Advertising and critical thinking

You have ten seconds to tell me what’s wrong with that label. You’ll want to click on it to see it full size.

If you guessed “made from concentrate,” “pasteurized,” or “25g sugar,” you are wrong.

It says “local.”

Stop and think, if you didn’t catch it, about your reaction to that word. Local. What does it say to you? Are you suspicious?

I damn sure was when I saw it. I saw “Borden” and “local.” I immediately thought “There’s no way in hell.” Sure enough, look under the ingredients list. “Contains concentrate from US, Mexico, and Honduras.” Even if the juice was only from the Rio Grande valley, that would merely make it “Go Texan.,” not local. The US, Mexico, and Honduras are only local on a global scale. Or maybe Borden’s just covering all the bases. Eventually they’ll produce “local” milk that’s sourced from the US, Peru, Scotland, and Vietnam. “It’s local to someone, dammit!”

This is just a blatant example of the kinds of bullshit advertisers will try to sell you. Oh, Science Diet. This is the company that sent the pet store I worked at a pamphlet all about how “Large dog owners spend more on their pet!” No shit, Sherlock. But while certainly related, that’s not the story I want to tell.

You see, I know a lot of people who feed SD. I know a lot of people who think many very good things about SD. “My vet recommended it, it must be good!” “It’s called Science Diet, it’s the best!”

Actually, when you factor in the price premium, the food is crap.

When I look at a pet food, I’m looking for several things. Here’s the ingredient list for SD’s “Adult Optimal Care Original Dry” cat food.

Chicken By-Product Meal, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Brewers Rice, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Liver Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, Choline Chloride, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Iodized Salt, Vitamin E Supplement, Taurine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, Beta-Carotene, Rosemary Extract

The shit I bolded has no place in a good pet food. Only one major ingredient, the rice, is not questionable.

Let’s look at a food you will pay a lot less for. It’s not ironic that this is what I feed my cats currently, since I’m broke as shit. Purina ONE’s Chicken and Rice formula for cats.

Chicken, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, poultry by-product meal, wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), whole grain corn, fish meal, soy protein isolate, animal liver flavor, phosphoric acid, potassium chloride, calcium carbonate, caramel color, salt, choline chloride, taurine, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite.

It’s not much better. But, the number one ingredient in Purina ONE is chicken. SD can’t even say that it has chicken in it. Trust me, by-product meal isn’t the same as “chicken.” And yet people pay a premium for Science Diet. Mostly because the vets push it. The vets push it because SD gives them a kickback for it, not to mention how entrenched SD has become in the veterinary world.

The whole point of these is examples is to illustrate why exactly it’s so important to pay attention. Question everything. These people are ultimately trying to make a profit. If you met the SD representative I had to deal with on an almost weekly basis during my pet store days you’d be appalled. “Why’d you put my food all the way back here? Why’d you move Wellness up front?” I tried to be polite and give him some bullshit answer, but the real reason was because Science Diet is crap and Wellness is not.

Yes, they do, to an extent, try to make a quality product. But the prime motivator is profit. And to reach that goal, they will tell you anything. “Meets or exceeds AAFCO standards!” That really doesn’t say much. I haven’t seen a pet food yet that didn’t, except for the crap that people buy at the feed store (those have “meat by-product meal.” Ouch). And besides, which is it? You either merely meet or you do exceed standards. Pick one or I’m going to be thinking that the formula changes periodically.

It’s not just food. It’s Wal-mart’s 50% virgin plastic carpet shampooer. It’s a company that tries to make you feel good about spending a god-awful amount on bottled water by “helping children get clean water.” Let’s not discuss the fact that only $0.05 of that $1.80 goes to help. Why not just send the $1.80? Because it’s not about the children, it’s about Starbucks trying to get into the very saturated bottled water market (pun not intended). Fuck buying a bottle of water for $1.80, I’ll go to the grocery store and buy 2.5 gallons for $2.59. Or I’ll just stick my glass under the faucet, add some ice cubes, and not pay a damn thing.

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