How to sniff out 5 misleading labels on pet foods

The pet food label contains a wealth of information if one knows how to read it.

PledgeCare has a bone to pick with the commercial pet food industry.

Pet owners don’t have the luxury of having veterinarians, nutritionists, and food scientists by their side to decipher the terms and ingredients used on pet food bags.

What’s more, the lack of regulations makes it possible for manufacturers of pet food to use a wide range of low-quality ingredients. As such, many brands use vague marketing claims and misleading ingredient labels to hide what actually goes into the food.

Watch out for these five labelling tricks:

1. First ingredient

Even though the ingredient is listed at the top of the list, it doesn’t mean that it makes up a significant part of the kibble.

Example: Beef (20%), Rice (20%), Corn (20%), Split peas (10%), Pea protein (10%), Potato (10%), Potato starch (10%)

Meat may be at the top of the ingredient list but it only makes up 20% of the kibble formulation.

Pet food manufacturers know pet owners look for meat as the first ingredient, so they’ll use just enough to get it listed right at the top. (Rawpixel pic)

Furthermore, the high moisture content of beef leads to evaporation during the cooking process.

Keep an eye on the large number of different dry-carb sources (rice, corn, wheat, potato, etc) as this can mean the food is very high in carbohydrates.

2. Protein percentage

An important factor is the source of protein used in the food. This is because the digestibility, which is the percentage of nutrients the body can utilise, varies greatly depending on the source.

Fresh meats and eggs rank at the top while plant-protein sources are less digestible.

Plant-protein like pea-protein and wheat gluten meal can significantly boost the overall protein content at a low cost to the manufacturer.

One of the best ways to check whether your pet is getting his protein from the right sources is to look at its stool.

Low digestibility places unnecessary stress on the digestive system. It will often result in larger stools since the nutrients can’t be absorbed properly.

Be sure to check your pet’s poop to determine the state of its digestive system. (Rawpixel pic)

3. ‘X% of protein from meat’

Example: 90% protein from meat, 10% fruit, 0% grains. But does 90% protein from meat really mean what it says? This is often not the truth.

Usually, it means the other ingredients are very low in protein (potatoes, rice, tapioca).

Brands that use the statement “90% protein from meat”, can actually contain very little meat, low protein content and an overall poor nutritional value.

To have the above-mentioned claim, the manufacturers use very simple carb-sources with low protein content like tapioca.

This will cause a spike in your pup’s blood sugar leading to poor energy levels throughout the day.

Your faithful companion is also at risk of developing health diseases such as diabetes in the long run.

4. Grain-Free

Any pet food made without wheat, corn, rice and other grains is considered “grain-free.”

Why is this statement seen a lot on pet food products nowadays?

The popularity of grain-free products took off after the melamine recall in 2007. More than 3,600 pets died following contamination of pet food ingredients.

Consumers then demanded biologically appropriate foods that weren’t made with any grains, fillers or sketchy ingredients.

As the demand for grain-free food increased, many low-quality brands launched grain-free products.

To keep prices low, larger amounts of simple carbohydrates such as potatoes, tapioca and peas were included.

Therefore, even though the foods were “grain-free”, they weren’t much healthier than before.

Grain-free dog foods have become popular these days, but the diets may benefit all pets. (Rawpixel pic)

Today, more than 43% of all pet food sold in the USA is grain-free.

However, only a small portion is actually biologically appropriate for dogs.

Going grain-free can be great especially for dogs with specific allergies but it’s important to know exactly what goes into the food.

5. ‘Complete and Balanced’

Various pet food packages contain the phrase “Complete and balanced by AAFCO standards.”

The means the brands live up to some specific nutrient-values controlled by The Association of American Feed Control Officials.

Although the claim was created to help consumers find the right food, it creates some confusion.

Example: Two different brands use significantly different ingredients, but both can be listed as “Complete and balanced” since nutrients can be added artificially after processing.

Therefore, plenty of manufacturers still rely on fillers with extremely poor nutritional value.

Why? Because it’s cheaper to add synthetic vitamin-mixes after.

Feeding your pet this is very similar to eating a diet consisting of 100% fast food with a vitamin pill on the side.

Technically, your pet will get the nutrients it needs but will most likely have less energy, more frequent illnesses and a higher risk of chronic health diseases.

PledgeCare is run by a small dedicated team of wholehearted animal-lovers. Their belief is that all animals deserve better – not only the ones living in your homes, but also the strays living in the streets. They operate as a social enterprise and proudly donate a share of their proceeds to local shelters helping animals in need.