The Question I’m Asked Most

April 2019 – Inaugural Council Meeting


'What is the best pet food?’

As a veterinarian, I get asked this question all the time and I know why. Loving pet owners just don’t know where to find answers and if they do, they struggle to believe them. Even when they get a recommendation from their vet, it’s always for an expensive medical diet that just happens to be on a shelf in the waiting room. The internet has no shortage of disreputable websites full of conflicting information like ‘it’s OK to feed grain’ or ‘never feed grain!!’ …and ‘what is going on with corn? Why is it so bad? I eat it, why can’t my dog?’

So when a client or friend asks me what the best food is, I give them the same answer…‘It depends on your dog’. And as you know, your pet is unique.

In the refrigerated area of DogStar Kitchen, we learned about the quality and safety standards of Champion’s fresh proteins.

I judge a diet by how a pet responds to it. By informing pet owners how to evaluate their pet’s response to a food, it empowers them to make the decision because they know their pet better than anyone. I believe a new food is a trial until it is determined that the pet’s response to it is positive.

A food should be introduced slowly, fed consistently and in the absence of other food or treats. Monitoring their body weight, appetite, stool quality, skin health, and hair coat. If you have a great source of chicken, there will still be dogs out there that just happen to be allergic to it no matter how you process it. So how can food production factor into that?

When I was invited to tour the Champion Petfoods’ DogStar Kitchen in Auburn, Kentucky, where they produce their diets, this concept was very much on my mind.

Fellow Transparency Council member April Scott and me touring the DogStar Kitchen and learning how the Champion strives to maintain nutrition integrity in their pet foods.

Prior to the visit, I was surprised that they would even allow that type of access to someone they have never met. Manufacturers are known to be serious about security and rarely allow outsiders to see their production facilities. It clearly demonstrated that they were proud of the product they were making and were not afraid to have others judge them.

The tour was eye opening for me. I learned that by using high meat content and cooking it slowly at low temperatures, it maintains the natural flavour and quality of the nutrients which eliminates the need to enhance flavour artificially. It also makes the nutrients more biologically available and easier to digest. This is further enhanced by sourcing product locally so it is fresh instead of ordering ingredient components in packages from bulk suppliers. This is an expensive way to produce food. It indicates that they make decisions based on quality rather than the bottomline.

Here I’m speaking with Chris Milam about supplier relationships.

The most interesting thing I experienced however, wasn’t a processing feature at all.

At one point, Chris Milam, the Director of Ingredient Innovation & Supplier Partnerships, spoke about a couple of his suppliers. He called them by their first names. He had known them for decades. They weren’t just business partners, they were friends.
As a licensed veterinarian in Canada, I cannot endorse or support any product or service, but I am able to share unbiased details about my experiences.

What I witnessed at Champion was a level of corporate responsibility, personal dedication and genuine care about the impact of their product on people’s pets.

Dr. Messonnier and I inspect the kibble fresh from the kitchen.

So if the best food for your pet is based on their response to it and you have to start somewhere, why not here.
About Dr. Greenway

Dr. Clayton Greenway hosts the veterinary call-in show “Animal House” on Toronto’s Newstalk 1010. Dr. Greenway practices at West Hill Animal Clinic in Scarborough, Ontario and is a lead veterinarian and Development Director for VetStrategy, Inc.

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