When advertisers sell pet food, they know that it won't be Fido or Fluffy making the final purchasing decision — it's the pet's owner who must be sold.
Thus, pet food commercials will present their product as if it's something the pet owner would want to eat themselves. They'll film pet food with the same loving attention they would the board of fare at a five-star restaurant: It will be served up on fine china instead of the plastic or metal bowl pets normally eat from. It will be garnished and served by candlelight.
And consider that processed ground meat (and meat byproducts) would generally be gray in color, if cooked properly. But open a can of meat dog food, and it's usually a nice bright red; not that the pet cares about color, — the food coloring is added strictly for the benefit of the pet's owner. (Ironically, food coloring is one of the most common food allergies in dogs.) Many brands go out of their way to ostentatiously include "people" foods like pasta and vegetables, ignoring that cats and dogs can't properly metabolize either of those ingredients.
Actual, non-gullible pet owners know the reality of what animals like to eat: Most of what the pets drag in from the yard is anything but appetizing to human palates, and the pet is perfectly happy to chow down on those organs and flesh raw (cats and dogs are born carnivores, remember). Most animals will eat what's in front of them whether you want them to or not. Pet food comes from vegetable and (small amounts of) meat byproducts from the human food industry; even the gourmet pet food is mostly meat left over from processing.note
- Fancy Feast cat food is a repeat offender. Delicate portions of delicious looking meat are served in a crystal goblet to a fabulously white longhair cat which deigns to leap (in slow motion) off its personal chaise lounge where it has been sunning in what appears to be a Mediterranean villa. After a few bites it licks its lips and stares solemnly at the camera as if to say "I am a cat and I am richer than you."
- There was one in particular that showed a professional chef in a restaurant kitchen preparing a sumptuous Tuscan meal, plated on fine china, which is then whisked away to the dining room. As the waiter carries it through the kitchen doors, it turns into a plate of cat food...what kind of Blessed with Suck transdimensional portal ARE those doors?
- Possibly the most egregious is the Tender Turkey Tuscany In A Savory Sauce With Long Grain Rice And Garden Greens. Many cats eat better than their owners do.
- A Meow Mix commerical parodied this by having a owner serve a nasty can shaped brick of meat to a cat in a glass goblet, only to have the cat break the goblets, by knocking them to the floor.
- A dog food commercial (Cesar) shows the whole block of dog food on a plate being carried out to the appetizer table at a party. A guest picks up a cracker and uses it to scoop up some of the food, but just before he can eat it he is interrupted by the hostess, who starts conversing with him as she picks up the plate of food and sets it on the floor so her dog can eat it.
- Apparently, Cesar now has its "Sunrise" line, with such ingredients like bacon, eggs, steak, etc.
- A UK dog food ad recently aired which contained chicken, vegetables and penne rigate.
- Similar to the above, there was a dog food commercial in which the food being advertised had visible chunks of carrots in it. Potatoes, too, and it was shown presented on a plate... with a fork in it.
- FreshPet Select had a mother feeding her children dry kibble out of a bag marked "Dinner." The obvious implication being, "You wouldn't serve this to your kids, why should you give it to your dog?", although no matter how much a consumer might love their pets, they do not and never will have the same dietary needs as a human child.
- Discworld's Lord Vetinari feeds his dog Wuffles finest steak, according to The Truth. The man subsists on dry bread and water despite being the ruler of a major city.
- The Canterbury Tales has an Older Than Print example: the Prioress feeds her beloved dogs roast meat and fine bread with milk. It reveals her Moral Myopia, since she doesn't show anywhere near the same concern for human wellbeing, despite her holy orders.
- Parodied in a Saturday Night Live sketch where the elegant packaging illustrations and elaborate descriptions are intercut with actual cat food cans opened onto plates complete with glopping sounds as the meatwad comes out of the can.
- In the Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth manga, Shawn Southern gives pet treats worth 500 yen each to his dog. They look enough like real sweets that the killer, in an attempt to frame him for killing his girlfriend, Emi St. Cloud, placed the cakes on the table to make it seem as though Shawn and Emi were both having them (even though Shawn dislikes sweets).
- An ad for Bitch'n' Dog Food in Grand Theft Auto III's manual is probably the most logical Averted Trope, bonus points for admitting they use "the scrapings off the abattoir floor". Of course in the game the company is more into using Human Resources.
- Averted in an early The Simpsons episode where Bart opens a can of "Carrot Cat Food" which is advertised as 88% ash 12% carrots. They are actually quite common ingredients, though certainly not in those proportions. Snowball II is understandably disappointed when the food lands in her dish with a puff of gray dust.
- This is taken to an extreme with many treats for both cats and dogs. Semisolid snacks are especially egregious offenders: colorful and fancifully shaped (into bacon strips, little burgers, hearts, fish, et al.), they clearly are made to appeal to the owner's aesthetic sensibilities. This helps to hide the fact that they are usually little more than overpriced soy- or wheat flour.