Friday, 15 April 2016

Pedigree at The Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition

Feed The Good?

I was invited by Pedigree and Mumsnet to attend an event at Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition to learn more about how Pedigree dog food is develop and learn more about canine nutrition.  I was interested in learning more about canine nutrition, having agility dogs it is especially important they are getting a fully nutritious diet.  There is an age old myth about pedigree and how it is packed full of rubbish just to bulk it up and I wanted to know the truth, I don’t really know how people can say this when they have probably never picked up a packet recently or recently fed it to their dogs.
I must admit when our feeding trial came through I was surprised at the amount of wet food and when I calculated Sweep’s daily allowance according to what they had given me it works out at 3 pouches a day plus a cup of dry food.  The Pedigree Tracks app calculates the exact weight of dry the dog needs.  Pedigree recommend feeding 50% wet, 50% dry so I questioned this on the day (having always just fed dry as it is more convenient and better for their teeth?)  Interestingly enough, I found out that the wet food contains about four times less calories per gram than dry food so it can help over feeding as you feel like they are getting more to eat. However for me the main thing I learnt was that because it contains more moisture than dry food, this is good for urinary tract health.  For me I have a cat who can suffer from urinary tract infections and wet food could actually combat this.  For the dogs I don’t think it would improve their health as they have never suffered however in future if I was to ever have a dog who suffered then this would be a way that may combat it.  Nutrition wise there is no difference between wet and dry, obviously if feeding only wet we need to be making sure we take care of their teeth, either teeth cleaning, Dentastix or Dentaflex (I did a trial with these, they were great, click here).

We started the day with a tour of the facilities.  I hadn’t realised how much goes on behind the scenes before dog food hits the shelf!  They have a lot of vets working with them and specialist nutritionists.  Pedigree is ultimately owned by Mars which is still a family run business with over 80,000 associates across 77 countries.  They went into the dog food industry in 1935 and they own Banfield Vet Hospital who is the biggest employer of vets.  So you can be sure they are qualified enough to know what a dog’s needs are!
They have a laboratory on site where they do all sorts of testing before they develop a food, for example they take dog stomach cells and test different ingredients on the cells to see whether they inflame to make sure it isn’t going to cause a bad reaction in a dog.  They are able to test different things on different bacteria found on the dog’s teeth to see whether they will help reduce gum disease, plaque etc.  Waltham recently found out that puppies need a higher level of Vitamin A in their diet and didn’t keep that to themselves, they shared it across the industry.

Their animals kept on site are happy and healthy and there are plenty of animal carers onsite who only look after a few animals so they get plenty of attention and by the end of the day they are quite happy to relax for the evening.  The animals are trained positively with reward based methods.  Pedigree aim for 85% of their food to be digested and 15% to come out as waste (poo!) and they can track that easily.  
We had a presentation on their factory and how the food is produced and what came across was how passionate they are about the quality of their food.  They have a specialist person who checks quality every couple of hours and on top of that they have a morning and an afternoon panel who also check on the quality – things like smell, chunk size etc, they say there are about 16 quality checks before food hits the shelves.  The factory works to high standards and you could actually eat the food yourself, the meat used is all parts of the animal that would normally get thrown away so it sustainable as it is cutting down waste.  Things like the carcass from the chicken, liver, lungs etc they are all high in nutrients but humans don’t like to eat them so they end up in our dog food, in the wild the dog would probably choose to eat these first as they are the tastiest!  The law says that to declare food as beef or chicken there must be a minimum of 4% of that meat and they have to declare that however Pedigree say that there is normally around 30-40% meat but it might not necessarily be chicken or beef and might be other meat.  This is then what is classed as a meat derivative.  Everything in the food is there for a reason and to give the dog a balanced diet, carbs are needed for energy not to bulk the food up.  No artificial flavours and no added sugar, salt is added as it is required for a balanced diet.
We had a talk from Sandra McCune about dogs and children and how they can really enrich the lives of our children.  In the USA children are more likely to grow up with a pet than a father!  Dogs have been proven to make us healthier, Dolling et al. cited by Mills 2013 found that savings to the NHS would be about £2.45billion!  Different studies have shown that children with pets have up to 2 weeks less days off sick from school than those without pets, those brought up with dogs are less likely to develop allergies and asthma and children like to talk to their pets about any troubles they may have so this means they are also less likely to suffer from anxiety and to be more empathetic.  Dogs in the classroom can help children focus and this is shown by the amount of reading programmes being developed.  So all in all pets can really enrich our lives and our children’s lives.

So all in all what I got from the day is the overwhelming message that Waltham/Pedigree really are trying their very best to create a better world for pets.  They really are feeding the good.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have 
volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid to attend the event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.