When it comes to pet food, there are so many choices…where do you start?
There are many myths when it comes to pet food, so let’s start with some definitions that address common myths.
Organic: refers to the way ingredients are grown, harvested, and processed. The USDA has yet to define “organic” as it applies to pet foods, but pet foods can use the human standard with labeling. If the food is at least 95% organic by weight, it can display the organic seal. If at least 70% of the food is organic, it can say Made with Organic.
Holistic: defined as “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts”. Essentially, it means considering the needs of the whole animal, not just certain systems or particular aspects of nutritional needs. However, no definition of the term has been generally accepted by the pet food industry, and there currently are no regulations or legal definitions for labeling a food “holistic.”
Natural: Produced or existing in nature; not artificial or manufactured. Natural pet foods are required to consist only of natural ingredients without chemical alterations.
By Product: Animal by-products are the co-products of food ingredients, including parts of an animal not usually used in the U.S. human food chain, such as the heart, kidneys, liver, tissue and bone, but which can provide important nutritional benefits. By-products are not hooves, hair, horns, feathers, beaks, etc.
Meal: Means the product has been ground to form uniform-sized particles.
Corn: An excellent source of protein, antioxidants, fatty acids and carbohydrates. Corn is safe and easily digestible, and animals are rarely allergic to corn.
The Association of American Feed Control
Officials (AAFCO) is
the organization that sets the nutritional standards for pet foods in the
Feeding trials are the gold standard method for determining if the food is truly nutritional adequate for an animal. Feeding trials involve feeding a dog or cat that specific food, and only that specific food, for a certain time period to evaluate how the animal does on the food.
Formulating a pet food is less expensive, but also has no guarantee that the food will be accepted by the pet or do as it says nutritionally. It is simply following a formula and ending there. This doesn’t mean the food is a bad food, it’s just not gold standard.
Pet foods are formulated for different life stages-puppy/kitten, adult, or senior. The nutritional needs of animals changes as they age, same as with people. It is near impossible to have a pet food that is nutritionally perfect for all ages.
Some pet foods are labeled as lite, low calorie, or reduced calorie. This means they must be fewer calories than the standard product of that company. There’s not a limit on calories for these foods. Foods labeled as lean, low fat, or reduced fat have a fat content that is lower than that company’s standard product.