Green Acres Kennel Shops Philosophy on Pet Nutrition

< Last Updated 10FEB20 >

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My wife Paula and I became passionate about pet nutrition in the early ’90s, long before we were part of the pet care industry. When Gus, our Carin terrier puppy, developed serious health issues, believed to be related to nutrition, we knew we had to learn more about pet food.  Gus’ veterinarian, who was also Paula’s employer, was the first to suggest that Gus’s chronic urinary tract infections were probably related to what he was eating. However, the vet also let us know that Gus’ problem was well beyond what he was taught about nutrition in school. He did everything he could to help us, but it was mostly trial and error experimentation. We started to do our own research and to learn everything possible about canine nutrition and eventually found a solution for Gus after we moved to Maine and became the new owners of Green Acres Kennel Shop. < FMI – >

When we purchased Green Acres late in 1995, we continued to sell the brands of pet food the business had always sold. As we learned more, we brought new foods in and got rid of foods we were not comfortable selling. That practice continues today.

We only sell products that we would feed to our pets. Sometimes people are surprised when they come into the store and see that we do not sell some of the brands that are popular on TV and at other retailers. Popular does not mean quality nutrition, and if it does not meet our standards, we will not sell it, no matter who endorses it or how many ads they run on TV.

We continue to learn everything we can about pet nutrition, to train our staff so that they are also knowledgeable, and to teach any of our clients that want to ask questions and learn. We believe that nutritious food is fundamental to optimal physical, mental, and emotional health.

We want our pets and your pets to do more than survive; we want them to thrive!

Below I have summarized the main facets of our philosophy on pet nutrition. Because we are committed to continually learning, we consider this to be a living document, meaning it will change as we accumulate additional knowledge.

We believe that quality nutrition is the foundation for both optimal physical, mental, and emotional health.

What we feed our pets can have a profound impact on their lives. While a pet can survive on poor nutrition, we desire to see our pets and your pets fed so that they thrive and have a long, healthy life as your companion, without breaking your budget. My wife Paula and I learned long ago that what you feed your pet really matters.

We believe that there is no single brand or formula of pet food that is the best for all pets.

Anyone that is genuinely health-conscious knows that they would not experience optimum nutrition by only eating one brand of food (Bumbell’s Soup, Crock Mac & Cheese, etc.), or type of food, (Angus beef, McIntosh apples, etc.) or only eating at one restaurant (Moe’s Diner, Burger Master, etc.). Why would our pets be any different? The fact is, all pet foods are not the same. If they were the same, all pet food would have identical ingredients and cost the same. We know that is not true. Yet, there are pet food companies that try to convince you otherwise. Even some pet care professionals insist that “all pet food is the same” and “it does not matter what you feed your pet,” or that “one brand of pet foods is the best for all pets.” None of those statements is true, which is why Green Acres Kennel Shop offers a wide variety of pet foods so that you can select the ones that are the most beneficial to your pet and your pocketbook.

While we provide many brands, they are also not necessarily equal. While we would feed anything we sell, each of us on staff may have a slightly different preference of what we would choose first because each of our pets is an individual.

We also help our clients understand that if their budget does not allow them to feed fresh, high-quality food at every meal, there are still befits to feeding it periodically or feeding it as an occasional topper to the food that you can afford.

We believe that you should not need to take out a second mortgage to feed your pet.

Pet food varies widely in price because brands and formulas are different. In many ways, you get what you pay for, but that is not always the case, which is why we encourage you to take the time to learn what you are buying. Often the food that costs the least per pound may cost you more than another food because you will need to feed much more of that food. Also, consider the cost that TV advertising and celebrity endorsements add to the price of pet food while doing nothing to improve its nutritional value. We suggest you feed the best food that you can afford. Also, be advised that pet food companies and retailers do not always make it easier to compare costs. Talk to us, and we can help.

We believe that it is critically important for pet care professionals, pet food retailers, and pet parents to be educated and cautious consumers and to be ever diligent. Anyone trying to convince you to feed a particular pet food may have a bias and a conflict of interest.

We have been in this business since late 1995, and we have seen many changes in the pet food industry, and not all of them have been for the better. Big conglomerates are buying small pet food companies and eliminating their competition by simply shutting them down. While the market has generally driven all companies to produce higher quality and more nutritious food, that is not always the case.  Some companies’ quest for greater and greater profits ultimately can cause quality to suffer.

