This weekend, May 18-19, pet supply giant Petco is offering customers who are members of their loyalty program Pals Rewards an opportunity to trade in a can or bag of dog or cat food that contains artificial ingredients for “a free artificial-free upgrade to a select product that meets Petco’s new nutrition standard.”
Sounds pretty great, huh? Isn’t it wonderful to see one of the biggest players in the pet retail world caring about the quality of food that our beloved pets are eating? Isn’t this a great step in the right direction? Or is this just a marketing ploy to flood their stores with customers who will spend money and provide their email address to Pals Rewards for further marketing opportunities? Let’s take a closer look at the Petco promise to decide if we should support this retailer or take our business elsewhere.
The Devil is in the Details
“Bye Bye Bad Stuff: At Petco, we have set the new standard in nutrition by eliminating all dog and cat food and treats that contain artificial ingredients*.”
This bold promise is featured on Petco’s website at the top of their new Better Nutrition page. One only needs to follow that asterisk to see that the Petco promise is not entirely true.
According to Ryan Yamka, PhD, founder and independent consultant with Luna Science and Nutrition, and co-founder of the Guardian Pet Food Co., the asterisk came about only after Petco got wind of his March 13, 2019 article titled, “Fake News: Petco drops pet food with artificial ingredients.” Yamka’s op-ed piece reveals the “gaps and false promises” in Petco’s claims.
For example, more than 20 artificial ingredients did not make the list of artificial colors, artificial flavors, and artificial preservatives culled from Petco inventories. These include sodium tripolyphosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate and potassium sorbate, sorbic acid, phosphoric acid, ascorbic acid or zinc propionate just to name a few.
One such ingredient is the common artificial preservative, Potassium Sorbate, which is linked to allergies and migraines. When mixed with citric acid, as is often the case with this preservative, it has been shown to mess with our DNA. It is worth noting that Petco has since promised to abolish Potassium Sorbate from their shelves by February 2020 but it’s still there now along with all the others.
Is This About Profits or Health
Yamka has been in the pet food business for a long time. As soon as he heard about the Petco Promise he went to a store and started browsing the food aisles. He noticed right away that some of the more obvious, mass market brands had already been removed. He also noticed that some brands that are known to not contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives had also been removed. Brands like Blue Buffalo, Nutro, and Purina Beyond were removed for, seemingly, no good reason.
Yamka was approached by an employee who offered to help and Yamka identified himself as someone in the industry. The employee eagerly shared a “cue card” that employees are instructed to refer to in helping customers navigate the change. As you can see on the card, WholeHearted is the first choice. Further, many established, no nonsense, healthy brands have been pulled from shelves.
Is this about profits for a retail giant or the well being of pets? You decide.
Chew On This
Some of the artificial ingredients that didn’t make the cut, so to speak, are found in Petco’s own food brand, WholeHearted. After all, it’s not very good business to ban yourself. Further, an analysis by Paw Diet found some of the banned ingredients in the Petco brand food.
These harmful ingredients include:
- Added color, which Petco specifically calls out as banned in an asterisk of their own
- Caramel color, which is linked to cancer in animals
- Menadione sodium bisulfite complex, which is toxic to kidneys, lungs, liver, mucous membranes
Either Petco is outright lying to the public or they aren’t being very careful. Either way, it doesn’t make us very confident in their “promise.”
Don’t Believe the Hype
As Yamka so brilliantly pointed out, if Petco was truly interested in going all natural for the good of their customers they would be 100% transparent. They would be far more specific, inclusive, and honest. Phrases like “turning our backs on artificial ingredients” and “no more nasties” are clearly cooked up in a marketing meeting and meant to increase profits and marketing opportunities, not pet health.
What do you make of Petco’s failure to fully deliver on their promise? Will you continue to shop their stores despite the company’s misleading policies?
Featured Image via Facebook/Petco
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