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Trying to understand the information on pet food labels can be quite confusing. As a pet owner you want to feed your dog or cat what is the healthiest for them. As a consumer you need to keep an eye on your budget. Every time we look at the ingredients panel for dog or cat food we get thoroughly frustrated and just end up purchasing based on recommendations and budget. Finally I decided to do some research myself to learn what it all means. This paper may be a little in depth but it’s worth it. There is information in here that most people don’t know.
All pet foods must list the ingredients present in dog food. Ingredients are listed in descending order, according to weight. Be careful of one tactic used by manufacturers to disguise less desirable ingredients. Breaking an ingredient into several different smaller ingredients and listing them individually is used to lower these undesirable ingredients farther down the ingredient list. For example, a product list could contain chicken, ground corn, corn gluten, ground wheat, corn bran, wheat flour, wheat middling, etc. If we were to group all of the corn ingredients as one, they would probably far outweigh the amount of chicken, and wheat. As a consumer, you must read all of the ingredients carefully. Let’s look at the some of the ingredients on the example panel below:
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Ground whole grain corn: Ground whole grain corn is the entire corn kernel ground or chopped. Since this is the first ingredient listed then the pet food contains more whole ground corn than any other ingredient.
Chicken by-product meal: Chicken or Poultry by-products are clean parts of slaughtered chicken or poultry such as heads, feet, and internal organs (like heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, abdomen, and intestines). It does not contain feathers.
Animal Fat: Animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E) this is fat that was obtained during the rendering process of mammals or poultry. Note that the animal source is not specified and is not required to originate from “slaughtered” animals.
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Soybean Mill Run: Composed of soybean hulls and soybean meats that adhere to the hulls which result from normal milling operations. In other words, leftover soybean parts.
Flaxseed: Flax seed is the richest plant source of antioxidant lignans and Omega-3 fatty acids that both help support an active immune system. The high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in flax seed meal also help promote healthy skin and a shiny coat. Flax seed meal also has a very high level of highly digestible protein and essential amino acids needed to keep dogs fit and healthy. In addition, flax seed meal contains high amounts of fiber (aids in digestion), Vitamin E, Folic Acid, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and is extremely high in the minerals Potassium, Calcium and Phosphorus. This ingredient has many good qualities, but unfortunately is farther down the list in quantity. Below is a list of the good fatty acids found in flaxseed oil.
o FATTY ACID COMPOSITION OF FLAXSEED OIL Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid………..57% Omega-6 EFA………………………….16% Omega-9 EFA………………………….18%
Chicken Liver Flavor: Just that. Chicken liver flavor. Corn Gluten Meal: Corn gluten meal is a by-product of processing corn to make corn starch and corn syrup and is the dried residue after the removal of the bran, germ, and starch.
Dried Egg Product: Dried Egg Product is one of the most nutritiously beneficial ingredients that can be used in any feed
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product. It has a digestibility rate of over 98% which is higher than any other protein used in the Pet Food Industry. Egg has a good ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Those are the top eight ingredients from this particular food label. All in all it isn’t the worst thing you can feed your pets. It could use more meat, but maybe your pets need something more easily digested instead the larger quantities of meat. That is something that you will have to weigh against other factors when you buy. Other pet foods will have different variations so here is another quick list of some of them and what they are.
Meat: Meat is the clean flesh of slaughtered animals (chicken, cattle, lamb, turkey, etc.). The flesh can include striated skeletal muscle, tongue, diaphragm, heart, esophagus, overlying fat and the skin, sinew, nerves and blood vessels normally found with that flesh. Meat By-products: Meat by-products are clean parts of slaughtered animals, not including meat. These include lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, blood, bone, and stomach and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth, or hooves. Lamb Meal: Lamb meal is rendered lamb tissue such as skeletal muscle, some bone and internal organs which have been cooked, dried and ground. Fish Meal: Fish meal is the clean ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish or fish cuttings, with or without the oil extracted. Page 4 of 10
Beef Tallow: Beef tallow is fat derived from beef. Brewers Rice: Brewers rice is the small fragments of rice kernels that have been separated from larger kernels of milled rice. Brown Rice: Brown rice is the unpolished rice left over after the kernels have been removed. After all the main ingredients are listed you will have the
various additives at the end of the list that may include vitamins, supplements, minerals, colorings and preservatives. The same preservatives are used in food for people and pet food. They are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, are safe and are used in very small quantities. Pet foods contain preservatives for the same reason food for people does - to keep it fresh. Preservatives keep food from spoiling. Eating spoiled food can cause illness in pets just as it can in people.
