Pet Lover Geek

What's Really In My Dog's Food?

January 05, 2021 Lorien Clemens Season 6 Episode 1
Pet Lover Geek
What's Really In My Dog's Food?
Show Notes Transcript

Today, Lorien sits down with Dustin McAdams, founder and CEO of PupJoy, to talk about what sustainability means in the pet industry and how it translates to the food we feed our dogs.

Did you know the term "meat" on the ingredient list is actually not good? Like, at all. Dustin shares even more great tips with us to help us understand the label on our dog's food.

We've got all of the information - plus more - that Lorien and Dustin talk about on our blog. Read Dustin's tips on good AND bad ingredients to look out for!

Honest, healthy high-quality dog goods from socially responsible makers, delivered the way you want.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Thanks for listening! Check out our sponsor, PetHub for more great pet parent resources.

Have an idea for a PetLoverGeek episode or have something else you want to share? Drop us a note to

00:03 Lorien Clemens

Hey pet lovers, welcome to Pet Lover Geek powered by PetHub. I'm Lorien Clemens and today we're taking a step back from the world of pet tech and geekiness, and we are hopping into the world of sustainability and what it means to us -- as pet parents -- and our beloved family members who are furry.

Now sustainability -- I know it's a huge topic right now, as it should be -- and the pet industry is quickly adapting to the needs of pet parents who are looking for more sustainable pet products. But what exactly is a sustainable pet product? It is a little bit of a buzz-wordy kind of thing right now, and a lot of people throw it around. And it's hard to know, you know, what's legit, what's not, and what the heck are we really supposed to be looking for when we're trying to find our pup maybe a new dog food or our cat an eco-friendly kitty litter? Or maybe a toy that's going to be as healthy and kind to the earth as it is wonderful for our pet.

So, lucky for us, our guest today is Dustin McAdams. He is the founder and CEO of one of the most popular sustainable subscription programs that's out there for dog owners and it's called PupJoy. Now the PupJoy team vets all the products that are available on their site and they only offer honest, healthy, high-quality dog goods from socially responsible makers. It's pretty awesome!

And if you're still not sure what all of that means, well don't worry because this is the episode for you. Dustin is going to walk us through what it means to be a sustainable pet company, and how you as a pet parent can purchase products that are the best out there for you, your pet, and the planet.

Dustin is also going to give us some tips on what to look for when it comes to looking for your dog's food -- particularly if you're looking to change foods. And you'll hear a lot of different things out there that is really confusing -- and I know we've talked about this a lot on Pet Lover Geek -- that when you go into the pet store or you're online and you're looking at all of the things that are listed on the packaging. It's super-duper confusing.

Did you know that when the word just "meat" is listed as an ingredient, it's likely the worst source of meat that your dog could get? It's crazy, I know, but it's true and I didn't really know that either. So Dustin is going to walk us through what ingredients we should avoid and what good ingredients we should be looking for. So, let's just get to it, okay?Because it's time to get nerdy and geeky about all things sustainability, and we'll be right back in just a second with Dustin.

02:27 (music)

02:40 Lorien Clemens

I am so excited to be talking with Dustin McAdams today, the founder and CEO of PupJoy, a company that is built on sustainability and offers pet parents a personalized, loyal, and friendly shopping experience to find the highest quality products for their dog

Now Dustin, before we dive into what makes a product or company sustainable, I'd love it if you could give our listeners just a little bit of background on yourself and how you started PupJoy.

03:10 Dustin McAdams

Well first Lorien, thank you for that very personalized and friendly introduction. I appreciate it.

03:15 Lorien Clemens

You are welcome.

03:17 Dustin McAdams

Let's see my background: I grew up in a small farm town in central Illinois. I was always surrounded by dogs, and I was enterprising fairly early. I had a lawn care and snow removal business by the time I was probably in my early teens and I was even a reseller of contraband bubble gum in middle school, but don't tell anybody about that one.

03:41 Lorien Clemens

Love it.

