- How to Understand the Ingredient Labels on Your Pet’s Food
Updated: Mar 20
by Larry Jandrew
In an earlier PetGazette issue I talked about the importance of knowing who makes your pet’s food and who the owners of the company are. In this issue I wou
ld like to help you understand ingredient labels in determining what is actually in the bag of food you are purchasing.
The ingredients are listed as to weight in the manufacturing process. This does not mean that the ingredients on the label are listed in the order for what is in the bag. Let me give you an example: You may see items such as chicken or chicken meal listed. These are basically the same product except that the chicken still contains the water and fat. The chicken meal has these removed. It takes over 4 pounds of chicken to make one pound of chicken meal. So if chicken is listed as the #1 ingredient on the label, when processed it will not be the #1 ingredient in the bag. If analyzed, the #2 ingredient will then be #1 unless that ingredient is also a meat and not a meat meal. Some companies use this confusion to make their product look like it has more meat than it really does.
Another marketing tool used by manufacturer’s that confuses consumers is the use of multiple meat sources. More varieties of meat do not necessarily mean that there is more meat in the food than single meat sources. Look at the protein and fat levels on the ingredient list. Unless some of the protein in a single meat sourced food comes from protein sources such as soybean meal, potato protein, rice protein, or corn gluten meal, it probably has as much animal protein as a food using multiple animal proteins. The advantage of multiple meat formulas comes from the flavor and possible added levels of things like Omega 3 & six fatty acids.
One of the most important things to remember when deciding on a product is the fact that every food meets AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards. There are major discussions on the ingredients used to manufacture pet foods. In most cases, it depends on which manufacturer you are talking to as to what is good and what is bad. What I try to convey to my customers is that certain ingredients are not as beneficial to pets as others. They all contain some pet benefit, but may have bigger drawbacks, such as allergens. The ingredients I like to avoid are any animal by-products, corn, wheat, soybean meal, sorghum, and brewer’s rice. Why? Because these ingredients can possibly create adverse conditions such as allergies, dry flaky skin, loose stools, and gas. By avoiding these ingredients you reduce potential future health problems.
The major things to avoid in pet foods are chemical preservatives such as BHA/BHT. These are possible carcinogens. You also should avoid foods containing food colorings. These are of no benefit to your pet and are used only to make you think there are more meats and vegetables in the food than there really are. Manufacturers are known to push the line between completely true and some-what true. It is important for consumers to be educated as to what they are feeding their family pets.
Reading the feeding guidelines on the package will also help you understand the digestibility of the pet food. If company A suggests 2 cups a day for a 50 pound dog and company B suggests 4 cups a day, company B probably has a lower level of digestible ingredients than company A. You will need to feed twice as much food for your pet to meet the daily requirements. In the long run this will also probably cost you more per day to feed.
The experienced staff at Pet Source has earned a solid reputation for expertise in pet nutrition. It can show you benefits and drawbacks in the pet food selections and help you select what food is best for your pet’s health and your budget.
Larry Jandrew has owned Pet Source since 1999. He’s been in the industry for 35 years, working in manufacturing, distribution, sales and sales management prior to opening his own store. He has visited several of the pet food plants and worked closely with most of the pet food companies. His opinions are based on history and performances by the manufacturers. He says: “My goal is to give you the knowledge needed to make your own choice in deciding what to feed your pet.