• Laura Lynn Onan, Education Coordinator

Understanding pet food packages

Wading through the pet food aisle to find the right food for your pet can be overwhelming. Labels on the package can reveal a lot about its nutrient content, but understanding them can be a challenge. Ingredients and guaranteed analysis are always included on the packaging. Knowing what to look for and what to avoid can make finding the right pet food easier. Ignore the bright colors and catchy phrases on the front of the package. The ingredients list is where you can find out how healthy the pet food you are buying actually is. First look for a meat protein. Cats and dogs are carnivores and thrive with real meat in their diets. Be sure to check that whole meat sources are listed as one of the top two ingredients. Often times pet food companies use more “fillers” than meat in the products. Fillers such as vegetables and some grains, like whole grain rice, barley, oatmeal are good for your pets in moderation, but not as a main protein source for their diet.

Pet food manufacturers use words to hide the true value of food. Often times, you see nutritional claims like “all natural.” Natural ingredients can refer to any ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources. However, this can include scraps and by-products of leftover meat processing as the main source of protein. Avoid food containing meat by-products. Beef by-products can contain intestines, bone, stomachs, blood, spleen and lungs. Poultry by-products include necks and feet.

Some manufacturers will use the term “flavor” on their packaging. This simply means the product just needs to taste like the flavor not actually contain the product. Fat from meat is often used to flavor food without actually using the meat in the product. Be aware of proportioned food. These ready to use meals are usually made up of as little as 25 percent of actual meat. These pre-measured meals may be convenient but also have high sodium content and little nutritional value.

Despite your best efforts, giving your dog or cat an ideal healthy diet can be a challenge. Although regulations do exist, pet food manufacturers tend to use labeling to trick the eye to thinking their food is better than the next. Protect your pet by learning pet food label terminology and reading the ingredients list carefully. If you want to learn more about ingredients listed on the back of your pet’s food, feel free to contact us atmanager@woodfordhumane.org or 859-873-5491.

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