Understanding Pet Food Labels
Now if you are feeding a commercial food, there’s a lot of myths out there. When you’re standing there in the pet store or the vet clinic and you’re seeing that wall of food, the first thing to realize is all those pretty pictures of the delicious looking food on the front of the package, those are for you, those are for your sake. They are marketing, they are aiming it right at you, your dog does not care. I have been to these pet food factories and let me tell you, the ingredients coming in look nothing like the pictures on the package, so just keep that in mind. There’s a couple of things that you can figure out about the food just by looking at the front of the bag. If it says beef, it’s going to be mostly beef, if it say’s with beef, it’s going to be like 25% beef, if it says beef flavor, there is no beef in there, it is just some flavouring. Which brings me to my next point, people are obsessed about the amount of meat in the food, so flip the bag around, look at the ingredient list, don’t get freaked out, it’s going to be huge, it’s going to be super long. The first ingredient, it might be water, it might be corn (I’m going to get to corn don’t worry) or it might be meat. Now the one thing you should not freak out about is if it says bi-products, if it says, you know, chicken bi-products or beef bi-products a lot of people think that they’re feeding their dogs garbage. Bi-products are really nutritious; all that bi-product means is that it’s stuff that we, humans, don’t want to eat. Stuff like delicious intestines and spleens, and you know, other fun organs. The stuff that a dog in the wild would eat first, wild dogs going for their prey, they’re not nibbling at the bones, they’re not chewing off delicious steaks. They are going for the innards they are eating all that stuff that we humans think is gross, but we, humans, aren’t eating it. Perfectly nutritious, don’t freak out about that.
The other thing people get very concerned about is meal and they don’t think that’s nutritious. A meat meal is basically just meat that’s had most of the water and most of the fat taken out so it’s kind of already processed and then put into the kibble. Perfectly nutritious, nothing to worry about. And in fact on the label, things are actually listed in order of weight as they come in and get mixed into the food. Now most of that meat is water which makes it show up much higher on the ingredient list, makes it look a lot more attractive, but in processing, especially when you’re making a kibble, all that water’s taken out and the actual meat content is going to decrease so don’t get lead astray. A lot of the pet food manufacturers know that people are aware of all these concerns and so they will deliberately manipulate the ingredient lists to kind of make it look a little bit more appealing to you. So whether it says meat, whether it says bi-products, or whether it says meat meal they are all sort of equivalently nutritious. Now the other thing people freak out about is corn or grains, I’m sure you’ve seen a million grain free diets out there on the markets, and again pure marketing genius, someone figured out that they could prey on your insecurities. And a lot of human food trends definitely pass over to our pets, so the whole gluten free thing for people has moved over into the pet world. Are animal’s gluten intolerant? Yeah, but like hardly any, it is extremely rare. So don’t worry about the corn, if you’re making a kibble it has to have carbs in it. Corn is a great source of carbs, it’s also a really good source of protein, and a really good source of certain vitamins.
So don’t worry about that, and in fact if you’re getting a grain free kibble, all they’re doing is replacing your corn or wheat, which are pretty nutritious, with another type of carbohydrate, like potatoes, or tapioca, or rice, or something that’s really not as nutrient dense. So don’t worry about that. And then, my final bit of advice when you are looking at the ingredient label; you know on the front of the package there might be some raspberries or some blueberries on the package. If you look at the ingredient list and blueberries are the very last thing. Like right after all the vitamins, which may say vitamin or may have this crazy long, scary scientific name. Blueberries are the last thing? You know how many blueberries are in that bag of dog food? Like one, or like half of one. Like so little as to make it negligible. So read the ingredient list, but kind of be a little bit savvy about it. And if you’re not sure if what you’ve picked is a good food, bring it into the vet clinic. I am more than happy to go through the label with you and just kind of explain what everything is, cause a lot of that stuff looks pretty terrifying and is absolutely innocuous.