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High Tails Philosophy of Pet Food

When it comes to what our dogs and cats should be eating, I like to paraphrase Michael Pollan (Food Rules): “Feed food, mostly meat, not too much.”

Of course, writing for us humans, he said “mostly plants” - but we're talking species-appropriate here. And by food, he further advised against eating much processed stuff, suggesting we avoid anything our grandmothers wouldn't recognize as food.

It's a little more complicated to apply this advice to pet feeding, largely because we have in the last 50 years completely lost all traditional wisdom about what they need to eat. The knowledge of what to feed dogs and cats that was second nature to our great grandparents is no longer common. Dog and cat food comes in bags or cans, and it is made in factories, period. To suggest any other type of diet seems faddish, even perverse. What they need has been scientifically established, and it's all in there.

When I was in the 6th grade (in the mists of antiquity circa 1956) our teacher had us write predictions for different aspects of life in 2006 and put them into a time capsule. My assignment was clothing – a subject in which I had then, as now, zero interest. I said we probably wouldn't wear clothes at all because we would by then control weather and climate outdoors just as we did indoors, making them unnecessary. I got a lot of funny looks when I had to read it out loud. But the kid who had to write about food said that by 2006, we'd all be eating scientifically formulated crunchy bits, like dog kibble but flavored to appeal to the human palette. We sat there stunned, all of us imagining a world with no burgers, no Thanksgiving turkey, no peanut butter, no ice cream... contemplating a world drastically impoverished.

Well, that's the gustatory world our pets have inhabited since the mid-20th century. Experts told us it was in their best interest. Now we're beginning to know better, but we have to recover lost knowledge and build a sophisticated modern understanding of nutrition on those forgotten foundations.

High Tails is dedicated to this effort. We want for our animal companions what we want for our human family members: wholesome, species-appropriate food, when possible locally raised by humane and environmentally responsible farmers who are honest and trustworthy. We want them to enjoy their meals as we enjoy ours; for their food to give pleasure and satisfaction as well as nourishment and health. We want to recover lost knowledge and share it; to acquire new knowledge and pass it along; to practice skills in making and serving healthy foods; to extend understanding of the range of possibilities for a healthy diet.

We stock commercial dog and cat foods of varying types: canned, kibble, frozen-raw, dehydrated and freeze-dried. Our intention is to select the best companies by criteria of their demonstrated commitment to quality and accountability. We watch them, keeping abreast of the internal changes and market forces to which they respond. We help our customers become savvy consumers by informing them of the cynical marketing and advertising tricks that exploit consumers' concerns without honestly addressing them. And, increasingly, we provide and guide customers in the use of food ingredients: the varieties of fresh/frozen meat, poultry and fish that are components of the healthiest dog and cat diets, and the necessary supplements to assure balance and completeness.

This has been our commitment since day one. Over the 16 years of our existence, there have been many changes in the industry. We have had to dump a number of formerly anchor brands which ceased to meet our quality and ethical standards. Manufacturers seeing the growing distrust of customers have invested heavily in marketing that is increasingly deceptive. For as long as High Tails continues to sell pet foods, we will remain vigilant and ruthless when it comes to tolerating dishonesty and low quality.

But we encourage all pet parents to do several things: First, learn all you can about the basics of nutrition. Second, incorporate fresh, whole foods into your pets' diets as much as you can. Third, vary both the commercial pet foods and the whole foods as much as your pet tolerates. Be able to switch brands, proteins, forms (canned, kibble, raw, freeze-dried, dehydrated or “fresh” packaged) when prudence dictates. Fourth, do not believe ANY advertising of products in this industry. There are pet food consumer advocacy organizations that review and critique products: The Truth About Pet Food is one. The Whole Dog Journal (for dog food) is another. Neither of these accept advertising. There are other entities that pretend to be impartial but are advertising dollar driven.

High Tails is always happy to discuss food. We can steer you to the scientific tests most accurate to identify food sensitivities and intolerances; advise on home made and whole-food augmented diets; share what we know about brands and industry norms (and scandals.)

This is what we promise our customers. It's why you won't find the most popular, widely advertised brands in our store. Just the best ones. You can count on us for that.

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