Ingredient Labels on dog food

When I first got my dog, Tana, I searched the high end pet stores for food that would be healthy for her. I knew nothing about feeding raw and was leery of it anyway because I worried about bad bacteria making her (and my family) sick. To be honest, it also gave me the heeby-jeebies! I made my choice of a kibble based on super cool words on the front, like "healthy", "nutritionally complete" and "balanced". Naively, I believed that labels had to be true, even on dog food. 

Labeling rules for pet food, as I have learned, do not have the health of the dog, or honesty at heart. They are geared to making their pet food look attractive to customers and give a false(on many occasions) sense of health and nutrition. Labeling rules actually support the manufacturer in using the cheapest, low quality (sometimes disgusting and dangerous) ingredients. 

Delving into the pet food industry was like watching a horror film! Dead carcasses rotting in the sun, GMO produced foods, synthetic preservatives and vitamins made from dangerous chemicals, and the leftover slaughterhouse floor meats could all be part of what your precious dog is eating! 

Labeling rules for pet food is governed by AAFCO in the U.S. and the CVM in Canada. These organizations are made up primarily of members of the pet food industry whose main concern is for product sales. More concern is given to the labels and what they can say than to the quality or source of the ingredients. Protein quality is the hardest to decipher. Ingredients must be listed in order by weight but that can be misleading. There are rules but they don't take into account the source of the protein or its quality. It can also be weighed before processing so a product that lists beef or chicken as its first ingredient, may, in fact, only be 3% of the total weight once moisture is removed during processing, if it's combined with another protein such as chicken meal which is already dried, AND if a company uses words like "formula", "dinner", or "entree" on the front.

So it can sit on the shelf beside a product with much higher protein and consumers probably wouldn't know.

Natural and organic rules are now being applied but they are also vague and don't take into account the freshness or quality of the ingredients. So rancid fats and meat from a rendering plant are acceptable! Even "organic" foods refers to the production and handling of a food and that it must not be genetically modified however contaminants from rain and ground water may still be in it in smaller amounts. If an organic product is on the shelf beside a non-organic product, it should be a lot more expensive. If it isn't, be wary.

As far as human grade claims go today, AAFCO has defined it to mean human edible. 

When shopping for dog food, watch out for ingredients such as preservatives called citric acid (made from fermenting sugars), rosemary extract (extracted using solvents), calcium propinate (irritates the mucous membrane), and tocopherols (isomers of Vitamin E from vegetable grease and recycled restaurant grease). Nasty stuff you don't want in your dog's body!

Next time, I'll share ways to add ingredients to your kibble to make it more nutritious (if you can't or don't want to feed raw).

Cheers to all of you and your four-legged babies!


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