Written By: Dr. Sarah J. Wooten, DVM
Renowned VeterinarianThe recent lawsuit and myriad pet food recalls have left consumers wondering what is safe to feed their dogs. To aid in their search, here is a review of Taste of the Wild, grain-free formulas that are marketed to be based on what a dog (or cat for that matter) would eat in the wild. Before we get into a review of the product, let’s go over what is inherently wrong with the marketing angle of this product. Dog’s are not wolves. They haven’t lived ‘in the wild’ for over 10,000 years – genetic studies reveal that dogs were domesticated 11,000-16,000 years ago, and have lived scrounging around the scraps that human discard ever since. And since we know that proteins and fats were difficult to come by for our ancestors, dogs evolved gastrointestinal tracts that are highly efficient at processing grains, which nullifies this whole grain-free marketing craze…but I digress. Taste of the Wild foods emphasize better taste, natural anti-oxidants, and high digestible energy to support overall health. There are four dry adult formulas available in canned and dry, and two dry puppy formulas. Taste of the Wild is made by Diamond Pet Foods, a U.S. based pet food manufacturer. Many people are unaware that Taste of the Wild is made by Diamond: you certainly get no indication from the bag. That is smart on the part on the Diamond, as many consumers are aware of the many recalls associated with Diamond foods over Salmonella and aflatoxins, and have refused to purchase anything made by Diamond. Since these recalls, Diamond claims they utilize 151 quality checks to ensure the safety of their products. However, the company recently settled a class action suite for a recall in May 2012, including Taste of the Wild, after a Salmonella outbreak. Diamond has a long history of recalls – so feed with caution. Let’s look at the Bison Formula. Here is the ingredient list: Bison, lamb meal, chicken meal, egg product, sweet potatoes , peas, potatoes, canola oil, roasted bison, roasted venison, natural flavor, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product,dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid. On first glance, the ingredient list looks good. The protein appears to be largely meat based (bison, lamb, chicken, egg, ocean fish) but there is also pea protein. Carbohydrate sources are sweet potato, fruits and veggies. As a side note: grain free does not mean carbohydrate free. Dry kibble MUST contain carbohydrates to cook and form little kibbles, otherwise it would just fall apart. The formula utilizes dried chicory root as a prebiotic fiber. This is a middle of the pack prebiotic: it is my opinion that dried beet pulp makes for a better prebiotic. The chelated minerals and whole food sources for vitamins and minerals are good. Also good: guaranteed Probiotics. Healthy digestive and immune systems are vital to the overall health of your pet. K9 Strain® Probiotics and Viables® Probiotics are developed specifically for use in our pet food and processed under strict human-grade standards to ensure purity. Each kilogram of Taste of the Wild provides 220 million live, active cultures that help support healthy digestion and help your pet maintain an active lifestyle. The Bad: The formula states that it has omega-3 fatty acids, but I ask what is the quality control for ensuring these fragile molecules are delivered to the pet in a bioavailable and undamaged manner? For those of you who are familiar, omega 3 molecules are very fragile, and are oxidized in the presence of light, heat, or oxygen. They actually transform from beneficial cis-fats to trans-fats. That means is the bag of Taste of the Wild that you have purchased sat in a hot tractor trailer or warehouse before going into the pet store where you purchased it, or has sat open in your house, then the omega 3 molecules have long since oxidized and are no longer providing any benefit to your dog. When protecting these fragile ingredients, storage, packaging and climate controlled delivery is necessary to ensure your dog is getting the nutrition he or she needs. The Unknown: You can only glean so much information from an ingredient label. There are other important questions to ask yourself when choosing a food to feed your dog: 1. How are the ingredients cooked? For Taste of the Wild, this is unknown. You want to look for a food that is slow cooked at a lower temperature to preserve the integrity of the ingredients. 2. Where are the ingredients sourced from? As we all learned from the deadly pet food recalls due to melamine contamination in 2007, where the ingredients come from matters. Yes, Taste of the Wild is made in America, but where do the ingredients come from? This is unknown. 3. Are the rollers cleaned in between batches? If your pet has a grain sensitivity, how do you know whether Taste of the Wild is manufactured on equipment that has been cleaned? Many different types of pet food is made in one manufacturing plant, and if a food that utilizes corn or wheat has been run on the rollers then Taste of the Wild can have trace amounts of these grains in the food. While Taste of the Wild is certainly better than Pedigree, Ole Roy, or Alpo, there are other foods out there that can give similar or superior nutrition and better peace of mind for a comparable cost.