How Do I Know a Pet Food is Good?
How to Read Pet Food Labels: “Whole Meat”
Let’s talk about pet food labels. This will be the first in a series about pet food labels in America. While the laws may vary between countries, the tricks used to cheat consumers and increase profits have universal corporate appeal.
“Doc, what do you think of this new food I bought? It is made with whole meat and no by products or meat meal,” said Sanford, the adopted Polar-bear looking dog’s mom.
Sounds good, right? Whole meat must be better than “meal” or meat by- products, right?
Maybe, maybe not. Here’s what you need to understand:
Fact: ingredients on food labels in the US are listed by volume.
Whole Meat is 70% Water
What does this mean for meat? Well, whole meat is muscle. Muscle is 70% water. So, the whole meat that shows up as the first ingredient on the list is nutritionally 70% water. If you counted just the protein, then that meat might not rank so highly on the list. Then corn, beet fiber, wheat by-products, and many other ingredients might top the list. Would you pay top dollar for dog food made from corn, instead of beef? Probably not.
How Much Lamb is in This Food?
In the following popular natural brand’s ingredient list, the deboned lamb shows up first. The addition of the descriptive “deboned” not only adds substance to the physical size of the “Lamb” ingredient visually on the label, it indicates extra caring in the wording. The company wants you to know they are looking out for you. They are not cheating you by counting “bone” in with the lamb meat.
Would you pay more for “oatmeal?”
Thanks for nothing! “Lamb” with the bone left in is not “Lamb” by US labeling laws, so they are not doing you, the consumer, any favors. That Lamb is 70% water. This leading, popular food costs much more than many brands on the market. Would you pay more for “oatmeal?” Possibly oatmeal is the major ingredient by dry weight (the weight of the ingredients if you exclude water, called “dry matter basis.”) Possible lamb is still the most plentiful ingredient; there is no way of telling from a label.
Example of a Popular Ingredient List:
Deboned Lamb, Oatmeal, Whole Ground Barley, Menhaden Fish Meal (natural source of DHA-Docosahexaenoic Acid), Turkey Meal, Peas, Canola Oil (Naturall preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Whole Ground Brown Rice, Natural Lamb Flavor, Whole Potatoes, Alfalfa Meal,Tomato Pomace (natural source of Lycopene), Flaxseed (natural source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Sunflower Oil (natural source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Whole Carrots, Whole Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Dried Parsley, Garlic, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Turmeric, Oil of Rosemary, Dried Chicory Root, Beta Carotene, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1),Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), d-Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Ascorbate (source of Vitamin C), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate,Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Choline Chloride, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Salt, Caramel,Potassium Chloride, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bacillus subtilis,Enterococcus faecium.
Pet Food Labeling = Human Psychology
Pet food companies know how you think. They know you want the best for your pet. They know the meat is 70% water and contains far less quality protein than meat meal of the same volume. They can entice you to buy food with less quality protein because you are seduced by the “whole meat” label. Perhaps a company listing “whole meat” does it to look good, perhaps they truly believe the produce good diets. You cannot tell corporate beliefs form a label. You cannot place your trust solely in a marketing campaign. Just be aware and use all the best information you have at your disposal to make the best decisions you can.
Learn All You Can About Food Labeling
What can you do about it? With lots of research and support from your veterinarian, including a nutritional consultation with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, you might begin cooking real food for your pets. Preferably organic, local and/or fresh.
(Are you laughing at the thought of cooking for your pet? Are you thinking, “I don’t eat like that, who’s Doc Truli kidding?) You asked for advice! There it is.
Next advice, just do not be quick to buy every new trendy food that gets on TV. Few of them have track records for quality and consistency. When you consider if the cost of your Pet’s food is worthwhile, don’t believe the advertising. Just remember: there is no way of telling from the label.
Next time we’ll talk about AAFCO and why you should care.