You want to give our pets perfect nutrition, but with so many options, how do we separate the very best from the remainder?
Do words like “premium” and “gourmet” actually mean anything? Are foods labeled “natural” and “organic” actually healthier? The stark reality is, as it pertains to pet food, several terms haven’t any standard definition or regulatory meaning. There is no-one perfect source for comparing kibbles and chows. There is, however, some basic information that you should use to evaluate that which you feed your four-legged family members.
Checking out the food label
Pet food labels have two basic parts: the principal display panel and the info panel. The first uses up most of the packaging – it contains the brand and name of the food, and descriptive terms and images. But the most important part of the label is the info panel, that will be the parallel of an individual nutritional information label. It provides the guaranteed analysis, ingredient list, feeding guidelines and nutritional adequacy statement.
You won’t find as much detail here as on human foods, but the nutritional information does give minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. “Crude” describes the method of measuring that’s used, not the grade of the protein, fat or fiber. These percentages are on “as fed” basis, so foods that have more water (canned foods) appear to own less protein than foods with less water (dry foods) – but that’s not usually the case.
Ingredients in a pet food must be listed on the label in descending order by weight. One detail to consider, though, is that the weight includes the moisture in the ingredient, so certain ingredients may appear higher on the list even when lower – moisture ingredients contribute more actual nutrients pet goods. The order isn’t by nutritional value, but by weight.
For example, the very first ingredient on a label may be “chicken”, which weighs more than other individual ingredients because it may contain 70% water. But wheat may be contained in various forms that are listed as individual ingredients, such as “wheat flour”, “ground wheat” and “wheat middling “.Thus, the dietary plan may actually contain more wheat than chicken. Just because a protein source is listed first doesn’t mean the dietary plan is saturated in protein.
Feeding guidelines are also on the info panel of the label. Like human food labels, pet food labels give broad feeding guidelines. Pet food guidelines are based on average intake for several dogs or cats. But a pet’s nutritional requirements can differ based on his age, breed, weight, genetics, activity level and even the climate he lives in. So, these guidelines are a kick off point, but may require adjusting for your particular furry friend. If your pet starts gaining weight, you will need to feed her less, and vice versa.
Let’s go through the nutritional adequacy statement, manufactured by an advisory organization that standardizes pet food nutrient contents called the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This statement assures pet parents that when the pet food is fed as the only real supply of nutrition, it meets or exceeds nutritional requirements for a pet at one or more life stages. However, the AAFCO recognizes only “adult maintenance” and “reproduction” (which includes pregnancy, lactation and growth) as life stages; or, if the dietary plan meets both, “all life stages “.
The nutritional adequacy statement also shows how manufacturers have met the AAFCO’s standards, either by calculations or by feeding trials. Calculations estimate the total amount of nutrients in a pet food either on the foundation of the common nutrient content of its ingredients, or on results from laboratory testing. This type of food will carry a statement like: “Brand A is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Food Nutrient Profiles for (stated life stages) “.
Feeding trials signify that producer has tested the item by feeding it to dogs or cats under specific guidelines. These items carry a statement such as: ” Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Brand A provides complete and balanced nutrition for “.
The ingredient panels on pet food labels contain lots of information for pet parents to digest, but there’s still more to savor, including getting a taste for the terms on the principal display part of the labels. As an example, a pet food can claim to be “light/lite” or “lean” as long as it meets the AAFCO’s standard definitions for these terms, which differ for cat and dog food and be determined by the dietary moisture content.
“Less calories” and “reduced calories” mean only that the item has fewer calories than another product, and exactly the same goes for “less fat” or “reduced fat.” Pet food labels are not usually required to offer calorie content.
Some pet parents try to eat a natural diet, and often they want their pets to eat this way, too. Remember, though, that even when a pet food is “natural” or “organic” it usually contains added synthetically-produced vitamins and minerals. Currently, you can find no studies showing that natural or organic foods provide any health benefits over conventionally manufactured processed family pet foods.
Now, there is a trend for feeding “biologically appropriate raw food” (also known as BARF) and “grain free” pet food.
Barf diets have already been reported to own many health benefits over conventionally processed foods, such as being easier for pets to digest. While no scientific publications have documented the health benefits of raw diets, they’ve not been demonstrated to be detrimental, either. When feeding any raw food, there’s always concern about the chance of bacterial infection, such as Salmonella, but of course, conventional pet foods have already been recalled for contamination.
Proponents of “grain-free” diets claim they’ve many health benefits for pets, including increased digestibility and decreased allergens. However in fact, dogs and cats easily digest carbohydrates from grains or vegetable sources. Food allergies are often blamed on the grains in the dietary plan, but this is simply not predicated on scientific data either, and most food allergies may be because of chemical reactions between the protein and carbohydrate ingredients in a diet.