03:43 Dustin McAdams

Let's see. I went to college, and after college and grad school, I spent the first half of my career in the advertising agency and kind of marketing technology world, which was a fun industry. I had a blast with it and I did fairly well, but I always dreamed -- kind of along the way I always dreamed about doing something entrepreneurial, building something, doing it my way.

So in 2015, my partner Bill and I started PupJoy and we started really as a pure "play subscription box company" with the concept that online shopping could be more personalized -- sort of more curated and transparent. So we focused heavily on customizing curated delivery boxes of really high-quality products, specifically from independent makers. So our whole model was built around working directly with some of the smaller, best independent makers out there that a lot of people often didn't have access to.

So years later, we've grown, we've expanded our offerings, but some of those concepts are still very much at the forefront of what we do.

Outside the office: husband, father to a little boy, a couple of rescue mutts, and I live in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Try to play a little golf when I can and practice a little bit of consciousness.

05:05 Lorien Clemens

Definitely! Well and buckle up for cold winters up there. I've lived up there myself, although it's not that much warmer here in North Central Washington.

So I just kind of want to set the scene -- as it were -- for what we're going to mainly focus on today, which is that whole sustainability, as you obviously know, it's a big topic right now, rightfully so.

05:25 Dustin McAdams


05:26 Lorien Clemens

And, you know, the pet industry has been evolving alongside other industries to create really more sustainable practices, and frankly, it makes sense, I mean we are all about animals which are part of our lovely environment and so sustainability you would think would be at the forefront of everybody's mind in the pet industry. But it isn't always.

So again, for those listeners who maybe don't know the industry that well, during Super Zoo of 2018, I am sure you were there -- it's this huge event, for those that don't know, that brings industry professionals from around the world together into Las Vegas. And there was an event there -- the Pet Sustainability Coalition and the World Pet Association interviewed 250 individuals, professionals in the industry about the trends of sustainability. I think they focused mostly on the pet food market. 

And so I wanted to go over some of the stats that they reported from that study that they did at Super Zoo, and then I want to pick your brain so that we can get a better understanding about what sustainability really means.

So in that study, 91% of the respondents said that they expect demand for the sustainably socially conscious companies to really increase over the next few years. And obviously this was done two years ago, and that's definitely true. Obviously we're seeing that demand take place right now. So what's interesting is that only 16% said that they thought the pet industry -- they thought of the pet industry as sustainable already and that there was doubt that it could be. 

So I would love it if you could talk about -- number one, what makes a company sustainable or product sustainable? And then, you know, what is it about that pet food industry, in particular, that makes it maybe difficult to be sustainable and about not being environmentally as friendly as it could or should be. So talk a little bit about that.

07:16 Dustin McAdams

Yeah, so those are interesting stats. It's quite a gap there. To the question on what exactly is a sustainable company or product? I have seen a lot of definitions. I'm sure there are plenty that are far more complete than mine, but for me I really would say it starts with caring -- caring about the environment and social issues -- and then doing what you can, depending on what type of company you are, to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the positive ones. They can obviously come in a lot of ways and a lot of things, but I think that core of authentically caring about it is what truly makes those companies -- that fall into kind of a sustainable definition -- what they are. And I'm sorry the second question was?

08:17 Lorien Clemens

Well, just like you know, like the pet food industry, which is where the primary focus of this whole study at Super Zoo was about. I mean, you know, is it just about those ingredients that they're using? What else is it about? You know, the pet food industry in particular that may be problematic already?

08:37 Dustin McAdams

So I think, you know, a couple of things maybe. So, problematic is certainly --

08:46 Lorien Clemens

It's a very loaded word, isn't it?

08:51 Dustin McAdams

I think it really -- based at least on what the output was of that surveying -- I think what it speaks to is perceptions, and I think there are some things certainly in the pet industry that drive perceptions. There have been, you know, there's been plenty of circumstances of bad press over the last 5-10 years of products that were either a health risk or cause serious damage or death to pets at sometimes. And, you know, a market that -- depending on which category you're looking at -- you have some categories in the pet industry where a lot of products are coming from overseas and specifically China, and I think that can drive perception.

