Reading and understanding a pet food label can be a bit confusing. But it is important to understand the ingredients and nutritional analysis of foods we feed our beloved pets every day. The United States pet food industry is regulated by four organizations, with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) being the most dominant. AAFCO is an association comprised of state and federal officials who help develop the guidelines for producing, labeling and selling animal feeds and pet food.
To meet AAFCO dog or cat nutrient profiles for being “complete and balanced,” a pet food must meet the required amounts of protein, fat and essential nutrients. Pet foods that meet these requirements are allowed to display the message “formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (Dog/Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles.”
The AAFCO requires that all pet food labels include eight items: brand and product name, species for which the pet food is intended, quantity statement, guaranteed analysis, ingredient statement, nutritional adequacy statement, feeding directions and name/address of manufacturer or distributor.
Another label aspect is required for a pet food claiming to be “lite” or “low calorie.” The product must not exceed maximum calorie limits depending on the moisture content of the food and intended species.
Evanger’s considers the ingredient statement and guaranteed analysis among the most important since these reflect the actual quality of the pet food.
Pet Food Ingredient Statement
The AAFCO requires that labels list all ingredients contained in pet food, descending from the highest quantity to the lowest. Note that the first item is the most important since it’s the food’s primary ingredient.
In a quality pet food, the first ingredient should always be a good quality protein like those found in all Evanger’s meat-based products. All meats listed on our labels are muscle meats like chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, fish and other quality proteins. Be aware that protein “meals” or other highly processed proteins do not exhibit the same nutritional benefits as fresh muscle meats.
There are nine essential amino acids that dogs and cats cannot make themselves. These must be provided in a quality dog food and cat food. With Evanger’s Vegetarian selections, the combination of peas and whole brown rice provide complementary proteins. In other words, these ingredients may not score high biological scale marks separately because each is missing an essential amino acid. But together, they complement each other with the end result of a good quality, high biological value protein source.
Pet Food Ingredients to Avoid
A strong advocate of consumer awareness, Evanger’s has put together the following list to help you understand the potentially harmful ingredients found in some pet products. Evanger’s dog foods and cat foods contain no soy, corn, wheat, artificial ingredients, harmful additives, preservatives or by-products.
- Common Fillers – Among ingredients with minimal to no nutritional value that are added to pet foods for dietary fiber are corn bran, rice bran, oat hulls, feathers, soybean hulls, cottonseed hulls, peanut hulls, rice hulls, wheat mill run, citrus pulp, modified corn starch, weeds, dry blood meal and straw. Cheaper protein sources considered fillers are corn, corn gluten, brewers rice, wheat gluten, soybean meal and rice protein.
- Flavorings – Flavorings (Digests) are the waste from an animal’s intestine. Foods with digests of any animal should be avoided (even if it is a named animal digest like “chicken digest”) since there is no nutritional value.
- Preservatives – While allowed in small doses, artificial preservatives like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and ethoxyquin are considered unhealthy preservatives.
- By-Products – These “leftovers” used in lower quality pet foods include animal parts such as necks, feet, bones, intestines and lungs.
- Colors/Dye – These have no nutritional value and have caused allergic reactions in some pets.
- Corn Syrup – This pure sugar is harmful and can become addictive.
Under the AAFCO’s Guaranteed Analysis guidelines, a pet food label must state guarantees for minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. The term “crude” refers to the specific method of testing the product, not to the quality of the nutrient itself.
Daily Feeding Recommendations
This section describes how much of the food your pet should consume. At the very least, the label should indicate a feeding guideline (in cups) per body weight (pounds) on a daily basis. The label should also indicate if the food is appropriate for specific (or all) life stages.
Complete Meal versus a Supplement
A “complete meal” contains the essential vitamins and nutrients needed to meet nutritional guidelines for cats or dogs. Complete meals may also be referred to as “Dinners”. Some foods are intended to serve as supplements. For example, Evanger’s Grain Free Game Meats make an excellent supplement that can be added to a complete meal, such as Evanger’s All Fresh Vegetarian Dinner to create a “Complete and Balanced” meal. Evanger’s Super Premium Beef Dinner stands alone as a Complete Meal.
Evanger’s foods are made with 100% USA farm-sourced, human-grade, highly palatable and nutritious ingredients that will satisfy even the most finicky eater. Evanger’s canned meals are delicious and complete meals that can be enjoyed on their own or mixed with any of our Super Premium Dry Foods for dogs, Super Premium Dry Foods for cats, or Grain Free Game Meats for dogs and cats for a truly customized dinner for pets. Not only do they offer your pet a variety in taste, our gourmet dinners offer the additional nutritional benefits your pet needs. Natural vitamins and minerals are blended with all-natural meats for ultimate nutrition for all life stages, ages and breeds.