailer that also has transparency issues.

final miss

Yes, the pet food industry has flaws. What industry does? However, if the minimum is set, this does not mean that companies should complain about the minimum and scare you from buying their products. What he means is that you have to set a new standard and educate.

Many people have heard me say, “I am teaching. I am not preaching or humiliating.” what does that mean? I teach people to ask the right questions and become advocates for dogs and/or cats. I do not advocate for any pet food (including pet food), nor do I humiliate people for what they eat. Just because someone can’t afford homemade, raw, or freeze-dried food doesn’t make them a bad parent to pets, but they have a right to an education to feed the best they can. Therefore, all businesses must do their due diligence and be prepared to answer all questions that retailers and consumers will ask. If you can’t answer the questions, they will find a brand or company that can! For this book, this was a big miss.

Finally, if you want to talk about the lack of transparency in the industry, you should not be opaque. Tell consumers and retailers why you use ingredients in your formulas and where all of your ingredients come from, rather than using terms like “Icelandic premium fish oil” (which is a literal marketing term). List all of your ingredients correctly instead of using the marketing trend you are criticizing. Also, you should publish a nutrient analysis and third-party verified digestion trial results for each formula you sell.

This, my friends, is transparency.


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