With all the different brands of pet food out there it’s getting harder and harder to figure out what the best food is for our pets. To make things a little easier here are 5 tips on reading pet food labels:
1. All in a name
There are several rules laid out for pet foods by Canadian and American governments. One of them controls what titles or names you can use for your food and how those titles will affect what’s inside the package, but the use of some of these rules can be a bit misleading if you don’t know exactly what they mean.
One of their rules is the 95% rule. This rule states that the pet food must contain 95% of the ingredient named on the bag. So “Lamb Kitty Food” would need to contain at least 95% Lamb.
Be careful though because you wouldn’t want to confuse “Lamb Kitty Food” with “Kitty Food with Lamb”. The simple matter of changing the product title means that now different rules apply.
According the the governments 3% rule, any pet food title using the word “with” means that the “with ingredient” need only make up 3% of the pet food. This means your “Kitty Food with Lamb” need only contain 3% lamb. Not very much at all.
2. Order is important!
The ingredients on pet food labels are listed in order of their predominance within the food. However, oftentimes manufacturers separate ingredients into smaller portions in order to display their food in a more favourable light. This process is called “splitting”.
Splitting is done to bump unfavourable ingredients down the list of predominance. For instance corn, a relatively non-beneficial dog-food ingredient, might be separated into “corn gluten meal” and “ground yellow corn” in order to bump it down from higher up in the list.
“Dog Food X” label reads: chicken by product meal, corn gluten meal, brewers rice, ground yellow corn, beet pulp etc.
The chicken appears to be the most prominent ingredient, but if you combined the “corn gluten meal” and “ground yellow corn,” you would find that a new prominent ingredient would emerge…Corn.
3. Fancy Feast
There are a lot of brands of pet food out there that state they are a “scientific diet” or “The Healthiest Choice for Your Pet,” but this may not be the case. According to the government, there are currently no official regulations regarding the use of the words “natural” or “organic” or even fancy words like “Gourmet” in pet foods. The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) are developing regulations for what these foods can and cannot contain but until that time, read the labels and talk to a nutritionist to be sure you’re getting what you pay for.
4. Fillers and additives
It’s difficult to avoid fillers and additives in even our own food these days so it’s no wonder they are found in our animal’s foods. Not all of these fillers are harmful to our critters but a lot of them have no nutritional value whatsoever and are used simply as food-binders, or to make the product look nice. A good rule of thumb is to pick a food with a label that contains ingredients that are clear and easy to understand.
Simply put, we pay attention to what kinds of foods we are putting in our bodies so why not feed our critters the same way?
A couple good resources to check out are: DogFoodAnalysis.com, which provides some helpful breakdowns of good and bad ingredients within specific pet food brands; and DogFoodProject.com which lists commonly used fillers in pet foods and what they are used for.
5. Price and Portion
Whenever I talk about healthy pet food choices with family and clients I always hear the same thing, “Healthier pet food is more expensive.” Not true. What people don’t realize is that the portions you are feeding of each of the foods is very different.
If you are feeding your cat a great high protein food with tons of meat sources (which is excellent for cats since they are true carnivores and require large quantities of meat) then you will be feeding them much less of this food per day than a low protein cat food with little meat. Therefore, you don’t need to buy as much of the healthy, high-protein food because you don’t need to feed as much of it to your cat.
So yes, the healthy bag might say it’s more expensive, but the smaller portions sizes make it cheaper in the long run!
For a list of dog and cat foods showing their price/serving or how to calculate it for yourself please visit: http://www.naturalnews.com/024337_food_dog_pet.html
Dog Food Project – http://www.dogfoodproject.com/index.php?page=labelinfo101
Dog Food Analyisis – http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com/
Natural News – http://www.naturalnews.com/024337_food_dog_pet.html