Co-authored by Viktoriya Gossage, Ingredient Buyer for Just Right by Purina
Dog food ingredients: Often considered by owners to be one of the most important parts of choosing a food. But who's responsible for making it all happen? For us, that's Viktoriya Gossage, the lead ingredient buyer for our small Just Right by Purina team. To shed some light on this incredibly important subject, we asked Viktoriya exactly what goes on in the world of dog food ingredients – including trends, sustainability, quality, and much more. Here's what she said.
"What do you do?" Well, ingredients are just the beginning.
As an ingredient buyer, I do so much more than put in orders – most of my time is actually spent with other teams. Whether it's meetings with QA, regulatory, marketing, it's my job to make sure the quality ingredients I'm sourcing are aligned with everyone's new ideas and very high standards. Other days, I feel like a stock trader when I'm watching the prices of certain ingredients change in real time – it's up to me to secure the best ingredients for the best deal. Other times, my hands are full with contract negotiations between suppliers, budgeting, and strategy building for the next year. Ingredients are just the beginning, no two days are ever the same, and it's never boring!
The dog food world moves just as fast as the human food world.
If you're seeing a lot of purple vegetables, cauliflower, and turmeric in the grocery stores and food blogs lately, then you shouldn't be surprised to see it in the dog food aisles, too. Pet food often follows human food trends, whether the trends are based in philosophies like non-GMO, all-natural, and highly local sourcing – or if the trends are ingredient-specific like a sudden love for green bananas, kale, and broccoli. No matter what happens in the food space, it'll most likely get reflected in many dog foods on the market. At Just Right by Purina, we're always balancing what's trendy versus what actually provides nutritional value. Spoiler alert: science-backed nutrition always wins out. We're not going to include certain ingredients just because they're trendy; the core of a Just Right blend will always be purposeful nutrition. But honestly, the fact that there's always so much to learn is my favorite part of my job. The world of dog food is always evolving, and I have to evolve with it by learning about the benefits of new ingredients and how to properly source them, while trying to give dogs and dog owners what they want too.
Our pet food helps the human food industry become more sustainable.
The tie between the human and pet food industries goes even deeper than what's trendy: Did you know that our supply of pet food ingredients is strictly driven by demand in the human food industry? If the new hottest thing in restaurants across the country is lamb, then suddenly lamb becomes much more available to pet food companies. It works the other way too: If dog owners want bison in their dog's food, then you and I need to start eating a lot more bison burgers!
Many people are surprised to learn that Purina takes an incredibly sustainable approach to making pet food. We don't slaughter land animals solely for pet food – we use what the human food industry would have otherwise wasted, like the high-quality, highly nutritious organ meats that dogs and cats love. Instead of putting these materials into a landfill like the human food industry often does, the pet food industry uses nearly every* part of the animal and our pets get the nutrients they need to thrive.
*Non-nutritious parts like hair, horns, teeth, hoofs, feathers, heads, etc. are never used in any Purina pet food product, per AAFCO stipulations.
Want more dog food secrets? Check out 9 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Animal Nutritionists with Dr. Chris Wildman
Dogs don't like tofu.
Ok, so maybe this isn't such a secret. But when you work in the pet food industry, you tend to hear some pretty strange ideas from pet owners...including the one about vegetarian dog food. It's understandable why a vegetarian owner would want to feed their dog according to the same food philosophy. However, it doesn't change the fact that dogs are omnivores and need a good balance between animal-based ingredients and plant-based ingredients for a well-rounded diet.
We've got a budget to watch, but that doesn't mean we're penny pinchers.
Ingredient purchases make up the largest chunk of the Purina budget, so there's a huge emphasis placed on working smart and finding the best quality ingredients for the pets we feed. Around here, ingredient quality is much more important than cost. Because when I come home at the end of the day, I'm not an ingredient buyer thinking about the price of chicken, I'm just another dog owner like you. And like you, I know that my dog is worth it.
My dog eats better than me.
Ingredient buyers chuckle about this, but it's sometimes true. Because of our incredibly high standards for ingredients and nutrients, our dogs often eat better than we do! Why?
- In some cases, the standards for safety and quality dog food surpass those of the human food industry.
- We can track an ingredient from the time it enters our plant to the time it ends in a Just Right blend on your doorstep.
- Plus, your dog's diet is 100% complete and balanced at every meal. Humans on the other hand...Try as we might, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 9 out of 10 American adults have a nutritional gap. Oops.
It's not easy to make the cut as an ingredient supplier.
Just Right by Purina (and Purina as a whole) has some of the strictest standards in the industry for sourcing quality dog food ingredients. When we're conducting our multi-step audit of a potential supplier, we evaluate everything from their safety and sanitation practices to the ingredients themselves, which we test in our own labs. Are the ingredients safe? Do they live up to our nutrition specifications? Only the best make the cut. After we've approved a supplier, we'll conduct routine inspections to make sure that their integrity, safety and health practices, labor standards, and environmental practices continue living up to our standards. When all’s said and done, over 680 quality and safety checks are completed to ensure that your dog gets the high-quality, personalized nutrition he deserves.
We look for a culture of quality when signing on new ingredient suppliers. We take pride in how much time we spend getting to know the suppliers, understanding what they do, plus how and why they do it. It's about physically going to the farm or the factory to see the entire process from start to finish. Most suppliers are proud to show and share their work with you, which tells me that they're confident in their abilities to provide good, quality ingredients. The collaboration and teamwork between Purina and our suppliers is really amazing. They have to perform at such a high level, and if we ever find opportunities for improvement, they welcome the feedback and are open to making changes to their processes for the better.
Want to take a closer look at the ingredients in personalized Just Right blends? Learn more!
Questions about the ingredients in our blends? Let us know!