by Dr. Misha Neumann, Humane Veterinary Hospitals Lancaster
There are a lot of buzzwords when it comes to pet food and it can be confusing to anyone wanting to feed their pet the best diet. Here are a few words and phrases commonly seen on food labels and what they actually mean.
We think that holistic means all natural, organic, grain free. There is actually no legal definition for this word under the pet food laws. This means that anyone can claim their food is holistic.
We think of this as being free of chemicals, free range livestock, antibiotic free meat sources, and ingredients found in the environment. When “natural” is written on a pet food label, it actually means that the ingredients have not been chemically made. Natural does NOT mean that the food is organic.
Words that come to mind with this word include pesticide free, locally sourced, all natural, antibiotic free, etc. In order for a food to be certified organic, as in carrying the USDA’s organic seal, 95% of the food content must be organic by weight. This means that the product must be grown using animal or vegetable fertilizers (bone meal, manure, compost).
Dinner, Platter, Entrée, Formula
When you see these words on the bag or can, it means that only 25% of the main ingredient (chicken dinner, beef entrée, seafood platter) is included.
If a label says it is made with an ingredient, it means that only 3% of that ingredient needs to be included in the recipe.
This incredibly vague term just means that a flavor must be recognized by the pet.
Most people think that by products are inedible parts of the animal (beaks, feet, feathers, etc.). By products may actually be the best ingredients to feed pets! They are parts of the animals that are typically thrown away when making human food, but include organ meats like liver, fats, and vegetable oils. Feeding by products is actually an environmentally friendly way to provide pets with good nutrition.
This food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) means that the food has no documented effects on animals. The food was not actually tested for digestibility.
The pet food aisle is a confusing place to navigate, and I hope this article helps bust the myths of common words on pet food labels. In general, make sure that the food does have the AAFCO label on it because it has undergone some regulation. You really want it to say that the food underwent a feeding trial because it means that an animal has actually eaten it and the effects of the food were studied.
To learn more about pet nutrition, please contact us and we’d be happy to provide more insights.