Harmony Farms Dog Food — a new arrival at my market

September 25, 2009

Last week I went cruising down the pet food aisle in my local SUPER Stop & Shop. They are in the midst of renovating the entire store — we just got the all new rolling shopping carts with a gun metal gray finish instead of the standard chrome! Some people will tell you progress is an illusion. Don’t you believe it.

Normally, the dog food brands that are carried in a super market are of middle to low quality, in terms of ingredients. You’ll find lots of corn on the ingredient lists, along with lots of wheat, soy, glutens and, worst of all, by-product meals. These ‘meat meals’ cover a great multitude of sins. These chicken, beef or simply labeled ‘meat by-products’ include all the parts of an animal that are left over after the meat has been stripped off.  Lungs, spleens, kidneys, hearts, brain, blood and more.

It was the genius idea of grinding up cow by-products and adding that as a protein to cow feed that led to the mass outbreaks of  Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform encephalitis). This involves a scary little thing called a prion — a folded, infectious bit of protein that attacks the brain and neural structure — every disease prions cause is both untreatable and fatal.

The ‘meat meal’ in your dog food could consist of the euthanized bodies of dogs and cats from shelters, roadkill, diseased or injured “downer cattle”, or zoo animals. Remember that the protein sludge created this way uses the whole animal: heart , brain, hoof and paw, coat and fur.

The take away is stay away from by-products and meals, especially, when choosing dog food.

I stop in the newly revamped dog food section and notice that for the first time the bags if kibble are separated by a divider with a limited selection of premium brands on one side. There is also a small refrigerator section with whole raw foods designed for dogs. I’m impressed. Raw and refrigerated food is too expensive for my budget; I also have some doubts over its perceived value and actual benefit to our dogs.

Back in the kibble I find a brand that’s new to me Harmony Farms. Meat is always the number one ingredient in their dog food. Their foods have no corn, wheat, soy, glutens or artificial coloring, flavoring or ingredients. Click on the chart below to see how their ingredients stack up against Beneful, IAMS, Pedigree and Purina.


Price Comparison by the Pound

$1.30 lb. Harmony Farms (17.5 lb. bag)
$1.23 lb. Hill’s Science Diet (40 lb. bag)
$1.17 lb. Evolve (30 lb. bag)
$1.45 lb. Solid Gold (33 lb. bag)
$1.46 lb
. Innova (30 lb. bag)
$1.80 lb. Newman’s Own Organic (25 lb.)
$1.88 lb.
Natural Balance Organic (25 lb.bag)

Of course, there’s some wiggle room in the above numbers since not every kibble sold was packaged at the same weight. Hill’s Science Diet comes across cheapest, in part, because it’s sold in the largest size, a 40 lb. bag. So use this only as a rough guide.

So I’m trying out Harmony Farms for our two Labradors. It is convenient not to make a second trip to a specialty store to buy my kibble.

And being Labradors I’m fairly assured that they’ll eat whatever is placed in their bowls; palatability is never an issue with this breed.

If any of you out there have any comments or information about your experience with Harmony Farms Pet Foods, we’d love to hear from you!

More Peanut Corp. of America recalls: 3 Flavors of Alaska Canine Cookies

March 13, 2009

peanut-corp_logoThe peanut butter, “power-bone” and carrot cake flavors of Alaska Canine Cookies are among the latest dog treats being recalled due to possible Salmonella Typhimurium  contamination. Source.

They were all manufactured with re-called batches of peanuts processed at the Blakely, Georgia processing facility of the now bankrupt Peanut Corporation of America. This plant, operating since 2005 had never been licensed and was never inspected. Yet is was contributing to America’s food supply.

It is alleged that PCA plant managers shipped peanuts that tested positive for salmonella a dozen times in 2007 and 2008. Inspectors also found unsanitary conditions: mold, roaches, a leaking roof, dead rodents, rodent excrement, and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area. And it was contributing to America’s food supply. Source.

In Bankcruptcy court in Lynchburg, VA owner Stewart Parnell and family members put on a dumb show. He plead the Fifth, his right not to give self-incriminating evidence, when asked if he knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted peanut products from his plants in Blakely, Georgia and Plainview, Texas.

He answered, “I don’t know” to routine business questions and left most of the talking to his daughter, Grey Adams, the firm’s bookkeeper, claiming that “she knows more than I do” about the plant’s operation.

On the stand Ms. Adams was unable to tell the court the salary her mother was paid as office manager. When asked if the  company paid dividends to its stockholder from their $20 million in sales in 2008, she replied, “What’s a dividend?” Source. Does it seem like the extended Parnell family suddenly came down with a severe case of the Stupids?

The numbers: Since Jan. 12th  2009, 3,420 products containing peanut ingredients processed by Peanut Corporation of America have been recalled. They include snacks, peanut butter, brownies, cakes, pies, ice cream, candy, cereal, cookies, crackers, donuts, and pet food and treats. 683 people in 46 states have been sickened, a quarter of them requiring hospitalization and 9 have died — although these deaths have not yet been linked definitively to the salmonella outbreak. Source.

