This is the second installment on our journey through a confusing world of pet nutrition. Who believes everything they read or hear when it comes to advertisements? Correct answer; no one! This doesn’t mean that all advertisers are dishonest but sales pressure can really skew a marketer’s view of what a product can do. To add to the fun, did you know that pet food labeling is part legal document and part promotional packaging?
What must be on the bag or can is the manufacturers phone number and analysis (% fat, protein, water etc.), ingredients listed in descending order of amount used and a statement that it is “complete” and “balanced” for a certain life stage including how this was determined (by formula or feeding trials). In addition claims containing the word “organic” come in variations (“with organic, 100% organic”) are bonafide legal claims that must be proven by the manufacturer. “Natural” and “holistic” mean nothing in particular and are marketing gimmicks.
The fun part of gimmicks on pet food labels is that they are mostly benign when it comes to the real quality of the diet. You have seen the commercial trying to get you to buy a $40,000 vehicle because it has a nice stereo or cup holder. The car isn’t necessarily a lemon because they are talking about these minor features- they know some people will actually choose a car because of a minor feature. Dog food examples are “grain free”, deer, bison, berries etc., or long lists of ingredients. None of these are bad diets in general, they just exist to get you to buy theirs instead of the other guy’s food. Exceptions exist such as salmon which is full of fish oil- who knew!
Here are a few things to know when considering a pet food.
- Gimmicks are gimmicks! That does not mean that the diet is good or bad.
- “Organic” means some or all of the ingredients are subject to the government standards ruling what can and cannot be used in producing individual ingredients (fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides).
- The quality of the diet is moot if your pet is allergic to it or has problems digesting it.
- No one pet food will be appropriate for all the dogs or cats in the world.
- Pet foods marketed for particular breeds are more gimmick than superior nutrition.
- By-products are a generality, some are high quality proteins (heart, liver etc.) and some others not as digestible.
- Claims of no hormones or antibiotics are of little significance as this is regulated by the government and can not be in any animal product at the time of processing.
- Trust but verify! Look at the food when you serve it. We’ve all heard the stories of cigar butts etc in someone’s beer bottle or canned peaches!
***Next subject –Dog And Cat Food Ingredients And What They Mean.
William I. Wiatt