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History of Pet Food

The first commercially prepared pet food was a dog biscuit product introduced in England about 1860. Although the site was overseas, the ingenuity was Yankee. James Spratt, an electrician from Ohio, was in London trying to sell lightning rods. He saw dogs being fed left-over ship's biscuits and decided he could do better with a carefully compounded preparat­ion of wheat meals, vegetables, beetroot, and meat. It was clearly a step in the right direction, for Spratt's company thrived selling food to English country gentlemen for sporting dogs. Since these early efforts to provide pets a more balanced diet, pet food makers have made continuous improvements in the nutritional efficacy of commercial pet foods. Today, advanced science and nutritional knowledge go into creating complete and balanced pet foods that result in pets living long, healthy lives.Mother introduces son to kitten

The British public company that took over Spratt’s formula and production began a U.S. operation about 1890. Several domestic firms entered the market with their own formulations of fortified biscuits and dry kibble based on the nutritional knowledge of the day.

Canned horsemeat for dog food was introduced in the United States after World War I. In the 1930s, canned cat food and dry meat-meal dog foods were introduced. The 1950s saw the introduction of dry expanded type pet foods through the adaptation of equipment used in the production of breakfast cereals.

The Industry Expands

The ‘60s were marked with great diversification in the types of food available to the pet owner -- dry cat food, many more varieties of canned products, and new soft-moist products. The Nat­ional Research Council -- the research arm of the National Academy of Science, developed the first of several nutrient profiles based on research at leading universities, much of it sponsored by PFI or its member companies. The growth of the pet food industry not only provided pet owners with better foods for their pets, but also created profitable additional markets for American farm products and for the byproducts of the meat packing, poultry and other food industries which prepare food for our own consumption.

Regulatory Oversight

As the industry grew, regulations of the Food & Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state feed control officials (coordinated through the American Association of Feed Control Officials) evolved to provide additional assurance to pet owners that the processing methods and quality controls used by American pet food manufacturers meet the same safety stand­ards expected for foods for human consumption.

Pet owners at this time were beginning to understand the importance of balanced diets for dogs and cats, with proper weighting of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and the inclusion of essential vitamins and minerals. As a result, it is estimated that approximately 95 percent of the calorie intake of pet dogs and cats in the United States comes from commercial pet food – higher than in any other country.

PFI was founded in 1958 as the national trade association of dog and cat food manufacturers and has grown to represent the companies that make 98% of cat and dog food produced in the United States.

*Source: Euromonitor International

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