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Pet Food Label Information That Might Surprise You

Michelle Ferrera, DVM

Pet food advertisements promoting the quality and superiority of their ingredients seems to be all the rage today. The old adage, “Don’t believe everything you see” certainly applies to this topic.

If you see the words “hypoallergenic”, “human grade”, “Human-quality”, “Sustainable food”, “Veterinarian approved”, “Premium”, “Superpremium” or “Holistic”, these terms have no legal definition within the pet food industry. Any claims that are made are those of the manufacturer, and have no standard against which they can be measured.

“Organic” means a “feed or specific ingredient within a formula feed that has been produced or handled in compliance with the requirements of the USDA National Organic Program“. At least 95% of the ingredients need to be organic to have a USDA organic seal. Organic refers to the processing of a product, and not the quality of a product. So, a food can be organic without having high quality ingredients.

“Natural” means a “feed or ingredients derived solely from plant, animal, or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to naturally defined methods of processing, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur as unavoidable in good manufacturing practices“. Food will likely still require an antioxidant preservative to prevent fats from becoming rancid; added vitamins and minerals may be synthetic, and natural additives may not have been tested.

“By products” include “the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, blood, bones, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines freed from their contents. It does not include hair, horns teeth and hoofs”.  It also does not include intestinal contents or diseased or cancerous animal parts. Advertisement portrays by products as inferior nutrition, but if you yourself have ever eaten beef liver, or steak and kidney pie, you have enjoyed by products. Pet owners treat their dogs with beef thigh bones, freeze dried liver and bully sticks. These are all by products as well.

This information was found in the July 2014 Clinical Nutrition volume of Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice edited by veterinarians Dottie Laflamme and Debra L. Zoran

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