THE HISTORY OF PET FOOD
Kibbled and canned pet food haven't always exisited nor been the staple food in fact the pet food industry have only been around for 75-80 years. Learn the history of pet food and how we got away from species appropriate diets.
In the year’s prior to World War II, family companions either scavenged from the streets or were fed table scraps and other products from the family farm such as butchered meats and eggs as well as mice and birds caught via hunting. Even before that our feline and canine companions hunted in the woods and on the savannah running at top speeds to catch their unlucky prey. Today a majority of companions eat a cereal based diet from a bag on your pet store shelf that you, their human companions obtained for them. So how did we get from a raw meat diet to the standard dry bagged food?
It all began with a stigma, one that stated raw meat was indicative of a savage being so if dogs and cats were to become household pets they should need to eat a more civilized diet. As a result of a more civilized diet it became known that if you shared your life with a domesticated dog or cat than your companion was a symbol of class and so was pet food. If you could afford it, others viewed you as wealthy. This is exactly where dry pet food came into play.
Around 1860 James Spratt developed the first dog biscuits inspired by ship biscuits he found left behind by the crew’s that he would travel with. It was made of a baked mixture of wheat, beet root, and vegetables bound together with beef blood. Not only were they easy and inexpensive to make but they had a long shelf life requiring no refrigeration. This was essential at this time as refrigerators were not common in the household until 1913.
Others followed suit including a Boston, Massachusetts Veterinarian who created a medicated bread for dogs in the 1880's. This bread boasted of not only helping your dog obtain a shiny coat but to cure everything including worms and other unwanted disease.
Further developments included the F.H. Benner biscuit company in 1908 who developed the first puppy food and varying kibble sizes for a variety of dog breeds.
In 1922 the Chappel Brothers developed the first canned dog food made of horse meat. They came up with the idea of sponsoring a radio show which skyrocketed the sale of their canned food so much that they soon began breeding horses in order to satisfy the demand.
Finally, in 1931 the popular company Nabisco bought out a company responsible for what is now called Milkbones becoming the first biscuit that could be found in grocery stores.
Once World War I made a presence, canned food only continued to grow in popularity becoming a convenient way to feed companion pets. However, when World War II hit and metal tin cans along with food were being rationed, wet canned food began to be phased out as dry pet foods become more convenient and popular. With the advent of dry food taking over the pet owning home, customers were fed the idea that they no longer needed to feed precious and scarce human food to their cat or dog. Consumers were also told grains were now essential for their companions as well because it provided a quality energy source from the carbohydrates. Little did consumers know grains were a cheap (and poor quality) ingredient to add to pet foods, but this was appealing to those needing a convenient and inexpensive diet for their companion. They were also told Fresh beef, could "overheat the dog's blood," and 'table scraps will break down his digestive powers [making] him prematurely old and fat."
As the economy quickly grew, people began filling much needed job spaces as well as took time to get an education. This developed a need for fast, inexpensive and convenient goods which made its way into every industry. With this increase industrial waste products at mills and meat factories also increased. As dry pet food gained more interest these locations finally had a place to send their by-products like deceased livestock and grains that didn’t meet inspection criteria. It seemed to be a win-win for the producer and the consumer.
After the advent of and discovery of convenience that the dry pet food industry brought, the 1950’s brought a new way of making the food. Inspired by human food cereal companies the process of extrusion mixed ingredients together, cooked them at high temperatures and pushed the dough through a shaper before being baked. The final product was sprayed with various sweeteners to make it more palatable to people. This process was later adapted for the pet food industry allowing for a large variety of flavors, kibble shapes, sizes and colors further advancing the industry.
As the years went by more and more pet food companies popped up claiming to be better than previous. New ingredients, healthier foods, diets for every illness and disease. We even began seeing companies selling to all income levels and buying up tons of other pet food companies.
In 2007 a recall for melamine contamination, that resulted in hundreds of fatal and sick cases inspired a growth of pet owners looking for alternatives to low quality processed dog and cat food. This inspired a whole new market of more natural pet foods including the advent verbage like "natural" "holistic" and ultra premium" (which by the way aren't regulated terms). Companies started jumping on the raw food band wagon producing of freeze dried raw, pre-made raw diets and kibbles sprayed with raw.
The pet food industry has only continued to grow from there. Nowadays hundreds of brands, flavors and food types are more readily available to animal lovers and companions a like. With a fast growing industry from the very start, it’s only anticipated that it will continue to grow as more information sheds light on these amazing and beloved companions and their nutritional needs.