When you wander down the pet food aisle in your grocery store, do you find that dog food comparisons are hard to make? Perhaps you really try to understand dog food labels but they still sound like a foreign language.
Let’s see if we can shed some light on the subject.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a commercial enterprise that regulates the quality and safety of the ingredients found in pet food in the United States.
AAFCO does testing to decide which specific ingredients are acceptable as pet foods. The problem is, they rate high and low quality ingredients as both being nutritionally adequate. Why? Because consumers demand pet food in a wide price range.
This is one of the reasons why comparisons are difficult to make. Unless you learn to understand how to read the labels, you will never be able to make a correct comparison.
Dog food labels, of course, include the product name. This name might suggest the primary ingredient, such as Lamb Dinner or it might indicate the type of dog the food is intended for, such as Yummy Dog Puppy Food or Yummy Dog Senior Diet.
By the way, the ingredients are measured by weight. So if we speak of a product having 25% meat – that 25% means 25% of the total weight.
Now, if the product is named for a specific ingredient, such as Yummy Dog Beef, the product is supposed to be made up primarily of beef. In fact canned food should contain 70% beef and dry food should contain 95% beef. The difference between the two is the water weight found in canned foods.
Now here is where it gets tricky.
If and when product labels use terms like dinner, formula or nuggets — such as chicken dinner, beef nuggets, lamb formula — then the percentages change. Using those terms, the product only has to contain 25% of the named ingredient. So the ingredients in chicken formula may only contain 25% chicken.
When you make dog food comparisons you need to understand this fact. If a product like Yummy Dog Beef Dinner only contains 25% beef, what makes up the other 75% of the ingredients?
Let’s read some dog food labels and see.
You will be glad to know that ingredients still must be listed in the descending order of weight. So, a beef dinner label might read like this:
Beef Dinner – Ingredients: Corn, meat and bone meal, wheat, beef.
You may believe you are providing your pet with a beef meal, when, in reality, he is eating mostly corn and meat meal (more about meat meal in another article – it is disgusting!)
Now, just to confuse you a little more, when the labels use the terms flavor or flavored (such as Chicken Flavored Nuggets) — then all the rules go out the door. No exact percentage of the named ingredient (in this case chicken) has to be in the food. The formula need merely include the ingredient somewhere.
No doubt about it, without reading dog food labels, the ingredients can be deceiving. That’s why it is important to make dog food comparisons, checking one label against another, until you find a healthy dinner for your pet!