Both the look of and the ingredients in dog food have evolved dramatically since the first canned meals were manufactured, and it has a lot to do with the changing role of dogs in humans’ lives. Canines were once primarily just pets (I know, crazy), and were great to have as company, hunting dogs, guard dogs, and the like, but they were just that: dogs.
Veterinary care wasn’t very advanced, and their nutritional needs weren’t exactly nailed down. Now, dogs are family. We love them like a human family member, and many of us try to feed them like it, too.
Because humans had yet to learn about dogs’ nutritional needs, they fed their pups scraps of their own food. In the mid-1800s, lightning rod salesman James Spratt saw shipyard dogs eating hardtack biscuits and was inspired to make something similar. He compressed vegetables, wheat, and meat into cakes, baked them, and was on his way to advertising the first commercial dog food.
Around the same time, small business owners started manufacturing and selling other types of dog food. Horse meat was a pupular ingredient in early dog foods before being outlawed in the U.S. in the 1970s.
In 1909, the Association of American Feed Control Officers was founded to regulate pet food quality. Pet foods still have the AAFCO label information today. They established regulations for canned dog food in 1917.
The manufacturing of pellet-sized dry foods started in the 1950s, by adapting the equipment used to produce breakfast cereals and snack foods. During the early to mid 20th century some of today’s major players joined the market: Iams, Purina, and Hill’s to name a few. Iams created some of the first meat-based high protein pet foods, which showed their commitment to quality.
The Pet Food Institute was founded in 1958 as the national trade association of dog and cat food manufacturers. They represent the companies that make up to 98 percent of cat and dog food in the U.S. Since then, there’s been a continued interest in high quality, healthy pet food ingredients for our four-legged friends.