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Gourmet Pet Foods - Are They Worth the Cost?

From organic to just plain fancy, high-end pet food has become big business over the last decade. But does going gourmet really make a difference for a pet?

From organic to just plain fancy, high-end pet food has become big business over the last decade. But does going gourmet really make a difference for a pet?

Pumpkin, banana, peanut butter, and ginger -- all sound like pretty healthy ingredients for pretty tasty snacks. But they're for the dogs...and cats, and more.

"What you're going to find here are items that are going to be selected very consciously, trying to look at who the manufacturer is, how far does it travel, is it local? We do have a lot of foods that are local to the area. We buy from farmers' markets,"  says Pennye Jones-Napier, general manager of the store The Big Bad Woof.

Americans spent almost $22 billion on pet food last year, increasingly at higher end pet stores like The Big Bad Woof,  as owners focus on their pet's health like their digestion, or even allergies.

But most of these items come at a premium compared to what's available at grocery stores. What can budget-conscious pet owners do?

Veterinarian Robyn Johnson advises finding a price point that's comfortable.

"I usually try to tell owners, you want to feed the best that you can within the price point you set. Yes there are foods that are better than others, but realistically, owners can afford only so much for some families."  Dr. Johnson says.

Part of making the right choice at any price, is knowing how to read labels, regulated by the FDA.

Products labeled "natural" cannot contain artificial colors or preservatives.

Products labeled "organic," must adhere to the same u-s-d-a guidelines for human food.

And labels like "premium," "super premium," "holistic" and "gourmet," are just marketing terms -- not requiring any higher nutritional standards.


(Karin Caifa for CNN's Consumer Watch)


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