09:37 Lorien Clemens

Uh huh.

09:38 Dustin McAdams

With that said, I do think -- at least what I see in the industry -- much like the mirror on the human side of things, there are plenty of segments both, you know, types of companies, movements within the industry, and product categories where the quality of the transparency, general health and sustainability kind of facets are dramatically, definitely improving.

10:12 Lorien Clemens

Right, yeah, well and I think so -- I'm going to talk a little bit about it because -- I'm going a little bit off script here too --  but I think from my perspective, I mean there's a couple of things if I'm just looking from the outside looking in and not knowing anything really, just my own assumptions. There's a couple of things that when I look at the pet food industry,  you know, and certainly things that I've criticized people about in the past, you know, you look at a lot of the factory farming that goes on for human food consumption is also prevalent in what's used for the ingredients for pet food. 

And then maybe the quality isn't that great. And I know you're going to talk about that a little bit further, but certainly you know just our practices as humans in the way we get animal proteins into our bodies, you know, the way we produce enough to feed everybody, I think have some environmental impact that need to be addressed. 

Packaging, I find highly problematic. There's a lot of wastefulness in the way that packaging has been in the past, although I have seen it profound difference in the last five years or so in the way packaging is out there.

11:18 Dustin McAdams


11:19 Lorien Clemens

But certainly before the last five years ago I was like, oh my gosh, this is so wasteful. So much plastic, so much, you know, whatever, but I think it's changing. I do think that is profoundly changing. 

And then I think too, I mean, there's -- and having known now that I've been in the industry now for, well, a decade, I've met people at the big, big, big, big companies -- I've met a lot of them at least -- and I think there is a lot of care there, but maybe it's not care that is seen out in the public eye. And then there's only so much you can do when you're when you're literally a huge dinosaur-sized company making changes. And so I think some of the smaller companies are able to be more nimble and change their practices maybe a little bit more. 

So I do think a lot of it's about perception, and let's actually talk about this because the report revealed that  -- and this is a survey done with pet care professionals who, we are also consumers though -- so, it was interesting that it was really clear that a lot of pet professionals didn't really fully understand what that quote sustainable practice really meant, you know, and I'm sure that that can be said about a lot of pet parents. 

So what I'd love if you can help us do is, you know, PupJoy is known for working with a lot of sustainable pet companies, providing those great high quality dog goods. So talk about what makes them sustainable, what makes them socially responsible? What are those indicators that people should be looking for?

12:47 Dustin McAdams

So first, yes, we do, we certainly seek out those type of companies. And at least the lens in which I look at our partners, sometimes we find companies that are both sustainable in their practices and socially responsible in other ways. So they can be one in the same certainly, but sometimes social responsibility comes in some other forms like charitable efforts. So we essentially try to curate the best in the industry, especially from kind of an independent maker lens.

So we partner with companies that have great products and that we also feel have value beyond the products. And for us, certainly, like the quality in the ingredient standards are the baseline for us. We, as a company, really kind of stand by our standards on that. However, a lot of our partners have socially responsible programs and standards themselves, from things like those charitable programs to eco-friendly materials, which you are seeing more and more of now. And things like ingredient upcycling. So we look for partners that are helping to do good in some way in hopes that it kind of creates a multiplying network effect of good.

14:05 Lorien Clemens

Can you real quick talk about ingredient upcycling because I don't know that a lot of our listeners actually know what that means.

14:11 Dustin McAdams

So if you go to PupJoy you can see some examples of it. We partner with a company here in Chicago called Shameless Pets where every product that they produce uses upcycled ingredients. If anyone listening has ever used -- use or heard of -- the company called Imperfect Produce, which is basically perfectly healthy fresh produce that for whatever reason is too ugly to go into the supermarket stores. 

The concept of upcycling is very much like that and sometimes uses Imperfect Produce. It is using healthy ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste for one reason or another. So it could be that it is a perfectly healthy apple that doesn't look right for a supermarket shelf. Or it could be something like the parts of the lobster that don't end up on your dinner plate that are just as healthy and just as fresh but would have otherwise gone to waste because they weren't the tail and the claw.

