A Deceptive Cat Food Advertisment

Have you seen the new Iams cat food ad? You can watch it on youtube - the main point seems to be kitty has very sharp teeth and kitty should be out hunting for her food.

Oh wait - no, they want you to buy their "Proactive Health" dry kibble because it has "50% more animal protein 'versus best selling adult formulas of leading brands.' But also because 'most brands add plant protein... but Iams never adds gluten.' They later mention corn gluten meal specifically.

This is not the place to dive into what is or is not an appropriate ingredient in cat (or dog) food. Here I just want you to consider the ad itself. Start with that 50% claim. Who are the 'leading brands?'

Not stated and you might naively think they refer to other brands like Iams. But in reality, they are comparing to lower quality, high sales volume foods that move in supermarkets and the like. Those foods are often lower in animal protein than more sophisticated products and thus the claimed 50% hurdle rate can be more easily achieved.

And what about the corn gluten statement? The intention here is clearly the negative play on "gluten" - a word getting a lot of attention these days in adult human diets. The only problem is, corn gluten meal is not gluten. Per Wikipedia

there is no true gluten in corn, but simply corn proteins. The expression "corn gluten" is colloquial jargon that describes corn proteins that are neither gliadin nor glutenin. Only wheat, barley, and rye contain true gluten, which is formed by the interaction of gliadin and glutenin proteins.

So whether or not corn "gluten" meal is good or bad for cats or dogs, its not really gluten and is just plant based protein..

About that animal protein - a look at the Iams ingredient label shows, at number three … corn meal. What is next on the ingredient list? Brewers rice and dried beet pulp, both plant based products that contain protein (as well as fiber and carbohydrates).

So when Iams says other brands add plant protein, they want pet parents to believe they do not. Yet on a dry basis, most of this kitty carnivore product is a plant protein. And though they may not include "corn gluten meal," Iams' formulation has plenty of plant protein and the same amount of "gluten" as any other product that contains both corn meal and corn gluten meal.

So without even passing judgment on any of the ingredients, it is pretty clear that Iams is being quite deceptive in this ad, though perhaps factually true enough to keep their lawyers happy.

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