Reading pet food labels can seem confusing. Here are a few tips to help make sense of label claims and the regulations that apply to them.
Chicken Dog Food : must be at least 95% chicken to be labeled as chicken (or beef, lamb, etc…)
Beef Dinner for Dogs: must be at least 25% beef, not counting water for processing
Beef and Chicken Dinner for Dogs: each ingredient must be at least 3% of the product, with all named ingredients totaling at least 25%, not including water
Chicken and Rice Formula: same as a dinner, must be at least 25% chicken and rice, with at least 3% of each. This also applies to entrees, nuggets, platters, etc…
Chicken Dinner with Cheese: must be 25% chicken, with less than 3% cheese. So, if a label says “Dog food with Beef”, the product is less than 3% beef.
Dog Food with Beef Flavor: dogs trained to prefer beef flavors must be able to detect that flavor in the food- seriously. There is no minimum amount or even source of the flavor. Manufacturers often use stock, broths, or digests.
No Artificial Flavors: actually, very few pet foods contain artificial flavors. The exceptions are artificial smoke and bacon flavors in treats.
The ingredients list: all ingredients are listed in order of predominance by weight- ingredients that are dry will weigh less that those that are wet. Ingredients like meat that is high in water will weigh more and be listed before an ingredient like rice that is dehydrated, even though there is more rice by volume in the product.
AAFCO Feeding Trial Complete or Balanced: the Association of Feed Control Officials has fed this food to a group of dogs and found it to provide proper nutrition. This can also be designated as “all life stages”, meaning pups to seniors,” maintenance”, meaning for adults or “for puppies” meaning suitable for puppies. This is the single most important nutritional claim on the label.
Natural, Gourmet, Premium, Wholesome: have no regulated meaning and can be put on any label.