Whether it’s pet food or human food, veterinary services or your medical care, or an accessory for you or your pet, are you aware of the cause and affect you initiate when buying on price alone?

Every day stores compete for your business. Products and goods can be found for a range of prices, yet many of us do not think about the loss or gains beyond our own wallet.

This has never been more evident than in a series of comments in my store over the last few months—from thank you for being here to glad you’re still in business. The thank you coming from a client we see weekly, to the other, whom we’ve only seen twice in nine years. Every time you purchase you make a statement as to the importance of your vendor.

While we’ve seen the consequences in other industries – the loss of small business, limited availability of products and job losses throughout the US, many of us do not equate these issues with “getting a good deal.” With the growth in the pet industry over the last 15 years, we—pet owners—have been subject to a range of cause and effects of buying for price and all too often ignorant of the cost of that good deal.

From a health perspective, how did we get to the point we can feed our pets for pennies? Quality foods are an investment—an investment in your companion animal and an investment in the companies who take on the responsibility of nourishing your companion. Cheap, abundant ingredients are available but at a cost to your companion, knowledgeable and ethical businesses, and reliable suppliers.

The pet food recall of 2007 was a major turning point in the pet food industry. Pet owners, incensed with betrayal, blamed manufacturers and exporters while searching for something better. New natural food brands exploded on the market and natural pet stores began popping up like dandelions. But “better” comes at a price and pet owners hailed discount sources greedily. Why not? You can have that preferred recommended brand your dependable local natural store spent time educating you on, at a bargain. Multiply that a 100 times or tens of thousands. Without the revenue support of loyal customers, will that local, resourceful store be able to help you down the road? What about the manufacturer, who opted to reach a larger number of clients through mass marketers, only to find themselves working harder for less profit? Can that manufacturer maintain cutting edge research and premium quality ingredients with less funding?

Understand too these “better” foods will reflect ingredient, transportation and manufacturing increases. If not and you find the food at a bargain price, ask yourself at what cost? If that brand is cheaper, what did the manufacturer, distributor or retailer take advantage of to make it less expensive? Cheaper ingredients, cheap labor, or something we are starting to see more of: the manipulation of power and greed. The behind the scenes business side of the pet industry are beginning to resemble the hoarders the humane organizations fight against. The difference, instead of animals, it’s about hoarding the market.

Make no mistake, I am all for capitalism and the freedom of choice of where I spend my dollar. But, we must ask ourselves when clicking that “Buy” button, what is the true cost to us and our companions?

The thing is, the best pet food cannot be found in a bag or can. Yet, the pet industry has convinced you and your veterinarian proper nutrition can only be found from commercial sources. Think about your options the next time you reach for that heavily promoted super premium food. Do you know where the meat protein of that food was sourced? Is the cannery ethical? Has the kibble manufacturer followed all food safety protocols?

These are questions your community pet store should be on top of and it takes your support to make sure they can be there for you. Think about that the next time you need help with your companion and how you invested your dollars.

Previously published in PetSage blog, 11/14/2014.
© Terri Grow, 2020
Terri Grow writes and speaks on pet health and welfare, working with veterinarians, trainers, shelters and manufacturers to empower canine and feline health through diets, herbal therapies, supplements and environmental adjustments.