5 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Pet Food’s Nutrition Label

Pet foods might follow strict requirements by the FDA, but the words that are used on their nutrition labels can be confusing because of misinterpreted words and marketing claims.

by guest blogger, Nick West

The nutrition label on your pet’s food is designed to give you the information you need about the food’s ingredients, nutrient levels, and nutritional adequacy. However, pet nutrition labels can be trickier to decode because they don’t follow the same rules as human nutrition labels.

Pet foods might follow strict requirements by the FDA, but the words that are used on their nutrition labels can be confusing because of misinterpreted words and marketing claims.

To help give you a better understanding of your own pet’s food nutrition label, here are some important things you need to know.

The first ingredient isn’t necessarily used the most

The ingredients that are listed on your pet’s food nutrition label are listed according to weight. Many pet owners are happy when meat is listed as the first ingredient because they assume this means most of the food they’re feeding their pet is meat. But that’s not necessarily true. According to the FDA, meat is 75% water. That means, if the meat were drained of water, it would be listed lower on the ingredient list.

Meat meal is meat without the water weight

When meat meal is listed as the first ingredient in your pet’s food, you can be sure it’s what’s really used the most in your pet’s food. This is because meat meal, such as chicken meal and bone meal, are concentrated animal protein that removed most of the water and fat.

Meat meals are considered controversial

Meat meal can contain other animal parts as byproducts such as blood, bone, brains, cleaned intestines, livers, and more. (They don’t contain hair, teeth, or horns). Meat byproducts aren’t bad for your pet, but they contain some preservatives and stabilizers that some pet owners may not be comfortable feeding to their pets. It should be noted that these ingredients are approved by the FDA.

Organic, natural, and holistic don’t mean the same thing

Organic food is grown with fewer pesticides than conventional food and organic pet food is legally required to follow the same rules as organic human food. Pet foods that label themselves as “natural” are also legally required to use natural ingredients that don’t contain chemical alterations. However, vitamins and nutrients that are used in natural pet food are allowed to be chemically altered. Finally, the term “holistic” has no meaning when it comes to pet food and it doesn’t have any legal requirements.

An AAFCO statement on the nutrition label is good to consider.

The Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) is a voluntary membership association. They establish the nutritional standards for balanced and complete pet foods. An AAFCO statement on your pet food’s nutrition label determines the nutritional adequacy of the food. It also ensures the food is complete and balanced for your pet’s specific physical activity and age. However, it’s worth noting that an AAFCO statement isn’t enough to determine the nutritional value of your pet’s food. Check the other ingredients listed on your pet’s food nutrition label to get the bigger picture.

Pet food nutrition labels differ from our own food nutrition labels and they can be challenging to interpret what they mean. But by looking for certain ingredients and screening for specific words, you can choose the right food for your pet.

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