You want to give our pets the best possible nutrition, but with so many options, how do we separate the most effective from the remainder?
Do words like “premium” and “gourmet” actually mean anything? Are foods labeled “natural” and “organic” actually healthier? The stark reality is, as it pertains to pet food, several terms have no standard definition or regulatory meaning. There’s no-one perfect source for comparing kibbles and chows. There’s, however, some basic information that you should use to gauge everything you feed your four-legged family members.
Looking into the foodstuff label
Pet food labels have two basic parts: the principal display panel and the information panel. The first uses up all the packaging – it provides the brand and name of the foodstuff, and descriptive terms and images. But the main area of the label is the information panel, that is the parallel of an individual nutritional information label. It provides the guaranteed analysis, ingredient list, feeding guidelines and nutritional adequacy statement.
You won’t find just as much detail here as on human foods, but the nutritional information does give minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. “Crude” identifies the technique of measuring that’s used, not the grade of the protein, fat or fiber. These percentages are on “as fed” basis, so foods that have more water (canned foods) appear to own less protein than foods with less water (dry foods) – but that’s not usually the case.
Ingredients in a pet food must be listed on the label in descending order by weight pet toys. One detail to keep in mind, though, is that the weight includes the moisture in the ingredient, so certain ingredients may appear higher on the list even though lower – moisture ingredients contribute more actual nutrients. The order isn’t by nutritional value, but by weight.
Like, the first ingredient on a tag might be “chicken”, which weighs more than other individual ingredients because it may contain 70% water. But wheat might be present in various forms which are listed as individual ingredients, such as for instance “wheat flour”, “ground wheat” and “wheat middling “.Thus, the dietary plan may actually contain more wheat than chicken. Just because a protein source is listed first does not mean the dietary plan is high in protein.
Feeding guidelines may also be on the information panel of the label. Like human food labels, pet food labels give broad feeding guidelines. Pet food guidelines are derived from average intake for all dogs or cats. But a pet’s nutritional requirements may differ in accordance with his age, breed, weight, genetics, activity level and even the climate he lives in. So, these guidelines are a starting point, but may require adjusting for your particular furry friend. If your pet starts gaining weight, you may want to feed her less, and vice versa.
Let’s go through the nutritional adequacy statement, produced by an advisory organization that standardizes pet food nutrient contents called the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This statement assures pet parents that whenever your pet food is fed as the only source of nutrition, it meets or exceeds nutritional requirements for a pet at a number of life stages. However, the AAFCO recognizes only “adult maintenance” and “reproduction” (which includes pregnancy, lactation and growth) as life stages; or, if the dietary plan meets both, “all life stages “.
The nutritional adequacy statement also shows how manufacturers have met the AAFCO’s standards, either by calculations or by feeding trials. Calculations estimate the amount of nutrients in a pet food either on the basis of the typical nutrient content of its ingredients, or on results from laboratory testing. This kind of food will carry a record like: “Brand A is formulated to generally meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Food Nutrient Profiles for (stated life stages) “.
Feeding trials signify that the manufacturer has tested the product by feeding it to dogs or cats under specific guidelines. These products carry a record such as for instance: ” Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Brand A provides complete and balanced nutrition for “.
The ingredient panels on pet food labels contain lots of information for pet parents to digest, but there’s still more to savor, including getting a taste for the terms on the principal display part of those labels. As an example, a pet food can claim to be “light/lite” or “lean” as long as it meets the AAFCO’s standard definitions for these terms, which differ for cat and dog food and depend on the dietary moisture content.
“Less calories” and “reduced calories” mean only that the product has fewer calories than another product, and exactly the same goes for “less fat” or “reduced fat.” Pet food labels are not usually required to offer calorie content.
Some pet parents try to consume an organic diet, and often they need their pets to consume that way, too. Bear in mind, though, that even though a pet food is “natural” or “organic” it usually contains added synthetically-produced vitamins and minerals. To date, you will find no studies showing that natural or organic foods provide any health advantages over conventionally manufactured processed dog or cat foods.
More recently, there is a trend for feeding “biologically appropriate raw food” (also known as BARF) and “grain free” pet food.
Barf diets have now been reported to own many health advantages over conventionally processed food items, such as for instance being easier for pets to digest. While no scientific publications have documented the great things about raw diets, they have not been shown to be detrimental, either. When feeding any raw food, there’s always concern about the risk of bacterial infection, such as for instance Salmonella, but needless to say, conventional pet foods have also been recalled for contamination.
Proponents of “grain-free” diets claim they have many health advantages for pets, including increased digestibility and decreased allergens. But in fact, dogs and cats easily digest carbohydrates from grains or vegetable sources. Food allergies are often blamed on the grains in the dietary plan, but this is not centered on scientific data either, and most food allergies might be because of chemical reactions involving the protein and carbohydrate ingredients in a diet.
October 11, 2020