So it's the concept of using those types of ingredients, which one makes for good economics on really healthy ingredients, and secondly has an environmental benefit because it's reducing food waste.

15:31 Lorien Clemens

For me it's really about using the whole source of whatever, you know, it is. So like for example, there's a great company, it's called Riff Cold Brew. We learned about it at Bend Venture Conference, and the company uses what's left over from coffee beans -- which of course we all use coffee beans every single day when we have coffee -- but they use what's leftover from that to make this upcycled all-natural energy drink. It's the same idea as with Shameless Pets and other companies out there that are using upcycled materials and it's totally awesome. 

What other sustainable -- because that's the buzzword that we're talking about -- what are those sustainable practices that a pet parent should be looking for? Or, you know, cognizant of when they're looking at products?

16:16 Dustin McAdams

So, you know, I think it can go in a lot of directions. I think two of the big ones are -- is the product, whether it's an edible product or a nonedible product. Is it something that's using components -- ingredients -- that are easily renewable? So for example, you know, I'll give you a quick example. You can go out and buy a lot of different rubber type of toys for your dogs, which are fairly, you know, it's a fairly popular category. There are some companies that are specifically focusing on where they source their rubber from highly renewable sources. So that's just the kind of one facet of one category. 

Certainly, that translates into a lot of things in edible products. The sourcing of goods, if it's proteins, you know, how they're raised. And then certainly in the packaging, I think you hit this earlier, that we're a long way from perfection in the industry, but there have been some pretty big steps forward in using things that are recyclable and specifically materials that are made from recycled materials. You see that from everything from external packaging on treats to poop bags and a lot of goods in between.

17:44 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, and I actually look forward to an eventual future of -- it's almost like the old milk bottles that you put out on your stoop -- but I look forward to finding a way to, you know, obviously with good hygiene practices, to finally be able to reuse a lot of these packages that are there. I mean, my husband jokes about it all the time, like I keep so many packages because like it's such a great package, I want to use it for something. So like, you know, whether it be my sons, crayons or whatever, that eventually get held by it. But there are some of these packages out there that are great. And yes, there are recycleable, but I really try to not put things in the recycle bin if I don't have to. But I certainly,  I love it when they start using compostable things, that's really, really awesome. 

So okay, let's dig into this a little bit deeper then. So you gave us a little bit of a better understanding about what that means to be sustainable product. But I wanted to pick a little bit deeper into what I think is the most single confusing thing to buy as a pet parent's dog food.

18:49 Dustin McAdams


18:49 Lorien Clemens

It's just - ah! You go either to the store -- which most of us haven't been able to do in the last year -- or online, which is where most of us are obviously buying, and it's number one the marketing that's out there around all of these things is just dizzying, and they know it when they're putting those things together, particularly online. It's very hard, so it's the ingredient list, right? That's like the basis of everything, is the ingredient list, because we mentioned before about that the whole idea of "meat" on the ingredient list is not necessarily a good thing. 

So I want you to walk us through when we get back what ingredients we should stay away from and what ingredients we should look for. Okay? Hang on just a second, we'll be right back.

19:30 Ad - Lorien Clemens

Hey, pet lovers! I want to tell you about PopJoy -- PupJoy is fabulous! It is the number one rated subscription box. It's custom-tailored for dog parents -- that means you can personalize each delivery based on your dog's unique needs and your own schedule. You know me, I hate cookie cutter stuff and PupJoy is not cookie cutter. It is completely customizable which is awesome. 

So with PupJoy, you can be confident that you are purchasing products that are: number one from responsible and eco-friendly brands; and the PupJoy team has hand-selected only the highest quality natural and organic products that you can browse on their really easy to use website. It's a great experience. You gotta give PupJoy s try and I'm going to make it extra special for you. 

Join PetHub today. Just go to and join and then you will be able to get 50% more goodies in your first PupJoy box. It's a fantastic deal. So go to to learn more.

