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Insider in Pet Food: Reading Ingredients Between the Lines

May 21, 2008

Reading Ingredients Between the Lines


When you look at a bag of pet food, you will notice many terms like "meat and bone meal" and "chicken by-product" are used. What do all these terms mean?

First off by-products are always a bad thing to have in food. By-products are left over from the slaughter or processing of the food listed after the word "by-products." For example, "Chicken By-product" is the beaks, feathers and feet left over from the chicken's slaughter. However in order to make the ingredients look good they use the word, "by-product." These ingredients are fillers and make the food cheap with very little nutritional value. Some schools of thought in pet food say specific by-products are ok, such as "chicken" because in the wild these parts would be eaten. However when listed in pet food they are out of proportion to the more nutritious meat. The best way to see variety within the meats is to have ingredients listed as "whole," such as "whole ground chicken."

Another common word used in the pet food industry is "meal." "Meal" simply means that the ingredient has been rendered. Rendering is a process which removes moisture and grinds up the ingredient into a powder. Meals are not dangerous or nutritionally bad, contrary to popular belief, but it is not uncommon for rendering companies to get cited for mislabeling their product (AKA mixing other stuff in) more than several times a year. Meals are not to be feared, just avoided when possible.

Corn, wheat and soy are common ingredients in pet foods. These ingredients in addition to rice were/are the ingredients under concern from the 2007 pet food recalls. However the main concern with corn, wheat and soy are that they add what is called an empty protein. The vegetable proteins in these ingredients are not digestible to cats or dogs. This makes the food actually have less digestible protein than the guaranteed analysis says. Do not get a food with any corn, wheat and/or soy in it. A food containing these often causes kidney failure to your pet causing expensive vet bills. These ingredients also are high rick allergins to pets.

Ingredient splitting is another common practice in labeling. For example an ingredient lower on the list they will split the ingredient into, "Corn grits and corn meal." This way corn is lower on the ingredient list, making meat the top ingredient.

Another way companies trick consumers into thinking there is more meat in their pet food than there actually is, is by wet matter and dry matter. Obviously in a kibble all the ingredients end up dry, but they all started out moist. The meat ingredients are weighed when moist and vegetables when dry. This way there appears to be more meat, but the only reason for this is water weight.

1 comment:

webmaster said...

You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

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