This post as well as my attendance at the Purina Better with Pets Summit was sponsored by Nestle Purina. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
You know what makes for a great event? Good food, an awesome location, interesting topics, like-minded friends, and MORE CUTE DOGS AND CATS THAN YOU CAN HANDLE!
That’s exactly what I got when I proudly attended the annual Purina Better With Pets Summit for the third time!
This year’s theme was was all about living bigger lives through our pets. They help us do more, feel more, and find passion and emotion that we often didn’t know we had. Purina offered us a lot of heartfelt personal stories from both employees and “real people” but ultimately the day came down to one thing: how do we take better care of those that give so much back to us.
In case you missed my tweets and Instagram pics from the day (all tagged with #LetsLiveBig), I thought I’d share the biggest takeaways from the day.
Pet Food Quality and Safety
Here’s what it comes down to: trust. Do you trust the company that is manufacturing the food you buy your pets? Honestly, I have these same issues with the food I buy for myself.
It was high on my list of interest when I visited the Purina campus in June 2015. Remember this?
I was ready with my questions in hand but gave pause while listening to the intro story given by Jason Christoffersen, Factory Manager at Purina’s Allentown plant. He did what I wish more companies would do. He humanized Purina. He shared his story, his love of his childhood dog, Cowboy, and his dedication to his family and pets today. All values that he carries into the work that he does.
Yes, I had tears in my eyes as he recalled his fondest boyhood memories. It got me right. there.
But the meat of the topic (no pun intended) came from the panel discussion between Steve Dale, Board Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, who served as moderator, and Shaun Kennedy, Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary Population Medicine, University of Minnesota, and John Bear, Senior Vice President of Manufacturing, Purina.
Wow. That’s a mouthful. So let’s break it down to a conversation between Steve, Shaun, and John. I appreciated that they hit the tough topics head on.
They talked about how recalls happen (generally initiated by a company and amplified by government organizations) and where the process has broken down. They talked about melamine being found in Beneful (although they didn’t directly talk about the brand). And they talked about how they scrutinize the supply chain thoroughly before, during, and after any manufacturing.
I know I’ve been guilty of not buying products for my pets because of the country of origin. But Shaun gave me some food for thought when he said that it’s not the country or its government agencies that necessarily matter. It’s more about the company that ultimately manufactures the item and the level of quality controls they have in place. With the right controls, the country of origin, in theory, shouldn’t really matter.
It was a high level discussion but I saw it pushing Purina in a direction they need to head and in a direction they spoke openly about: TRANSPARENCY.
I asked if they would look to break down their ingredient lists in more detail (do you really know what “meat by-product” is? Turns out it’s not nearly as awful as it sounds). And I also asked if they would consider looking at educating consumers so that we understand why certain ingredients are in our pet food.
Perhaps if they look to explain more to the consumers, they may find that consumers don’t really want things like Red 40 dye in their pet’s food.
Transparency leads to open and honest discussion which leads to trust. That’s something all consumers could use more of.
Innovative Nutrition for Pet Food
Sitting on this panel of five, we collectively listened to scientists with four DVMs, three PhDs, and some other very long acronyms that I don’t even recognize.
The gist of this panel discussion was that not all pet food is created equal. As with human food, we need to explore our pet’s behavior and preferences and lifestyle and couple it with their breed and genetic disposition to help them battle the same things we are: heart disease, obesity, cancer.
What I found when I visited Purina last year was that they are more than a pet food company. They are a scientific research organization. They are constantly innovating their food with new ingredients to help pets (like the Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind with enhanced botanical oils shown to promote alertness and mental sharpness in dogs 7+ within 30 days).
They also offer personalized dog food (Just Right by Purina) that allows you to create a buy a custom blend for your dog based on their age, breed, activity level, and more. Roscoe and Layla both tried it – which led me to my next question.
With all the science talk about what ingredients and food are best for dogs, I wanted to remind them that, like us, dogs have pleasure centers. And while it may be good for them, let’s make sure it tastes good too. Dogs clearly have a preference when it comes to what they like. (Turns out Layla didn’t love the salmon used in her Just Right blend).
Feel Good Work of behalf of Purina
There are so many amazing things Purina is doing behind the scenes that you probably never hear about (unless you’re an avid reader of my blog). Most of them are so fabulous that I decided I want to cover them in more detail separately but here’s a quick overview:
- Purina funded The Purina Family Pet Center at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital to allow children with extended hospital stays to be reunited with their pets from home.
- Purina continues to work closely with the Urban Resource Institute to help create pet-friendly shelters for victims of domestic violence. Read more about this program when I was introduced to it two years ago.
- Purina is sponsoring a Pet Care Innovation Prize where it will award a $20,000 prize to a top pet care entrepreneur (think kinder, gentler Shark Tank).
Purina also brought the needs of the organizations to us. In the afternoon, we all joined in groups and put together “welcome kits” for pets that accompany their owners to domestic violence shelters in NYC.
The Reason Behind It All
What kind of pet care company would Purina be if it didn’t welcome pets? Not only are their headquarters extremely pet friendly, but so are their events. If I wasn’t busy talking to one of the Purina employees about their own adorable pets, I was making time with Instapet celebrities from all over the country.
If you’ve made it this far, you deserve to meet some of them.
Think it’s all about small dogs? Well, mostly it is. Mainly because they’re the easier the travel with. But I spotted a few other pets for you.
A great company, an amazing summit, and more cute animals that I had room for on my camera. But I know your animals are the cutest. So share your thoughts. Tell me how you live big and make your life better with pets.