20:43 Lorien Clemens

The pet food industry is just simply booming right now. I mean, we're all adopting more dogs than ever before. A lot of brands market their products as natural, healthy, eco-friendly, etc, etc, you know, great options for our dogs. But if you dig down deep in, it's not really true all the time, and so it's hard to know. 

So, Dustin, I want to dive in. Is all of this marketing just BS or what can we really trust when we're looking at the foods that are out there on the shelf or online so that we know what we're buying is good for our dogs as well as the environment?

21:18 Dustin McAdams

Yeah, I think the short answer is it's both. 

21:23 Lorien Clemens


21:24 Dustin McAdams

There is a lot of marketing BS, and there are also a lot of healthy options. And I would argue probably more today than ever before. So let's maybe start with the positive side of that equation.

21:37 Lorien Clemens


21:38 Dustin McAdams

So the way I would see it, today more than ever, dogs are held at a higher standard in the house, in the family, and there are plenty of objective measures of that. Dogs are now considered to be part of our families more than they ever have. Thus, they are treated more like our family members, more than ever before. I would say we as people and parents in general have also become more conscious about own health and wellness, and that is translating to how we look at our dogs health and wellness too. 

I think the result of that is a demand -- a growing demand -- for higher quality things for our dogs, especially more healthy food and treats. The downside of that is there are terms like natural that are governed by standards and policies that are not totally clear or logical, I think to a lot of people. What you or I may think is logically natural isn't necessarily what companies are required to comply with. 

So for example, the label of natural allows for some synthetic or artificial ingredients with a disclaimer of in quote, I believe it's "added vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients" or something very similar to that. To me, if I hear a disclaimer -- which I would say disclaimer kind of an air quotes -- of added vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients, to me that doesn't logically sound like a disclaimer. I would expect that most consumers that would read that wouldn't necessarily read it with the advisory that it has artificial stuff in it.

23:20 Lorien Clemens


23:21 Dustin McAdams

So I think it -- you know, one of the key challenges with the marketing BS behind it, is we've got a set of standards that are not really driving clarity for the consumer.

23:35 Lorien Clemens

And why is that?

23:38 Dustin McAdams


23:40 Lorien Clemens

I mean, I know it was loaded. I know (laughs).

23:43 Dustin McAdams

That one becomes a very loaded question! So there are probably a lot of forces that play into it, but I would say, in the way that the policy standards are set today allow for what I would describe as disclaimers and information that are not as logical and crystal clear to the consumer in making educated choices as they could and should be.

24:12 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, I think there's probably a little bit of deliberate obscuration going on, frankly. But yeah, and I think -- I'll just lay it out there. From my perspective, there's a lot of money in it. I mean, veterinary and food are the two biggest chunks of the massive revenue that's coming into the pet industry right now. There's tons of money in there, and there's a couple of big players that do have a ton of money, and it's not that these are necessarily bad people at all. I don't think that they are. 

I do think that the practices when you're doing mass production of food, there are going to be some corners that have to get cut in order -- you'd think that I have to get cut -- in order to continue to do it in an economical way that allows for you to make the profits that you want to make to stay at the level you're at. 

So let's -- we're talking about positive stuff though right? (laughs)

25:13 Dustin McAdams

A little bit of both!

25:15 Lorien Clemens

Okay, so let's focus on the ingredient list, right? If I'm looking at the ingredient list, what are those positive things that I could be looking for and I can go okay, good. That's a good thing for me to look at. So you know, the general rule I have been hearing a lot likely is less is more. Like the list is taking up half the back of the package that might be a problem. But what other things should I be looking for?

25:39 Dustin McAdams

Yeah, so I would say that less is more is certainly a good start on it. In general, I think the fewer ingredients the better, although it's going to vary a little bit by product type. For example, if you're buying the best soft and chewy treats you can for your dog, it's going to have more ingredients on the list than a single protein jerky. But I would say, by and large, limited ingredients are definitely -- that's one thing to look for in packaging. 

A second big category would be whole foods. Single source proteins, minimally processed fruits, veggies, grains. At the end of the day it's real food with real nutrients. 

