Here’s Why The Clean Label Project’s Best and Worst Pet Food Results Changed

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Explanation Of Why The Clean Label Project Best and Worst Pet Food Results Changed

This article has been updated: Shortly after the original article was posted, I was contacted by the Clean Label Project and they agreed to speak with me. Jackie Bowen, Executive Director of the Clean Label Project explained to me why they changed their best and worst pet food results.

In my earlier article, I had called out how the Clean Label Project results contradicted with some other popular pet food reviews and how this could confuse consumers. While writing the article I noticed that the Clean Label Project then made changes to their list of best and worst pet foods. Additionally, they had made changes to their nutrition statements. I was eager to get some clarity about the pet food study and was happy to speak with their executive director.

Enthusiastically, Jackie shared how much she loves dogs – especially Beagles. She is a big supporter of pet rescue and adoption. So the pet food study was something she felt passionate about.

More Rigorous Approach Needed For Nutrition

Jackie explained that the original goal of the pet food study was two-fold. First, the study was to expose popular pet food brands and their recipes that contain high levels of environmental toxins and secondly, to provide nutrition label transparency. Admittedly, Jackie said she realized that for the nutrition analysis the Clean Label Project needed a more “rigorous approach”. So they decided to remove any reference to nutrition. However, I pointed out to Jackie that on their website they mention that nutrition is part of the study’s “Scope”. This was apparently an oversight and shortly after our call their website was updated and the nutrition statement was removed.

She further explained why the list of the top best and worst pet foods changed. Each of the pet foods tested received two scores – one score for the amount of toxins found and the other for nutrition.  The combined score then determined which pet foods fell into the top 10 best pet foods and which ones fell into the top 10 worst pet foods. When they removed the nutrition score, obviously the overall scores changed. That is why they released a different list of the top 10 best and worst pet foods.

These changes make sense. The study results now reflect only the toxins found within the individual recipes of pet food brands. I just wish they would have handled this differently – by communicating these changes through their website they could have avoided this confusion.

Future Pet Food Studies

I asked Jackie if she planned to do a study on pet food nutrition. She suggested that it was a possibility. She hinted around that the Clean Label Project may have their sites on conducting other types of pet food related studies. As Jackie also commented, there has been a lot of attention centered on dogs becoming sick and dying from eating dog food found to contain the euthanasia drug, Pentobarbital.

Even with some of the confusion, I still appreciate the study and the intent to inform consumers on how to make wise decisions about selecting a safe pet food.

See Also – Do Not Make These 5 Mistakes With Dog Food


Posted 13 May 2017

I’m kicking myself for not taking screenshots but I’m glad I took really good notes. Recently, the Clean Label Project released their results on a dog food study. I was shocked because their ratings conflicted with some of the best and worst dog foods ratings from reputable resources – like  Whole Dog Journal and Dog Food Advisor. As I was putting together this post, I noticed that the Clean Label Project all of a sudden, changed their results of their ten top and bottom pet foods. They even changed some information about their statements on dog food nutrition.

Why would they make these changes and not provide an explanation?

clean label project best and worst pet food

Beneful ‘Was’ Listed In Top Ten Dog Foods By Clean Label Project

The first thing that caught my attention about the Clean Label Project dog food study results was that they originally had Beneful listed in their Top Ten Best Dog Foods – it’s now been deleted from their top ten list.  Kibbles ‘N Bits also receives a 5 Star rating from Clean Label Project. So why would this stand out to me? Because as a Whole Dog Journal subscriber, I periodically receive their e-newsletter about how “awful” these foods are for your dog.

The recent email subject header from Whole Dog Journal is titled, ‘Stop Now if you’re feeding your dog any of THESE foods’.

Here’s an actual screenshot of part of that newsletter and Whole Dog Journal’s views about Beneful and Kibbles ‘n Bits.

best and worst dog foods, clean label project, worst dog foods

Dog Food Advisor shares Whole Dog Journal’s views on those brands as well. Beneful receives 2 stars (their second-lowest tier rating) while Kibbles n’ Bits receives a 1 star (the lowest tier rating) from Dog Food Advisor.

Although Beneful has been removed from the Top Ten list, Clean Label Project still gives both Beneful and Kibble’s ‘n Bits 5 stars. So let’s review Clean Label Project’s definition of their 5 Star rating.  This leads me to the next change that I noticed.

Clean Label Project Changes 5 Star Definition About Nutrition

Again, as I mentioned, I was in the middle of writing an article about the Clean Label Project dog food study when I noticed that they changed their explanation of their 5 Star rating. In my draft article, I had written their explanation – in their own words, here is how they had originally defined a dog food that they gave 5 Stars – these dog foods “contain the least amount of harmful environmental and industrial contaminants and toxins and/or have the highest nutritional superiority”.

Highest nutritional superiority for Kibbles ‘N Bits and Beneful?!? That totally conflicts with ratings and statements from Whole Dog Journal and Dog Food Advisor. When I first read that, all I could think about was how confused people were going to be if – like me – they subscribed to Whole Dog Journal and Dog Food Advisor.

But just a couple of weeks later the Clean Label Project changed their 5 Star definition. It’s now defined as, “on average, contain the least amount of harmful environmental and industrial contaminants and toxins”.

Why Did Clean Label Change Their Top Ten Best and Worst Dog Food List?

Beneful was not the only brand that changed in their top ten list. In fact, I also noticed that the bottom ten dog foods list had changed quite a bit as well. I can’t speak as to why the Clean Label Project changed some of their information.  When I first called them and asked about their nutritional statements they said they would have someone call me back.  Unfortunately, I have not heard back.

However, they do have an intriguing, first of a kind study that focuses on environmental toxins found within dog food brands and their recipes. I would encourage all pet lovers to review their study and form your own opinions.

10 Poisonous Foods You Should Never Feed Your Dog

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WagBrag’s co-founder, Russ Boles, has a deep history in animal rescue and welfare. For the past 12 years, Russ has served in various roles with Atlanta-based animal advocacy organizations focused on rescue, training and education. In addition, Russ led a local rescue volunteer team into New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina, assisting in efforts to rescue and care for stranded animals. This experience changed his life, and animal rescue and advocacy will always be a part of everything he does.

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