Today I wanted to talk a bit about reading labels on pet foods. There are so many rules about how pet food manufacturers label their foods. Some rules are good, such as listing the protein and fats. Some rules make it easier for the pet food industry to be tricky about the amounts of foods in their products.
As many of you already know, the ingredients are listed by the amount of each ingredient, listing the ingredient with the most amount first down to the smallest amount. Usually, you want at least the top three ingredients to be meat, unless there aren’t very many ingredients then you might not be able to do that (example: dehydrated duck, fennel oil, oregano oil). It is important you read the labels, but if you don’t know what they mean, you might not catch the innuendos of pet food labeling.
One tactic to make your pet food look like it has less of a certain ingredient that is less appealing because it’s not meat. One way is called “Ingredient splitting.” This is when they list food in its different parts, therefore making the individual parts weigh less and put it lower on the list of ingredients. They do this so something else, like meat, becomes or looks higher on the list. For example, kibble manufacturers put grains, potatoes or peas into their kibble. They have to put some kind of starch in there to make kibble, so that’s unavoidable. However, the amount of starch affects the quality of the food. You don’t want mostly starch, you want mostly meat.
To recognize ingredient splitting, look for the same plant to be mentioned more than once, but different parts of the plant will be named. The ingredients may or may not be listed next to each other. Here’s an example of one kibble: Ingredients: Ground yellow corn, corn germ meal, beef, and bone meal, soybean meal, beef tallow preserved with mixed-tocopherols, pork and bone meal, egg and chicken flavor, poultry and pork digest, corn gluten meal, salt, etc….. Do you notice corn in different ingredients? Ground yellow corn, corn germ meal, and corn gluten meal. Corn is already the top ingredient, but imagine if you add it all together, it would be obvious this food has a minimal amount of meat.
Here’s another one: Ingredients: Deboned lamb, lamb meal (source of glucosamine), peas, potatoes, pea starch, pea protein, tapioca starch, canola oil (source of omega 6 fatty acids), pea fiber, natural flavor, fish oil, etc… Do you see all the peas? Peas, pea starch, pea protein, and pea fiber. If you added all the peas together, would they be more than the lamb meal? We don’t know. That’s one of the problems.
Ingredient splitting is not the only way pet food manufacturers deceive their customers into thinking their pet food is healthy. Here’s another trick, find salt on the list. Anything listed after salt is barely anything. The amount of salt is very minimal, and anything after it is even less!! That’s often where you find blueberries, parsley or other foods that look good to us but are used in such a small amount that it almost doesn’t matter.
The more you know about pet food labeling, the more you’ll understand all the tricks used to get us, consumers, to purchase the product. I talk about this and more in my Introduction to Pet Food seminar. Look on our website for the next upcoming date!