When we sell you pet food, we make a profit. The same can be said of any business that sells pet food; animal shelters and rescues, big box stores, boarding kennels, breeders, daycares, discount stores, distressed good stores, feed stores, grocery stores, groomers, online retailers, pet stores, and even veterinarians. There is nothing inherently wrong in making a profit. However, it is not always so simple to know when a profit motive may affect which product one of the above entities recommend. Shelters often recommend or give you food when you adopt a pet because it is provided by the manufacturer to them at no cost. Many breeders do the same because they get discounts on food for making specific recommendations. Often many retailers push a particular brand of food, perhaps their house brand, because they profit more by emphasizing that brand.

In full disclosure, two of the brands of food that we sell at Green Acres provide our employees with a free bag of food every month. Some staff members chose to feed those foods, and others feed something else because they believe their pet does better on the food that they buy. While we do feed one of the brands of food that we sell to our boarding guests, we are not compensated for doing so. We chose that food because we believe it is the food that most dogs and cats will do well on while in our care. Boarding clients are welcome to bring their own food if they wish to do so.

Unfortunately, selling a specific brand of food or providing it for free is not the only way money influences the pet food industry. Many veterinary nutrition departments at universities receive major funding from the “big five” pet food manufacturers; Mars Candy, Nestle Candy, General Mills, Colgate-Palmolive & Smuckers, ) so I must admit when a veterinary school recommends pet parents only purchase pet food from the “big five” I am suspicious. I am also skeptical when anyone suggests that you feed their brand of food and only their brand. If my physician told me only to purchase a big brand mac and cheese and to avoid that small company with an organic product, I would find myself a new physician. < FMI >

We believe that there are health benefits to rotating a pet’s diet so that they are not eating the same ingredients every day of their life.

We know that science teaches us that eating a wide variety of healthy foods is in our best interest. Even if we like chicken and broccoli and can all agree that broccoli and chicken is a healthy choice, commonsense and science tell us that if all we ever ate were chicken and broccoli, we would not be getting a well-rounded variety of essential nutrients. The benefits of a well-rounded diet are also why we recommend routinely rotating your pet’s diet as long as they are healthy and not restricted to a limited ingredient diet. The fact is, the only ones to benefit from the philosophy of “never change what you feed your pet”; are the pet food manufacturer, the business that sold you the food, and the veterinarian that treats your pet when they get sick from eating the same food their entire life. That is why we started to talk to our clients about rotating their pet’s diet back in 2006. < FMI >. We recently updated our information on dietary rotation because we believe it is even more important, and it is also easier to do than it was in 2006. < FMI > < FMI >.

We prefer small, family-owned companies that focus primarily on pet food and treats.

Most people do not realize that megalithic, multinational corporations like the Mars Candy Company, the Nestlé Candy Company, Smucker’s, Colgate-Palmolive, Diamond, and General Mills control 89.3% all of the pet food sold in North America. In 2018, these six companies accounted for over 106 different pet brand names, an average of 17+ per conglomerate. These companies make everything from candy, to jam, to toothpaste, to dishwashing soap, to breakfast cereal and many more products that have nothing to do with pet nutrition. Based on our experience, these huge corporations appear to be in the pet business more for their bottom-line than because they are passionate about pets and optimum nutrition.

At Green Acres, we prefer to work with a variety of small-family-owned and operated pet food companies. In some cases, these companies have been producing high-quality pet food for 50+ years. These companies follow all of the same regulatory standards as the big companies, and in some cases go well beyond these standards. They also work with veterinarians and animal nutritionists with doctoral degrees when formulating their foods. Over the years, they have developed relationships with their suppliers which are frequently small-family owned farms.

Huge corporations live by the dictate we must always do what is best for our shareholders; in other words, they focus on the bottom-line. The health of their balance sheet is more important to them than the health of your pet. If they do make a mistake in pet feed, they won’t go out of business because they have their tentacle into so many different consumer products.

Small family-owned pet food companies that only make pet food have a much more significant stake in the game. If they screw up, they may very well be out of business and looking for work. However, more importantly, in our experience, these small companies also have a healthier attitude towards business.

In the August 2019 issue of Pet Insight magazine,  Charlie Nelson, the President of Tuffy’s/KLN Family Brands (NutriSource, PureVita, & Natural Planet), was asked “What differentiates Tuffy’s from other manufacturers within the pet industry? His response says it all: “…we continue to answer only to ourselves and our customers. We make decisions every day that are best for pets, employees, partners and our community. It’s what we believe in and what works for us.” [Emphasis added].

