Is there an easy way to read pet food labels that don’t require an MS in Organic Chemistry or a similar degree?
Doubtful, but for every problem, there is a solution.
To solve this I have created a 5 point checklist.
It will teach you how to quickly assess the quality of a bag or can of food without spending hours staring at the label.
With so many new brands of pet food popping up, combined with confusing labels, choosing a good healthy food for your pets can be like throwing darts at a dartboard blindfolded and hoping to hit a bull’s eye.
Large pet food brands are aware of this and use it to their advantage.
Instead of focusing on the quality ingredients in their food, they rely on catchy advertising slogans.
Hmmm, I wonder why?
They will use words like Gourmet, All Natural, Made In The USA, or just rely on brand recognition.
Large corporate pet food brands certainly wouldn’t want to explain why a chemical cocktail of harmful preservatives is used for the sole purpose of increasing the shelf life.
They don’t want to explain to you why they choose profit over your pet’s long-term health.
Do you think they want to explain why they still import ingredients from a place which was responsible for the largest pet food recall in history?
A place that sold ingredients tainted with melamine, which killed thousands of beloved companion animals.
Additionally when was the last time you saw a pet food package or brand talk about its recall history?
By the way, “Made In The USA” does not necessarily mean ingredients are sourced in the USA but rather the food is manufactured in the USA.
In fact, most commercial pet food manufacturers still import large quantities of ingredients like rice protein, wheat gluten, corn gluten or other cheap fillers from places like China.
Keeping cost low by importing large quantities of low quality “protein” which satisfies the minimum requirements for the guaranteed analysis, is a win-win for everyone Except your pets.
Seriously how can you trust a pet food brand that has a pattern of using harmful chemicals, continues to buy ingredients from places with a track record of poisoning and killing animals, and has a history of recalls?
Understanding pet food labels are not really all that complicated once you learn how to Disqualify a product.
For instance, if you look at the label and see “Animal Fat Preserved with BHA” put down the bag and move on.
The only preservative that you should see is “Mixed Tocopherols” which is essentially Vitamin E.
If the first few ingredients are processed carbohydrates like ground yellow corn, wheat gluten, corn gluten, corn flour etc choose another food.
First ingredients you should see must be sourced from quality meat.
For instance organic chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, turkey, turkey liver, eggs, etc.
There is no substitute for a high-quality protein found only in quality meats.
What you do NOT want to see are Chicken By-Product, Animal By-Product, Poultry By-Product, Meat and Bone Meal, etc. or any other By-Product.
By-Products consist of ground up, cleaned carcasses, including the head, entrails etc.
Additionally, it is very important to make sure the fat is species specific.
In other words, if the label says “Animal Fat” instead of “Chicken Fat” or “Beef Fat” keep looking.
Since most people have smart phones it is very easy to find out if the food you are feeding, or are looking to buy has a recall history.
Simply go to the FDA pet food recall archive and look to see if the food has been put on the list.
Determining where the ingredients are sourced from is a bit more difficult.
A good rule of thumb to use is based on the size of the brand.
The larger the brand the more likely they are to import cheap ingredients from suppliers in China.
It is basic economics.
While not 100% accurate, it is a fair assumption to make based on market share and sales volume.
Typically smaller mom and pop companies have a better track record in terms of quality ingredients sourced locally in the USA.
The drawback can be that smaller brands you might find in a boutique store will usually have a higher price point.
However there are companies that use a direct to consumer model that cuts out the retailers, and the savings are passed on to the customers.
Best advantage with this type of business model is that quality control, quality ingredients, cost, customer service, and convenience are usually way above average as compared to commercial food brands.
I have been using a company like this for over 5 years and it is, in my opinion, the best of the best.
How To Read Pet Food Labels
I am a big advocate for staying away from commercial pet kibble and can food found in grocery stores or convenience stores.
However, I understand that many folks still might not know how unhealthy most store bought food is.
Seriously, trying to decipher the label is futile unless you can identify a few easy things to disqualify the product.
Remember your pets will most likely eat the same food twice a day for their lifespan.
That’s why it is vital to make sure harmful chemicals and cheap fillers are not in the food, to begin with.
A broader yet simpler approach will give you a proven metric to compare brands while eliminating the food that has the highest risk of causing harm to your pets.
To further simplify the process of choosing a food, I created an acronym that is very easy to remember and will help guide your decision-making process.
Typically the First thing most people do when deciding on a food is to flip the bag over and look at the label.
Because of this, I chose to use the acronym FIRST.
If used correctly the below acronym will save you a lot of time and energy.
F – Freshness = Only preservative should be Mixed Tocopherols
I – Ingredients = Quality meats/proteins, NO By-Products
R – Recalls = Stay away from products with a recall history
S – Source = Look for smaller brands, preferably that ship direct
T – Trust = History of healthy ingredients from the USA, and NO recalls
This little tool will help you stay focused on the bigger picture, with respect to quality nutrition vs just relying on the guaranteed analysis as a means to determine how healthy a product is.
Choosing a healthy food does not have to be complicated.
You just need to arm yourself with a few basic tools until you find a brand that fits your budget without sacrificing the long term health of your fur babies.
As always the safety of your pets should never be left up to the advertising gurus who are paid a LOT of money to mislead, confuse, or trick you into buying a pet food based on warm fuzzy pictures or catchy words and phrases…
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P.S. Are you interested in learning about one of the safest, freshest, and recall free pet foods you can get your hands on? If so send me an email with the heading Pet Food Info and I’ll send you out more info ASAP!
“I can teach you how to enhance the lives of your pets while helping you build a business around your passion for companion animals!”
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