Picture this – You’ve just come home with a new pet. Life is wonderful and full of excitement! And then you get to the pet store…what kind of food should you get for your new addition? There are so many to choose from!
Before even considering all the different companies out there, you need to understand that anyone can make a pet food. As long as a laboratory analysis puts the nutritional values within certain ranges, the food can be sold. There are few regulations on pet foods – and none where the terms holistic, and human grade are used.
The first thing to look for on a bag of food is the AAFCO seal. AAFCO stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. This organization sets the nutritional standard for pet foods in the United States and Canada.
Second, look for a statement that goes something like this… “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Yummy Yummy Adult dog food provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs.” There are two important parts to that statement – the fact that Yummy Yummy pet food company has used feeding trials, and that their Adult dog food is meant to adult dogs only.
Pet food makers produce a food that will supply a certain amount of protein, fat, and other nutrients. They can do this using a formula set up by a laboratory to achieve these levels. But there’s nothing to say that the pet eating the food will actually like the food and do well on it.
For instance, say you have some leather boots, motor oil, and sawdust. If you sent this mixture to a lab, they would tell you that you have:
As a label on a pet food, this might look pretty good but do you think a pet would thrive on this concoction??? That’s why it’s important that a pet food company actually feeds their food to pets to ensure that the nutrients are bio-available – that they are nutrients that the body can break down and actually use.
***Bonus points if you realized that the analysis above does not equal 100%. This is because all foods contain a certain portion of water…even dry kibbles! In another installment we’ll talk about how to compare pet foods to each other. Hint – the words “dry matter basis” will be crucial!***
Pets have specific lifestages, and they all have different requirements. Puppies and kittens need a different nutrient balance than an adult or a senior pet. This is why you should question any diet that claims to “provide complete and balanced nutrition for all lifestages”.
Coming next month…Pet Food Myths.