On an all too brief get-away recently your cat faerie bumped into Matt Snyder and this very good and well written article. Matt has a shop for animal companions in Buellton, California which is in the heart of California’s beautiful central coast (if you saw the movie Sideways you’ve seen the area)
Matt’s advice for deciphering labels is a treasure. He’s done excellent research with an uncommon viewpoint. The only aspect of this article which we disagree with is corn. We at Cat Faeries are grain free for many reasons. It’s probably good to assume that any commercial corn is genetically modified and we believe this to be very dangerous.
Great nutrition leads to happy and healthy pets!
By Matt Snyder
When we talk about nutrition there are many factors that we need to think about when deciding on what food is best for our pets. Most foods you find on the market are foods that our pets should survive on but 80% are NOT foods that our pets will thrive on! We need to remind ourselves that our dogs and cats are domesticated. That process changes them dramatically in what they need as our companion animals verse what they would need out in the wild as wolves, coyotes and forest cats.
There are so many foods available and so many recipes that could be made at home, most of these are not nutritionally balanced. I hope to clarify some myths and rumors that run rampant in the pet industry and give you some tips as a pet owner on how to provide a great foundation of nutrition for your four legged family members.
First we should probably get this out of the way; Corn is not bad for pets. This rumor started in 1979 when an up and coming dog food company wanted to get into the pet food market. They decided to start the rumor that corn was bad and used as cheap filler or causes allergies. Corn contains: highly digestible proteins, carbohydrates for energy, linoleic acid, beta carotene and Vitamin A. There are different grades of corn available for use in pet foods. The highest grade corn has a very low moisture content and little to no dust; If ground down properly to the right micron size corn is a great ingredient and highly digestible. The two lower grades of corn are not a good ingredient and they are defiantly used as fillers or help keep a food low in cost.
Next let’s talk about how to read a pet food label. I know this is going to be a huge insight into how lacking our current regulation of pet food labels here in the US. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) is the regulating association for pet food here in America. The last update they had to their regulations was almost 20 years ago. Since then information regarding our pet’s nutritional needs has changed dramatically. The tips below will allow you to critically think about and decide what food is best for your pet.
- True or False: The first ingredient listed is what the pet food contains most of?
False – AAFCO regulations state that ingredients are to be listed in order of precooked weight. This is incredibly misleading to the consumer. Since meats like: chicken, lamb and beef contain high amounts of moisture they are place first on the ingredient panel, when in all reality after they are cooked and processed they are lucky to be 5% of the total diet. That being said make sure when reading the label to keep in mind that the first ingredient isn’t always what they say it is!
- True or False: If a label states 100% Beef then that is exactly what is in the can?
False – Yet again a loop hole in the system. It is required by law that at least 95% of what is list on that can is that single protein. Make sure to check the moisture content. Too much moisture decreases the amount of protein in the can.
Here are a few other useful hints: If a label states dinner, formula, recipe or entrée it is required that there is between 25-94% of what they are listing in that food. Then if a label states “with” only 3-24% of the “with” is required to be in that food. Now most misleading of all is when a label says “Flavor”. That term requires that 3% of the pets that eat this food must recognize that “flavor”. My question to you is how do we know when a pet can recognized a specific flavor?
- AAFCO requires that there are only four components that need to be listed on pet food bags. These are: Crude Protein, Crude Fat, Crude Fiber and Moisture. All these except moisture are the minimum amounts, while moisture is listed as maximum. Below I have a table that has each of the components that AAFCO requires and three different products. Which product do you think is a can of food for a healthy 12 year old dog? Now keep in mind only one of these would be suitable to feed to your dog.
Guaranteed Analysis Product A Product B Product C Crude Protein, min % 6.0 6.0 4.0 Crude Fat, min % 4.0 5.0 2.5 Crude Fiber, min % 6.3 2.5 1.0 Moisture, max % 78 78 78
- Product A is old shoes, oil, coal and water
- Product B is Old Yeller® Dog Food for growth & maintenance
- Product C is Science Diet® Mature Adult Chicken Entrée Dog Food
It is shocking to think that a pair of shoes contains very similar guaranteed analysis to that of dog food. This just goes to show that AAFCO regulations are so out of date. If there is anything else listed on the analysis it is because that pet food company has decided to list additional components. Hopefully these are beneficial but that is up to their discretion.
I think it is time to look at what factors we as consumers should look for in a pet food. Questions I would ask about a brand would be:
- Do they use quality ingredients – where are they sourced from? Are they made in the USA?
- Does the company own their own manufacturing plant and/or cannery? If so where is it located?
- Does the company do feeding trials to provide the best quality product to the consumer and their pets?
- How is the food packaged for storage on the shelf? Has it been nitrogen flushed? What is the quality of the bag used?
- How long has the company been in business for? Do they have veterinarians and nutritionist on staff?