One of the Super Bowl commercials receiving the most accolades from journalists and sports fans is the 60-second spot for The Farmer’s Dog, a subscription, “human grade” dog food delivery service that promises “freshly prepared” meals. The ad — featuring a young girl growing and going through different life stages with her chocolate Labrador, set to “Forever,” — received rave reviews. But what do veterinarians think of The Farmer’s Dog and do veterinarians agree that the pricey food helps dogs live longer, as the ad suggests?
“As a veterinarian, I’m gonna go with a hard pass on this one,” Aaron Zimmerman told the Facebook discussion Insider Envy Pets.
“I’m a vet and I and no other vets I know woud recomend this food,” Dr. Genevieve Johnson wrote.
I’m a vet and I and no other vets I know recommend this food.
“Lol also an ER vet with many negative experiences,” Aly Conflitti Grimes wrote to the Facebook group Insider Envy Pet’s. “Pancreatitis and GI upset up the wazoo,” she added.
I’m a vet, and I would never recommend this food or feed it to my dogs,” Dr. Jaime Kirkpatrick commented to the Facebook discussion.
This company has no idea what a calorie is, “another prominent board-certified veterinary nutritionist responded, “or what digestibility is. It’s frustrating but not surprising.”
To be clear, we were not cherry-picking only negative comments about The Farmer’s Dog. Only one individual identifying herself as a veterinarian would offer positive comments. And, in a search across all public Facebook posts, we could not find any individual identifying herself as a veterinarian with anything positive to say about the food.
We did receive input from a veterinarian in New Jersey,whose comments about TFD were positive.
“I dont know if Farmers Dog make pets live longer but I do know that I prefer real food w varied ingredients that are human grade versus food that is processed beyond recognition,” she wrote in an email. “I have quite a few clients who feed farmers dog and their pets do great on it. Their feeding trials exceed industry standards. Here is a cool article,” she added, citing the company’s explanation. “It just makes sense to me to feed pets real food. That’s what i fed my baby. Many people avoid processed foods in their house for humans so why wouldnt we for the non humans ?”
In a public discussion on Facebook prompted by the ad, Dr. Katherine Freske-Neumann wrote:
“I’m a vet, I have never nor will I ever recommend this diet. The feeding directions are poor and I have seen way too many overweight and obese dogs that eat this food.”
Veterinarian Jessica Self was also unabashed about her disdain for the company, posting her criticism in a public discussion.
“No, as a veterinary general practitioner, I would not, and do not, recommend this food at all,” Dr. Jessica Self wrote on Facebook. “Farmers Dog, and other boutique diet companies, are centered around marketing tactics that are shady and confusing to non-veterinary consumers. Let’s look at the term “Human Grade.” There was no legal definition for “Human Grade” until a few years ago; and this term only pertains to pet foods. https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2019/02/human-grade/ She added:
“It’s a buzz word meant to play off our thinking that our pets are just tiny humans (they absolutely are not), along with Natural, Organic, Holistic, Real Meat, etc. that have no basis in defining a pet food as safe and nutritionally balanced for the defined stage of life. The feeding trial they performed was only up to 6 years, and averaged 1 to 6 years depending on the pet (that’s not enough time to show the long term affects of a food on a pet). They tout that their feeding trial was superior in that their participants were all pets in homes rather then kennels/facilities. Well of course as a pet-loving human who sees their dog as a fur-child, you would hate the idea of “cruel research facilities” being used to conduct food trials; but there’s a reason the accuracy of the results is superior to the alternative – the environment of a pet living in a normal home and going about their normal day cannot be controlled and is unpredictable, whereas a facility is completely controlled and maintain the same parameters for each test subject/dog.
One snippet of a supposed quote from “Dr. Lindsay” does not show that this food is scientifically and medically backed (aka supported by veterinarians). In order for that to be true, I would need to see the percentage of veterinary nutritionists, who have 0 affiliations with Farmers Dog or any other boutique company, that would back this food as being safe and nutritionally balanced for the defined life stage. Good luck with that…. “
Vet suggests long life is because it’s a labrador, not because of Farmer’s Dog
Responding to an email inquiry about the ad, a board-certified veterinarian who asked not to be named said, “I find it interesting they chose a Labrador retriever,” referring to the chocolate Labrador “Bear” who appears in the ad. As noted, the dog is shown in a series of vignettes from puppyhood to old age by his human’s side, whom we also see grow up. “Data suggests this breed lives a long time,” she added. “Not sure we can attribute it to Farmer’s Dog. Labrador retrievers under primary veterinary care in the UK: demography, mortality and disorders – PubMed (nih.gov).”
In a 2020 report, The Canine Review asked veterinarians if they would feed The Farmer’s Dog to their own dogs. We could not find any veterinarian of the dozens we emailed willing to vouch for the diet. A New York veterinarian offered this assessment to TCR in an email:
“I do not feel comfortable with this diet at all. Especially in light of the whole cardiomyopathy (cardiac) issue with boutique diets that are grain-free. Do they have a veterinary nutritionist (someone with a DVM that is boarded in nutrition) guiding them through what they are making? Is the diet AAFCO tested? I would not recommend this diet to any of my patients. If a client wanted to do a home-cooked meal, I would refer them to a veterinary nutritionist that could create the appropriate food and vitamins.”
In the same 2020 report, the food also did not pass the smell test for Korinn Saker, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University who is also an associate professor of clinical nutrition. “The fat level is higher than what I would feed to them [her own dogs] and I’d prefer a diet that has undergone animal feed tests by AAFCO protocol,” Dr. Saker told TCR in an interview.
Prominent board-certified veterinary cardiologist Steven Rosenthal offered this dismissal of the diet in an interview: “I can tell you that I don’t personally use that diet for my own dog,” Dr. Rosenthal told TCR in an interview, also for the 2020 report. “I would prefer a diet that has gone through [AAFCO protocol] feed testing,” he added.