The Guaranteed Analysis
The guaranteed analysis on the information panel of the dog food label lists the minimum levels of crude protein and fat ("Crude" refers to a specific method of measuring the nutrient, and is not an indication of quality.) and the maximum levels of fiber and water.
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The protein and fat are listed as crude sources and not as digestible sources. The digestibility of protein and fat can vary widely depending on their sources. Although not required, some manufacturers also specify the percentages of other nutrients, such as ash and taurine in cat food, and calcium and phosphorus in dog food. The amounts of crude protein and most other nutrients appear less for canned products than for dry ones because of differences in moisture content. Canned foods typically contain about 75 percent water, while dry foods contain only about 10 percent.
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Converting Dry Matter Basis
This can be the tricky part. All pet foods have different levels of moisture. Canned foods can have up to 80% moisture whereas; some dry foods can have as little as 6%. This is important for 2 reasons. The first is that the food is priced by the pound, and when you buy dog food that is 80% water you get 20% food and the rest is water. So the amount of food your pet consumes is small and expensive. The other reason for understanding percent moisture is to help you compare crude protein and fat between brands and between canned and dry. The listings on the label are for the food as it is, not as it would be on a dry matter basis. So without converting both brands of food to a dry
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matter basis you will not be able to compare them accurately. Fortunately, the conversion is not that complicated. Please refer the numbers below to the label above. 1. If a dry dog food has 10% moisture we know that it has 90% dry matter (100-10=90). 2. So we look at the label and check the protein level that reads 16%. 3. Next, we divide the 16 percent protein by the 90% dry matter and we get 17% (16÷90=17), which is the amount of protein on a dry matter basis. Does this make sense so far? Good. 4. Now let us compare this to canned food that has 80% moisture. We know that with 80% moisture we have 20% dry matter (10080=20). Let’s assume the label shows 5% protein. So we take the 5% and divide it by 20% (5÷20=25) and we get 25% protein on a dry matter basis. So the canned food has more protein per pound on a dry matter basis after all the water is taken out. 5. We can do the same for fat, fiber, etc.
Making Sense of 'Light' and 'Lean' in Pet Food
The calorie and fat contents listed below are the maximum limits allowed in dog and cat food labeled "light" or "lean." These definitions are established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (A.A.F.C.O.) and authorized by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Comparisons between products in different categories of moisture content are considered misleading.
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Dry Foods (Less than 20 percent water) Dogs: 1,409 Light, lite or low calorie calories per pound Cats: 1,477 calories per pound Dogs: 9 Lean or low fat percent fat Cats: 10 percent fat
Semi-moist Foods (20-65 percent water) Dogs: 1,136 calories per pound Cats: 1,205 calories per pound fat Cats: 8 percent fat
Moist Foods (Greater than 65 percent water) Dogs: 409 calories per pound Cats: 432 calories per pound percent fat Cats: 5 percent fat
Dogs: 7 percent Dogs: 4
(Feed ingredients as defined by the FDA) Feed ingredients might include grains, milling byproducts, added vitamins, minerals, fats/oils, and other nutritional and energy sources.
It really isn’t all that hard to figure this information out and with a little bit of attention to detail and armed with the information presented above you should have no troubled finding the right food for you and your pet, one that fits into your budget and most importantly a pet food that your furry friends will love! www.EVERYDAYEBOOKS.info
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References: • Palika, L. The Consumer's Guide To Dog Food. Howell Book House of Simon & Schuster/Macmillan Company. New York, NY; 1996. • • • • Ralston Purina Company. Nutrition and Management of Dogs and Cats. St. Louis, MO; 1987. Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration. PetFoodReport.com
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