Recognize Good Quality Pet Food from the Label

How serious are you about your pet’s health?

You want to keep your fur-friend fit and well, and recognize the importance of a good diet. But in the pet store you falter. The rows and rows of cans, bags, boxes, and pouches on the shelves are overwhelming. How do you choose which is the best quality food for your pet?

Perhaps pet food is a price led purchase or you only trust the premium manufacturers; you’re swayed by a man in the park, or the dog on the pack is the image yours. There are many ways to select a food but the best way is by reading the label.

Let Jackopaw help you recognize quality ingredients, so you can decide which is a good quality food.

Why Does the Label Matter?

The label is a legal requirement and must provide accurate information about what the food contains. All that small print can be intimidating to read, but when you know which bits matter most your eye can skip straight there.

On the packaging you will see:

  • Ingredients
  • Guaranteed analysis
  • Feeding recommendation

So what do these mean?

The Same Ingredients Each Time?

Ingredients: When reading the ingredient listed, understand the implications. First let’s looks at whether you pet gets to eat the same ingredients, each time you buy that food.

For an example let’s take a “Meaty Dog Food”. Look at the ingredients label to see if the actual meat species is named on the label. For example, does it say “Beef” or “Chicken” or does it just say “Meat”.

The best quality brands guarantee the type of meat in the food. But this is an expensive option because, the market price of cattle varies, and the manufacturer has to buy even when the market price is high.

Slightly down from premium brands, good quality foods will list the ingredient “meat” on the label. This means there is actual meat-muscle in the food (rather than meat meal) but the species varies between batches. This is because buyers purchase the species that is best value on the day.

Lesser brands may list “meat meal”, which is a meat by-product and of lesser quality,

In short, if you want to be definite what your pet is eating each meal, look for a named meat ingredient.

Know “First is Most”

The ingredients are listed in order of quantity, with the most plentiful ingredient first on the list.

Thus, for a dog or cat food you are looking for protein (meat) first, and meat second on the list. Next on the list should come a source of carbohydrate, of which named vegetable are ideal. Then look for cereals lower down the list, in fifth or sixth position. Soya is often used as filler, so aim to have this way down.

Guaranteed Analysis

This part of the label is particularly confusing. It means the food promises to contain certain minimum amounts of protein, carbohydrate, fat and vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, guaranteed analysis is more about quantity than quality, so don’t put too much importance on it.

Confused? Let’s look at an example.

Consider you pick up a kibble that is guaranteed to be 24% protein. Sounds OK doesn’t it? Well, yes and no. In truth, you need to cross reference this figure with the ingredients, to see if it’s good or poor quality protein. Fish meal and steak both provide protein, but the first is lower quality than the second.

Lard and butter are both fats, and whereas you’d be happy to smother your toast in butter, you’d probably pass on the lard. Remember this and don’t be over impressed by guaranteed analysis.

Drawing everything together, to assess quality you need to look at:

  • The ingredients eg a named meat (high quality) vs fish meal (variable quality)
  • The quantity ie where they are on the list

Watch out for the Word “Meal”

The word ‘meal’ brings a whole new level of unpredictability to the quality. On some labels you see: fishmeal, meat meal, or corn gluten meal. These are cheaper options for topping up the protein quota of a food.

Whereas a named meat is muscle from that animal; meat meal includes offal, bone, and sometimes even hooves and hair from the same species. There’s nothing wrong with meat meal as such, but be aware of the quality implications.

Recommended Feeding Amount

We feed quality food to keep our pets to be healthy. However, obesity is a nutritional disease and affects more than half our pets. To keep them truly healthy, use the recommended feeding amount on the pack as a starting point, and scale it back if your pet puts on weight. Waistlines are good, barrel tummies are bad as far as health is concerned.

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