When you can find it, organic is great. Organic is generally less likely to contain contaminants because it receives extra scrutiny from inspectors. 

And one thing I love in my own buying for my dogs and a lot of the products that we look for a PupJoy are, especially with treats, are those that contain functional ingredients. So functional ingredients generally are just foods that have additive health promoting benefits.

26:59 Lorien Clemens

That don't need to have quote "added vitamins and minerals" because they've already got them (laughs).

27:03 Dustin McAdams

Yeah, they've already go them in there (laughs).

And you know, if you kind of know what to look for, especially in like the category of functional foods -- and there are a lot of them -- it really helps you find treats and foods that are: one, balanced but also are going to give your dog the things you need, or that your dog needs, sorry.

Some good examples of that: some simple things like eggs. Eggs are a great source, just like there are for us, amino acids, central fatty acids, vitamins. They are good for dogs' skin, coats -- assuming there are no allergies -- it's a great source for them. It's kind of the same with healthy, oily fishes: salmon, sardines, kind of fishes that fall into that category. Great for skin and coat, loaded with those essential fatty acids and vitamins. 

Healthy oils are good. Coconut oil, olive oil are both really good ones to look for. Good with, again, fatty acids, antioxidant. Great for heart health, immune, even cognitive health. 

Fruits that are high in antioxidants: blueberries and watermelons are two great ones for that. Veggies that have what are called phytonutrients in them -- betacarotene. Most people are familiar with that. Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin are all loaded with that. They're also really good sources of fiber. 

Bone broth is another easy one, whether it's an ingredient that is in the product you buy or it even can be used easily as a topper or treat. Bone broth is great for collagen, which is good for skin and digestion. Also it's a source of glucosamine and chondroitin which are known to be really good for joint health. 

Dark leafy greens. Kale is one of the better ones. Again great with phytonutrients, they are packed with them, fiber and even fatty acids in those.

Chia and flax seeds you'll see used a lot more these days. Those are great sources of antioxidant. Quinoa, kind of an alternative grain,  it's one of the few that -- I believe -- has all eight essential amino acids, which is great.

29:25 Lorien Clemens

I didn't know.

29:26 Dustin McAdams

Yeah, it's actually, I mean, we eat it a lot ourselves around our house, so I give it to the dogs quite a bit as a treat -- topped with a little coconut oil. They think it's wonderful and it's a super healthy snack for them. 

And then turmeric and ginger are a couple of kind of super foods -- which I know that's a buzzworthy term -- but in addition to antioxidants, they are both antifungal, antiviral and antiflammatory in their properties. So they can be great ingredients.

30:01 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, I use both of those a lot in my own food, so I can definitely attest to that, and they're delicious.

30:06 Dustin McAdams

They are! And I think, you know, those are -- so those are great examples of a couple of ingredients that have gained a lot more, I would say, awareness and traction in the human space because we as people have become more educated on the benefits and then that is now translating into seeing them show up a lot more in healthy dog products.

30:31 Lorien Clemens

Okay, this is a great list by the way. And for everybody listening, remember we do transcribe all these, so you'll have that list available when you're checking out our blog post that goes along with this so you can actually print it out and take it with you. 

So let's switch and let's go a little bit into the negative, and I want you to remember that I've got this question about upcycling. This always bugged me because I know some of the things that you're going to talk about on what to look to avoid, and one of them that I would like -- if you could start with that -- is that whole byproduct and meat meals. Because to me -- in my brain -- I'm like well isn't that upcycling? So, I would love it if you could talk about, you know, when we talk about those things avoid, let's start with the byproducts and meat meals and why that's not the same as the upcycling benefit that you were talking about earlier.

31:21 Dustin McAdams

Yeah, so yeah, I'm glad you -- thanks for framing it that way because I never really thought of those two things necessarily being confused, and they're very different. So yeah, let's dig into that and like, make sure we kind of draw -- hopefully a clear understanding on that.

So let's start with the -- a couple things that I would say, my recommendation is absolutely look out for in the sense of don't buy products with them. So generally the category would be byproducts and meat meals. Why?

