By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — 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? 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan takes a look.

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 Americans spent almost $22 billion dollars on pet food last year, increasingly at higher end pet stores. This as owners focus on their pet’s health, like their digestion, or even allergies.

Pennye Jones-Napier of the Big Bad Woof pet store says, “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.”

Most of these items come at a premium compared to what’s available at grocery stores.  Veterinarian Robyn Johnson says, “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.”

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 USDA guidelines for human food.

By the way, labels like “premium,” “super-premium,” “holistic” and “gourmet,” are just marketing terms.  Using those terms does not mean the products have any higher nutritional standards.

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