Karen Neola, the founder, and CEO of My Perfect Pet, has a similar philosophy: “My Perfect Pet is an independent family-owned business founded with a mission to ‘improve pet health through education and nutrition’ and to put pet health over profits.   We didn’t start with a business plan; we started with a mission to teach pet parents how to make healthier choices for their pets and to deliver the same whole food nutrition to their pets that we know is best for the rest of the family.  We don’t answer to equity investors, only to our conscience.  As long as my name is associated with My Perfect Pet, we will never compromise on the quality or integrity of our products.”

Green Acres Kennel Shop wishes that more pet food manufacturers had the same attitude as Mr. Nelson and Ms. Neola.

You can learn more about the companies that make up the pet food industry; it may surprise and alarm you, at

You can find a list of all of the brands of cat and dog food that we offer at Green Acres Kennel Shop at

We believe that knowing what ingredients go into your pet foods is ESSENTIAL.

In our opinion, the ingredients panel on a bag of pet food is the most critical piece of information there and is one of the few things that are subject to at least some level of regulation. Ingredients are listed in order by weight. By examining that label, you can quickly determine the approximate amount of meat in a food; essential information as both dogs and cats are meat-eaters. While the dog may be able to survive on carbohydrates, it is our goal to see your dog thrive, not merely survive.

In the summer of 2018, a well-known veterinary nutritionist had the audacity to tell pet parents, “Do yourself a favor – stop reading the ingredient list!.” I found that attitude to be both arrogant and ignorant. We should all always be concerned about the ingredients in what we eat, and in what we feed to those we love.

We believe that the pet food industry is under-regulated, and as a result, much of their advertising may be misleading if not outright deceptive.  We think it is disingenuous to put a photo of a choice cut of beef on the front of a bag of pet food unless it is 100% representative of the actual meat that went into that bag of pet food. Equally deceptive is listing ingredients in the foods name (e.g., Beef with Spinach, Peas, and Carrots) when those vegetables appear on the ingredient list below the salt.  Since ingredients must be listed in order by weight, such a list indicates that food has very high levels of salt or very little of those vegetables.

Unfortunately, what appears on the front of a bag of pet food is not adequately regulated, allowing evil geniuses in marketing to make you believe their product is of better quality than it is. A prime example of this is the companies that choose to add artificial colors to their kibble. Companies that add artificial colors pet food do so solely to appeal to you. Those artificial colors make no difference to your pet. Synthetic dyes add no nutritional value to the food and may have adverse health effects. They also add cost to the product. We would prefer companies spend that money on quality ingredients that will benefit our pets.

We are not fans of pet foods that are advertised on television or have celebrity endorsements. Industry insiders have suggested that several dollars per bag are spent on those endeavors rather than on purchasing quality ingredients to go in the bag. More than one big-name TV brand has been sued because the ingredients they claimed were used in their food were not, and some of the raw materials they stated would never be used in their food, were found to be in the food.

If you have not seen the documentary Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry, I encourage you to do so, as it highlights the lack of regulation in the pet food industry. < FMI >

We believe we have a responsibility to carefully evaluate a food and the company behind it before selling it at Green Acres Kennel Shop.

We are often introduced to new foods when a sales representative visits us, or when we attend an industry trade show. They typically give us their spiel about why their food is better than any other and then indicate that if we place an order today, or within a specific and usually short time frame, they will give us a considerable discount. If they have never dealt with us before, they are a bit frustrated when they learn that is not how we operate.

Before offering a new pet food at Green Acres, we will typically ask several questions, which the sales representatives often need to refer back to the company’s nutritionists. Until a company addresses all of our concerns to our satisfaction, we will not sell their pet food. If we like all of the answers, we will then typically bring in a few units of a new product so that we can first test it with our pets and with clients that will provide us with useful feedback. If pets do well on the food, then, and only then will be offering it for sale,

From the reaction we get from many sales representatives, I am under the impression that they can get a new food into many stores after one visit. In our case, it typically takes several months, sometimes up to a year. If we are going to stake our reputation on food, we believe it is essential for us to evaluate that food and the company thoroughly.

I would love to have you as a client at Green Acres Kennel Shop, but it is even more important to the Green Acres team that you and your pet have a long healthy and happy life starting with a foundation of quality, wholesome nutrition. Please, do your research. Your pet is depending on you to make healthy choices for them.

©10FEB20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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