First, they're kind of gross. Probably more importantly, they're not healthy and potentially dangerous. So byproducts are -- they're essentially slaughterhouse scraps. My apologies for any of this that does sound a little gross, but it's almost impossible to get --

32:21 Lorien Clemens

It is gross!

32:23 Dustin McAdams

It's impossible to describe it without it being a little gross. So byproducts are basically slaughterhouse scraps. Everything that is leftover after meat and bones, and then it's processed by cooking at extremely high temperatures that essentially melt all that stuff. And while there certainly are some potentially healthy things like organs that can be contained in byproducts, a bunch of really unhealthy stuff can too, like diseased or rotten parts which are allowed in the process. Further, it's so heavily processed that very little nutrition is left and it can be really hard for dogs to digest. 

The second kind of category is meat meal. So I'll start with generally, it's almost universally agreed that meat is good for dogs. And I would say, at least arguably, named-identified meat meals have value -- can have value in, especially, dog foods.

33:33 Lorien Clemens

And when you say named, it would say like chicken meal, beef meal?

33:36 Dustin McAdams

Exactly. Now, I will say that category of name meat meals, like chicken meal, you can get plenty of arguments on either side of that equation, but that's not necessarily what I'm talking about here. 

What I'm talking about is generic meat meals, and they are something I absolutely recommend you avoid. You'll typically see it listed as just "meat meal" or "meat", and when that type of nondescript language is used on the ingredient deck, the source is almost certainly not a good one, and it possibly can include things like dead livestock, even zoo animals. 

And much like byproducts, it's processed so heavily to remove pathogens that it becomes very hard to digest and has very little nutrition left. So kind of -- I would say the underscore on this one, generally meat is good, especially in dog food, and avoid anything with a very generic description of "meat meal" or anything that's listed as byproduct.

34:40 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, so this is where that less is more is not necessarily a good thing! So you want it to be very specific because it just says "meat" that less is more is actually a bad thing. So the more specific it is as far as what kind of meat, is better, yes?

34:56 Dustin McAdams


34:58 Lorien Clemens

Okay, so what's the rest of the list I should avoid?

35:01 Dustin McAdams

So the rest of the list kind of falls into three other big categories. I would say artificial preservatives; artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, kind of lumped together; and dangerous fats. So let me take those one by one. 

Artificial preservatives are not all necessarily bad, but certainly, some are. Some have been linked to cancer, allergic reactions, inflammation, stuff like organ and digestive health, skin issues, nervous system damage -- a whole host of not good stuff for your dog.

It's a pretty lengthy list with a lot of terms that sound a little foreign. So what I would say is there's a link to some of the worst offenders on our site PupJoy, or if you just go and do a Google search, you can find lots of good information around this. But there are some that fall into that category that are really good to stay away from. 

BHA is an acronym for one. BHT is another. They are two that I would definitely stay away from. There's propylene glycol which is a relative to antifreeze. So I would say it's probably worth going -- if you're interested -- going and looking through the list and keeping those kind of top of mind when you're looking at the label of your dog food, or if you're searching for new dog food. And it's a good kind of checklist to make sure those things aren't winding up in what you're giving your dog.

36:44 Lorien Clemens

Well and a lot of the companies now are calling out that hey, we don't use these, you know they'll specifically call out BHA free, and all these kind of things.

36:52 Dustin McAdams

You know, and I would say if you're buying a good, high quality source of dog food, it's unlikely you're going to find these, but it's certainly a list worth becoming familiar with if it's something concerning to you, because artificial preservatives out of the list of things to avoid, might be the category that have the most severe health issues that are kind of attached to them.

So the second one is -- the other artificial category -- which is flavors, sweeteners, colors. I would say first and foremost they're not made from real food, so there's no nutritional value. But the concern with this category is some of them can trigger sensitivities and allergies, sometimes fairly severely. So, again, if you can avoid the artificial stuff, generally you're going to be in a lot safer territory for you dog. 

