Jumanji, my dog, loves beef pizzle, also known as bully sticks. Also known as dried bull
They are fine, even the pungent smell they emit. The price tag is what’s more difficult to
swallow. My dog can rip through each stick in minutes, even though they cost over $10.
Bully sticks aren’t the only expensive pet products. Owners of food treats, or chews can spend
hundreds of dollars per month. This is despite the fact that they are often made from
“byproducts” of the meat and poultry industries. This basically means anything other than
muscle tissue like udders and spleens and bones.
These costs are affecting more people than ever. A staggering 23,000,000 American
households adopted a cat or dog during the pandemic. This is about one-fifth of all households
in America. The prices are also rising. According to NielsenIQ, pet food was 12 percent more
expensive at the beginning of this year than it was in early 2020.
Your pet, whether a cat, dog, or purebred, is likely to be very expensive. This is why food and
treats can make a significant portion of that cost. One, “byproducts” don’t actually exist as much
as you might think. Dog and cat owners are particularly vulnerable consumers because they are
obsessed with their pets.
Kibble can be surprisingly complicated
Marion Nestle, a New York University professor emerita in nutrition, says that kibble can be
compared to infant formula. She’s also the author of two books about pet food. “You have a
product which is the whole nutrition for that animal.”
Even if a pet eats only brown pellets, they need the right amount of fat, protein, and fiber to
keep it healthy. (The adult equivalent could be Soylent.
Additional ingredients are required to ensure that the kibble lasts for several weeks or months.
George Collings, a pet food specialist, said that the complexity of pet food is amazing. He also
explained that managing multiple supply chains and thousands upon thousands of ingredients
can be costly.
Even the so-called byproducts from the meat industry can be expensive, as well. Although
Americans may not be able to eat liver or pizzle, there is a market elsewhere. Experts call these
“byproducts” a misnomer.
Jennifer Martin, Colorado State University associate professor of animal science, said that
“they’re not scraps.” They are high-demand proteins that pet food manufacturers must compete
The pandemic has also increased meat prices. A few years back, Covid-19 outbreaks forced
many meatpacking facilities to close. The response of farms was to kill large numbers of
animals. This squeaked supply and increased costs. According to Dana Brooks (Pet Food
Institute CEO), these costs trickled down into the pet food sector.
Pet food manufacturers also invest money in research. Nestle stated that the goal is to create a
kibble that tastes bad enough so pets love it, but doesn’t smell so bad that people won’t buy it.
Martin explained that companies conduct sniff tests on pets to determine the best kibble. The
company will then put out several different forms of the same food in large rooms and let loose
dozens of pets (or cats) to find their favorite. Martin stated that the dogs enjoy participating in
Bully sticks face extra challenges that can impact their prices, such as the one rooted within
biology. Only bulls have pizzles and only one. Martin stated that manufacturers are limited to
only a few sticks per penis. Bully sticks have also been in demand because of the poor
reputation of rawhide chips, she stated.
Pet food companies can also charge high prices because they have the
ability to provide quality pet food.
Pet food producers are like any other company. They know their customers and know that
people love animals. Nestle stated that pet food companies are charged so much because they
can afford it.
Companies also know that people are paying more attention to what’s in pet food, perhaps,
because they’re spending more time with their pets. More owners are choosing foods similar to
those they would buy for their pets — all-natural, organic, non-GMO, and vegan. Martin stated
that pet food trends are usually five years behind ours, but this gap is shrinking. Nestle stated
that pets don’t care what’s on the labels, but owners do.” Nestle stated, “They are not selling to
This reveals a larger idea: Branding is a major part of the pet food industry. You can sell peanut
butter in tubes and call it ” Kong Suff’n” for much more than a jar. Martin stated, “They know that
we’ll pay it.” Nestle stated that the same ingredients can be packaged by different brands of
food and cost drastically different amounts.
Marketing can also mask the fact that only a few major corporations are behind most of the food
brands you will see in your pet shop. Mars Petcare, a Mars subsidiary, is best known for its
M&Ms and Twix bars. It also owns many brands, including Pedigree and Greenies, Iams, and
Whiskas. Nestle Purina is a subsidiary that owns several brands, including Purina and Friskies.
Beneful and Fancy Feast is also among them. The lack of competition in an industry can be
detrimental to the consumer and to prices.
Brooks of the Pet Food Institute argues that the pet food market is still very competitive. To that
end, a number of startups are now threatening to shake up the industry. These include
companies offering vegan food and online retailers. Some analysts believe the industry could
triple its size in the next ten years.
Do you need to buy more expensive pet food?
Joseph Bartges, a University of Georgia veterinarian nutritionist, says that there is not much
research that compares the cost of cat or dog food with health outcomes. Bartges stated in an
email that “expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better.” “There are no good studies that
Shari White, Petco’s senior vice president for merchandising, said that this leaves the industry
with a huge opportunity. She said, “I would love to see more research about health outcomes.”
She noted that Petco has a team comprised of nutritionists and veterinarians and is partnered
with brands that conduct health-related research.
Gimlet’s Rose Rimler said last year that “grain-free” diets, which are more expensive, might not
be as good for dogs. This was reported in an episode of Science Vs. She reports that while
some dogs may have allergies to grains — and it is important to be aware of them — the canines
evolved with us and have learned to eat grains. The whole episode is worth watching.
Bartges stated that there is no evidence to suggest that your dog should be fed table scraps
occasionally. However, they should be restricted from foods such as macadamia nuts or
chocolate. You can view the complete list.
It’s difficult to decide what food to buy without more information. Nestle, a pet food author, said
that it is easy to see why pet food manufacturers might keep it that way. Nestle stated that the
appeal of more expensive food is for pet owners who love their pets and want to be good to
them. “The pet could not possibly care.”