Three Pet Food Label Myths
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM
With so many pet food options, choosing the right diet can be very difficult and so we want to offer some advice to help you select the best foods based on our knowledge and experience with many pet. We want to help you to ignore the smoke and mirrors of many marketing ploys designed to appeal to your emotional needs rather than your pets’ nutritional needs so that you can make the most informed decision possible. A pet’s food should be based on physical examination findings, lifestyle, medical condition and other factors related to your pet’s health. Therefore, before you reach for the food you heard about on a commercial, keep in mind that not everything you hear is true and there is no perfect food for every pet.
Myth 1: Foods labeled premium are always better for your pet.
Truth: Some premium food companies may try to make other manufactures look bad for using certain ingredients like corn or meat meals. However, pets do not need ingredients; they need the nutrients that are contained in ingredients. The nutrients contained in any ingredients are more important than the ingredients themselves. Manufacturers, nutritionists and pet owners simply cannot predict a food’s performance based on its ingredients list alone because there are too many unknowns. These included the amount of the ingredients present in the food, the quality of the ingredients or the exact identity and nutrient composition of the ingredient. None of this can be determined just by looking at the list of ingredients.
Myth 2: The best food for your pet is one that lists real meat as the first ingredient.
Truth: Some manufactures make unsubstantiated claims about ingredients and manipulate their own ingredient lists. For example, some dry food manufacturers tout real chicken, fish, or beef as their first ingredient because the food contains more of this ingredient by weight than any other ingredient. What the manufacturer is not saying is that the “real meat” is at the top of the list because it contains mostly water weight, which is removed when the food is made – this moves that “real meat” way down the ingredient list. They also neglect to mention that the technical term for “real meat” is mechanically deboned meat, also known as “white slime” (gross!).
Myth 3: The order of the ingredients is the most important factor in selecting your pet’s diet.
Truth: Another trick some manufactures play is called ingredient splitting, which is where they list different carbohydrates separately (such as corn, rice, barley, wheat or oatmeal) or list out different forms of the same carbohydrate (such as ground wheat and wheat flour), so these individual carbohydrates appear lower in the ingredient list. Doing so makes it appear as if carbohydrates are not the first ingredient, but if they were combined then they would be listed much higher on the ingredient list.