And the final one is dangerous fats ---

37:49 Lorien Clemens

Wait, hold on real quick. I want to make sure because there's one that's like -- I want to make sure everybody knows. Xylitol. And no pet food manufacturer at all, worth anything, would put xylitol into the pet food because it's toxic, but it exists in a lot of things that we as humans eat and that we might accidentally give to our pets, including peanut butter. So please make sure you're always checking that.

38:17 Dustin McAdams

Yeah, actually, that's a great call out. So there are -- dogs love peanut butter -- and you're right, that is probably one of the big risk categories with some human peanut butters. One, look for it on the label. Secondly, there are there plenty of all-natural human peanut butters and you get the same for some dog-specific peanut butters. So if you got a dog that loves peanut butter, I have one, that is certainly something to be very cognizant of.

38:49 Lorien Clemens


38:49 Dustin McAdams

Great call out on that one.

38:50 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, yeah. Okay, keep going!

38:52 Dustin McAdams

So the last category is dangerous fats. I would say much like meat, fat is often a very good thing for dogs in moderation, like for all of us. However, generic animal fat, which would be far different than the olive oil or coconut oil that we were talking about earlier, generic animal fat is allowed by the FDA to be chemically preserved and sourced again from disease or dead animals. Tallow, which might be the worst, is also chemically preserved and can be sourced from rancid restaurant grease.

39:29 Lorien Clemens

Oh god. Yuck! It's so nasty, I cannot even fathom!

39:35 Dustin McAdams

It's kind of like one of those things like, like meats, it's a category that is good for dogs -- just like for us -- if it's from healthy sources and not processed in an unhealthy way. So I would say, you know, just be conscious -- with both meats and fats in food and treats, and foods are probably the most complicated one to look through for the ingredient deck. Know where it's coming from and if you have questions about it then I would say maybe shift gears to a direction of a different product or at least dig in a little further.

40:19 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, follow your gut. If it sounds really weird then it probably is. There's a lot of companies out there, particularly newer companies, that transparency is so important. They get it and they're willing to talk. They're willing to tell you, you know, where their sources are coming from and things like that. 

So, Dustin, you have been a great wealth of knowledge. Obviously we could talk all day about this subject, but we can't really, so I wanted to call out that you wrote a really terrific article for the PetHub blog and it details all this information, plus a whole lot more. And so I want to make sure that folks know about it, there's a link in the show notes for you listeners to go and check it out to really great. 

And of course, PupJoy's website just

41:02 Dustin McAdams

That is correct --

41:04 Lorien Clemens

A great resource. Are there other places that they can learn about you guys? Follow you, etc, etc?

41:10 Dustin McAdams

We're @PupJoy on all major social media. We like to highlight some of our cute customers on Instagram and occasionally on Facebook. So if you want cute pictures, that's a good place to go. If you want a little more detail on us, is probably the best spot.

41:27 Lorien Clemens

Fantastic! Thank you so much for joining us today, Dustin. It's really great.

41:32 Dustin McAdams

I really appreciate being here! And if I can, maybe the last thing I would leave everybody with is: my opinion is we all have power on this. So everything we've talked about -- good and bad, and I do think the trends are moving in a good direction -- we have the power based on where we spend our money. And even with the kind of politicians and governance that controls things, ultimately we're in the driver seat of it. So the more awareness we all have and the more attention we all give it, the better things get.

42:02 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, hear hear! And, you can see there's been movement on the big companies that are out there producing food treats,etc. They're moving on it too. So that means what that our voices do mean something. So keep hammering at that for sure. 

Thank you so much for joining us! Pet lovers, that's it for today's episode. Obviously, we could have talked about this for a long time and this is something I'll probably come back to again and again. But we love talking about this stuff and here at PetHub, especially, it's a focus for us -- being good for the environment as well as for our pets.

If there's any topics that you're curious about, that you want to learn more about, you want to geek out with, make sure you just reach out to us on social media. Drop us a line. We would also love it if you take a moment to review Pet Lover Geek on your favorite podcast app so that other pet lovers can find us. And we're going to be back in a couple of weeks. We've got some really geeky and techie topics coming up ahead. See you, then pet lover!