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Understanding a pet-food label!
There are two labels on every bag or can of pet food. The ingredient list and the gauranteed analysis. The National Research Council (NRC) determined the basic minimum nutritional requirement for dogs and cats and these were divided into two categories: Growth and reproduction, and adult maintenance.
Puppies, kittens and pregnant or lactating moms fall into the growth and reproduction category whose nutritional demands have been found to be greater than for average adults. The second category is for.....you guessed it...average adults.
These nutritional requirements were then adopted by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AFFCO) and translated into nutrient profiles, or recommended minimum levels of nutrients that should be in every bag or can of pet food, ie protein, fat, fiber, minerals, vitamins etc. The guaranteed analysis label is the manufacturers method of communicating to the consumer that they have met these minimums.
Protein, fat, and fiber are reported on a %dry matter basis. So in order to assess their actual amount or to compare these amount from one bag or brand to the next we need to do a bit of math. And just to point out, the reason we need to do this math is that each bag or brand of food is allowed to have different moisture levels. We can only compare apples to apples *after* we remove moisture from equation (the variable).
Lets look at an example.
I have Wellness Super5mix healthy Weight dry food on hand.
The guaranteed analysis states:
17% Protein minimum
8% Fat (they published a range 6-10 so lets use 8%)
11% Moisture maximum
8% Fiber maximum
So, %dry matter weight is the total ie 100% minus the %moisture content). So 100- (11% of 100) = 100-11=89%! Now if the dry matter weight is 89% and the % Protein is 17% of the dry matter weight then the % protein = .17 X 90 = 15.3% Protein. This calculation can be repeated for fat and fiber.
Only with these calculations can a consumer compare several foods to see how the protein fat and fiber content actually vary.
The ingredientlist must obey one simple rule. Each ingredient listed must be present in a larger dry matter weight then the successive ingredient on the list
Lets look at an example ingredient list:
According to the rule of the ingredient list there must be more beets then celery and more sweet potatoes then beets, and more chicken than anything else.
This next example shows that you have to look at the sum of ingredients in a list to see where the nutrients predominate from not just what is listed first.
Chicken is listed as the fist ingredient and so we think of it as the primary source of protein. Thats great! Meat is an excellent source of protein! BUT the manufacture is also using corn, corn gluten, wheat gluten, soybean meal and rice as protein sources also! These are vegetable sources of protein and much cheaper to supply then chicken. When you add up all of the vegetable sources of protein we see they may far outweigh chicken on a dry matter % which means in fact, there is very little contribution from meat to the overall protein content in the bag. Thats not great! Without this knowledge a consumer could be mislead. Welcome to the world of food labels.
Look for the next article on assessing quality ingredients.
Nutrition: Foods for pet health!
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This blog will actually be a series of articles on a wide variety of nutrition topics. The first article is posted below. Look back each month for the next installment.