What you need know about pet food labels

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What you should know about pet food labels
What you should know about pet food labels

I am passionate about food labeling for people.  I am also an animal lover.  We have five beautiful, loving cats and I like to feed them the best food I can.  That means that I read the pet food labels as much as I do people food.  In our household, we see our cats as furry children. Do we spoil them too much? Probably.  But I want to return their love and affection with proper care.

 

 

Understanding Terminology on Pet Food Labels

The FDA regulates American pet food labels and requires manufacturer’s list ingredients in order by weight. However, marketing terms sometimes get in the way. Data Label, a UK label manufacturer, invested in researching pet food labels to help clarify some of the terminologies.  For example, some pet food manufacturer’s may list “animal by-products” or “meat-meal.” What exactly do these terms mean?

  • Meat and Animal Derivatives vs. by-products

    Meat versus by-product
    Flesh, meat, or animal derivatives are actual meat that most people would think about eating. Animal by-products are things people would not think of as food at all. By-products are offal leftover from the slaughterhouse such as feet, undeveloped eggs, or heads.  If a label reads “Beef Flavored Dog Food,” it probably contains more by-product than actual meat under FDA labeling laws.

  • Meat meals, made by rendering mammal tissues, are not meat. Since the rendering process kills harmful bacteria, sometimes, pet food maker sometimes harvest the meat from sick or dying animals, expired grocery store meats, offal, and butcher shop discards.
  • Not Whole Meat

    Terms indicated pet food is not whole meatThese ingredients are not “whole” meat. Dehydrated, dried, powdered, concentrated, or meals.

  • While guidelines exist dictating that natural foods should contain no artificial flavors, preservatives, or colors, “natural” has no legal definition.  Look for “free-range” and “organic” ingredients if you are looking for the most natural foods for your furry four-footed friends. Be warned, though, that currently, there are no legal guidelines on what other ingredients may be in a pet food labeled organic, unlike organic labeling for human food.
  • “Premium,” “Gourmet,” and other such terms have no legal definition, either. These foods, which frequently carry a more hefty price tag often have the same ingredients as more competitively priced competitors.
  • Other FDA Requirements for Pet Food Labels
    • Guaranteed crude analysis for certain ingredients including protein, moisture, fat, and fiber.
    • Lists feeding instructions for animal bodyweight.
    • Calorie Statement
    • Labels must also contain a nutritional adequacy statement indicating that the product is 100% nutritionally adequate or state that it is intended only for supplemental feeding.

Questions for you

Did I share anything that surprised you?
Do you have any pets?

What is in your pets food? What exactly is the difference between animal by-product, meat meals, and whole meat?

This is a sponsored post and all opinions are my own.

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Happily married to the love of my life. It's just us, our 5 cats, and our beautiful woods. I'm loving living back in the Florida panhandle being close to family. I love cooking, living a healthy lifestyle, taking care of our cozy home, and trying new things.

We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.


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Alicia Taylor

Happily married to the love of my life. It's just us, our 5 cats, and our beautiful woods. I'm loving living back in the Florida panhandle being close to family. I love cooking, living a healthy lifestyle, taking care of our cozy home, and trying new things.

We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.

20 Comments

  • Carol Graham

    October 7, 2017 - 12:12 pm

    We have rescued over 30 dogs. Most of them were close to death. We brought each of them back to “life” and they lived full, healthy lives for many more years. We only use raw food, both meat and vegetables. We have not been to a vet in many years other then to get their nails clipped and one time because our little Dachshund was attacked by a Bull Mastiff.

    • Alicia Taylor

      October 7, 2017 - 7:54 pm

      I’m glad it’s working for you! I hope that little Dachshund is ok!

  • Melanie Poulos Walsh

    October 3, 2017 - 10:53 am

    It’s so hard to know what the labels mean for people food, let alone pet food. I appreciate you spelling out the differences as they aren’t always so obvious. I want to make sure I’m feeding my pets well.

  • Louise x (@withlovefromlou)

    October 3, 2017 - 5:29 am

    We don’t have any pets, so this is never something I’ve really been aware of. But if we ever do decide to go ahead and buy one we’ll make sure we take extra care to triple check what we’re buying for them!

    Louise x

  • reesann723

    October 2, 2017 - 8:23 pm

    My dog has a very sensitive stomach and is allergic to a lot of bad ingredients. I need to check this out!

  • keikilani

    October 2, 2017 - 7:54 pm

    It’s crazy that we have to read labels for our dogs now! It’s not so simple as just buying a bag off the shelf. This is good information to know.

  • Lauren From The Block

    October 2, 2017 - 7:14 pm

    It should be second nature now to look at what goes into a food product now It doesn’t matter for yourself or for your pets. Labels are so important nowadays

    • Alicia Taylor

      October 2, 2017 - 7:42 pm

      Yes – but even then – I read labels and had no idea that some of those ingredients meant they be using diseased cows as part of the ingredients.

  • Nicole Aguilar

    October 2, 2017 - 6:44 pm

    You know what? I need to be better about this. My fur babies deserve to have their labels read just like I read my own.

  • brandidcrawfordgmailcom

    October 2, 2017 - 5:53 pm

    I really need to start paying attention to pet food labels. I’m huge on reading for myself, but I need to consider my 5 pound Yorkie, Angel, too!

  • Laurie Floyd

    October 2, 2017 - 2:45 pm

    I don’t have a pet but if I did I would definitely care about the ingredients in their food! They deserve to be healthy, too!!

  • Milena Barrett

    October 2, 2017 - 1:20 pm

    This was an interesting post. I never thought much about what goes into my pets food, but it’s important!

  • swood97

    October 2, 2017 - 12:17 pm

    We have just started reading the food labels on our pet food. Our dogs are older now and their digestive systems seem to be changing. They need a healthier food so we are on a mission to find the right one for them.

    • Alicia Taylor

      October 2, 2017 - 12:37 pm

      Yes. My kitties are also a bit on the middle aged side. They definitely have special needs when they get older.

  • loisaltermark

    October 2, 2017 - 11:55 am

    Thanks for such important information. It can be so confusing to try to make sense of food labels, and we have to be as diligent with our beloved pets as with our human family!

  • Rebecca B.

    October 2, 2017 - 11:53 am

    We have started reading labels due to one of our cats throwing up everything she etch. I am hoping to find the right food for her.

    • Alicia Taylor

      October 2, 2017 - 12:06 pm

      I hope you get to the bottom of it.

  • irishred13

    October 2, 2017 - 11:13 am

    I like you am big into food labels not only for us but for the pets too. We feed our animals good food that is made with ingredients I can pronounce, which is basically how we feed ourselves. REAL food!

    • Alicia Taylor

      October 2, 2017 - 12:38 pm

      I thought I knew what I was reading. I can pronounce some of it -but when I found out that they can use sick and dying animals to make pet food ingredients, I was stunned. They don’t list that on the label.

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