Another number: Total cost of this outbreak? In excess of $1 billion, said Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission while speaking before a House small business subcommittee. Source.

The big question: how are we going to secure the safety of the American food supply chain in the 21st century?


Purina Alpo Ad Campaign: Corn for the Real Meat Lover in the Family

March 1, 2009

alpo_prime_cutsPurina Alpo dog food has a new campaign running that gets to the “meat of the problem” with the line, “Quick, get that dog some Alpo!”

OK, if the choice is between no food at all and Alpo, the Prime Cuts with Gravy wins that challenge every time. The only point in favor of Alpo’s dog food is the price. . .however, considering what you’re getting, is there any price that can make this food a bargain?

Note that they go to some effort to make the product visually appealing to the human consumer, when visual appeal is the last thing a dog considers when eating. They eat the inedible, remember? Their tag line is that their Prime Cuts Meaty Shapes are “for the real meat lover in the family.” But Alpo must have  a loose definition of the “real meat lover” because the top ingredient isn’t even close to meat, it’s ground yellow corn.

Why? Corn is cheap. Corn is also largely indigestible by dogs. This makes their stools larger with no nutritional benefit. So that’s actually the top ingredient in Alpo that you’re picking up in your yard and on all your walks.

Next up is beef and bone meal. This is a byproduct unfit for human consumption that is an inexpensive, low quality ingredient used to boost the protein percentage in the food. According to its definition by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, beef and bone meal is “the rendered product from beef tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, hide, horn, trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amount as may unavoidably occur in good processing practices.”

Then there’s soybean meal. This is one of the lowest quality proteins available to dog food makers. Some people make the case that most allergy problems in today’s dogs stem from the unnatural amounts of corn and soybean in their diet.

Beef tallow is fat, processed from suet. If you rendered it from a pig, it would be lard.

Animal digest is a concentrated soup which can be made from the “unspecified parts of unspecified animals.” This includes the so-called 4-D animals (dead, diseased, disabled or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, dogs and cats euthanized at animal shelters, roadkill, restaurant and supermarket refuse. There is no control for quality or any check for possible contamination.

This is how barbiturates like pentobarbital (delivered by an intravenous or intracardiac injection) and used to euthanize pets can get back into the dog population, via their food. How much of this contamination do you need to rise to the level of harm? I don’t have the answer to that.

Though it’s helpful to remember that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy — a fatal, neurodegenerative disease that causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord — is passed on by feeding infected, ground up dead cows to living cows. (BSE is commonly known as Mad Cow Disease and Soylent Green is PEOPLE!)  Cows are herbivores, not carnivores or cannibals so it’s strange on more than one level.

But including the carcasses of poisoned dogs back in their food supply (even a little bit) can’t be a good thing, can it?

The next most prevalent ingredient is salt. So beef and bone meal and animal digest are as close as this product gets to real meat. You couldn’t do worse if you were  buying your meat from a NYC street vendor offering Roasted Substance on a Stick.”

Here’s the full list of ingredients in Alpo Prime Cuts Meaty Shapes Dog Food (below). They are listed according to weight from most to least (it’s usually enough to look at the top three to six ingredients to get a good sense of the quality of the food). Note that Alpo has to add back in vitamins and supplements that are lost even from their substandard filler due to processing.

Interestingly enough, this list is NOT from the Alpo.com web site. Remember that they’re selling food, right? I searched for but could not find any list of ingredients for any of their products on their web site. They don’t want to boast about what you’re actually buying in their dog food. And they have absolutely no reason to boast.

  • Ground Yellow Corn
  • Beef And Bone Meal
  • Soybean Meal
  • Beef Tallow Preserved With BHA
  • Animal Digest
  • Salt
  • Choline Chloride
  • Zinc Sulfate
  • Vitamin E Supplement
  • Ferrous Sulfate
  • Added Color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2)
  • Manganese Sulfate
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin A Supplement
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Brewers Dried Yeast
  • Copper Sulfate
  • Calcium Pantothenate
  • Natural Flavor
  • Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
  • Vitamin B12 Supplement
  • Thiamine Mononitrate
  • Vitamin D3 Supplement
  • Riboflavin Supplement
  • Calcium Iodate
  • Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source Of Vitamin K Activity)
  • Folic Acid
  • Biotin
  • Sodium Selenite

Bottom line, the safest and healthiest thing you can feed your dogs is a home-cooked diet. Add supplements and vitamins if you need them. Yes, it takes more time and planning, but you’ll find a routine that works once you make the switch. Switching to a home-cooked diet can even be cheaper, provided that you are already overpaying for “premium” brands that charge $50 for a 25lb bag of food and not feeding cheap filth like Alpo.