Pet Food Marketing Myths
Marketing Claims and What is on Your Pet Food Label
One of the most difficult things to understand as a pet food buyer is how to read and interpret the package of your food of choice. Reading a label will provide a basis for what nutrient levels (protein, fat, fiber, etc) are in it, as well as what ingredients. The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is the regulatory body that governs the definitions of pet food ingredients. But even with regulation, it can be very confusing to find out that what is the real picture in the finished product! Not required to be listed is the overall carbohydrate (or simple sugar) amount in the food, and this can be as high as 50% of the product in many cases! It is truly impossible to determine solely by inspection of labeled ingredients and guaranteed analysis what is actually the amount of each ingredient used in a batch of the product.
Marketing a meat protein as the first ingredient is a common practice with many brands. But be warned that just because the ingredient is listed first does not guarantee that this ingredient is the primary one in the finished product! How can this be? A couple of factors can influence this greatly. First of all, that first ingredient does not have to exceed the next (or maybe next three) ingredients by weight…it only has to be equal to. So if 10% meat is used, 10% corn, 10% soybean meal, and 10% oats, then the meat item can still be listed as the first ingredient. Second of all, the meat ingredient can be added as a “wet” ingredient before processing, and may comprise 70-80% water by weight. The next 2 or 3 ingredients may be included as dry (low moisture) ingredients. As the batch of food is cooked down to the traditional 10% moisture level found in most kibbled dry foods, the actual percentage of meat in the finished product becomes much less.
So in marketing a pet food, it is obvious that a company would like to portray meat as the primary ingredient. What does this actually mean then as it relates to ensuring meat predominance in the finished product? The answer here is sadly that you may not know or have any way of knowing how little(or much) of that first listed ingredient is actually in the bag you buy!
What is True and What is Misleading?
If labels and ingredient panels and regulatory agencies alone are not enough to guarantee that what you buy is a quality, nutritious pet food, then where do you go for the truth? We honestly feel that sound ethics, ingredient sourcing, nutritional research and manufacturing excellence are a much better measure of a pet food’s ability to nourish your pet optimally. It is very difficult to get a true picture of how nutritious a food really is without some level of research into the company and its position on all these things listed above. We will strive to present useful information and insight from some of the highest regarded sources and companies in our industry, giving voice to those who produce foods that are made as nutritiously and ethically as possible.