So what’s in a pet food label?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials stipulate 8 items that must be included on a pet food label. There’s a lot of fine print regarding what has to go where on the bag and some of the terminology but in essence here are the 8:
- Brand and Product Name….pretty well self-explanatory
- Name of species for which the food is intended
- Quantity Statement….net weight or net volume
- Guaranteed Analysis…percentage of each of the nutrients in the food
- Requires minimum % crude protein, crude fat, maximum crude fiber and maximum moisture
- Other guarantees are voluntary or required if connected to a label claim
- Ingredient Statement
- Listed in order by weight on an “as formulated basis”
- Ingredient that makes up the highest percentage of the total weight is listed first
- That includes water before cooking….thus the “as formulated basis”
- Ingredients must be declared by the correct AAFCO defined name
- Nutritional Adequacy Statement
- Statement that indicates the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage
- Feeding Directions
- At a minimum must state “feed (amount of product) per (weight) of dog or cat”
- Should include recommended feeding frequency
- Name and address of manufacturer or distributor
- If someone else makes the product must show that by using “manufactured for” or “distributed by”
It’s common practice to list the caloric content of the food within the area showing the feeding directions. This is commonly listed as Kcals per cup.
Personal or commercial endorsements are permitted. So keep in mind they probably mean very little. Veterinarian recommended, veterinarian formulated and/or developed are easy criteria to meet.
From a practical standpoint we mostly focus on three key elements of the above requirements. The guaranteed analysis, the ingredient statement and the feeding directions (including the caloric content). It’s these three areas that provide us the most guidance as to the nutritional adequacy, appropriateness and quality of the food for your furry friend. It does take some work to correctly interpret some of this, however. While the first ingredient on the ingredient statement may be “duck” it may not be the ingredient providing the most protein in the diet….after the water is cooked out! But it makes for positive marketing. We’ll have more on that in future pieces.