By Angie Argabrite, Monday, April 2, 2012, at 9:01 am.
Short ribs, kale and whipped egg soufflé. It’s what’s for dinner—for your dog, if he’s one of thousands of four-legged friends now being served gourmet meals marketed to the tastes of pet parents. There’s a certifiable boom in fancy pet feasts; last year we spent $19 billion feeding our pets, and though only 5 percent of that went to the gourmet-pet-food market, it’s the sector with the highest profit margin (up to 40 percent, compared with 20 to 30 percent for standard brands). That’s why even the top dogs in pet food are vying for a cut. Purina, which lords over a third of the pet food market, introduced its “restaurant-inspired” Elegant Medleys foods in 2006 and in 2009 rolled out a line of cat appetizers like Steamed Tilapia and Tender Tongol Tuna. According to the U.K.’s Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, dogs and cats need 37 essential nutrients each day for good health. But these new pet foods are speaking not only to health concerns we might have for our furry friends but our taste buds, too. For pet owners who prefer their cuisine less refined, there are reinterpretations of all-American favorites like Merrick’s Burger Pie & Sweetie Fries and Gameday Tailgate. Experts say today’s pet owners will pay more for their pet’s food, even during tough financial times. This is, in part, because our pet population is aging; four in 10 cats and dogs are older than 6. Some pet owners are taking the pampering to an extreme—putting their pets on raw food diets, making them ready-to-bake dog cookies and doling out nutritional supplements. What ever happened to drinking straight from the toilet bowl?