The recent pet food study proving drying time can alter nutritional content of pet foods provides us with a great example of the tricks used by some pet food manufacturers.
I doubt there is a pet food company around that would want to brag about using more than three times the amount of grains to the amount of meat in their foods. Pet foods want consumers to believe that prime cuts of meat and fish are the leading ingredients in their foods. But often times that’s not the case.
The perfect example of this is provided in the recent pet food study on drying times of kibble altering the nutritional content (Tran, Q.D., et al., Effects of drying temperature and time of a canine diet extruded with a 4 or 8mm die on physical and nutritional quality indicators. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. (2011), doi:10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2011.03.009).
We have to assume that because the scientists that performed this pet food study wanted their results to be considered of significance to those in the pet food industry (they wanted the industry to learn from their findings), we can assume the ingredients used in their study would be similar to ingredients used in many popular pet foods. So let’s take a look at the ingredients used in this pet food study…
Wheat 245.0 g/kg
Maize 215.2 g/kg
Rice (dehulled) 150.0 g/kg
Chicken meat 100.0 g/kg
Poultry meal 53.6 g/kg
Barley 50.0 g/kg
Pork bone fat 43.3 g/kg
Fish meal 35.0 g/kg
Sugar beet pulp 30.0 g/kg
Whole egg powder 20.0 g/kg
Dicalcium phosphate 16.6 g/kg
Brewers yeast 15.0 g/kg
Linseed 10.0 g/kg
Salt 6.7 g/kg
Potassium chloride 2.6 g/kg
Premix 5.0 g/kg
Limestone 1.7 g/kg
Inulin 0.3 g/kg
(1000 kg total)
This breaks down to…
Grains (wheat, corn/maize, rice, barley) – 66% of the total ingredients
Animal protein (chicken, poultry meal, fish meal, egg powder) – 20.8% of the total ingredients
Fat (pork bone fat) – 4.3% of the total ingredients
If this was a commercial pet food, based on the ingredients listed above, the ingredient panel on the pet food bag would look (should look) like this…
Wheat, maize/corn, rice, chicken, poultry meal, barley, animal fat, fish meal, beet pulp, egg powder, dicalcium phosphate, brewers yeast, linseed, salt, potassium chloride, vitamins and minerals, limestone, inulin.
Typically, you don’t see a pet food with three grain ingredients listed before a meat ingredient. What most dog foods and cat foods typically display in the ingredient panel are something more like this… chicken, whole wheat, poultry meal, rice, animal fat, wheat flour, whole corn, corn gluten meal…
Again, going on the assumption that the scientists that performed this study replicated typical recipes of popular pet foods, then why aren’t more ingredient panels on pet food labels listing several grains before any meat ingredient?
It’s called ingredient splitting.
Pet food manufacturers are wise to the fact that pet parents want their dog foods and cat foods ingredients to look like they have more meat in them than grains. If a pet food, like this one, contained 245 grams per kilogram of wheat – which would weigh more than any meat ingredient (the highest chicken at 100 g/kg), then the manufacturer would have to list ‘wheat’ first in the ingredient panel. (Pet food regulations require ingredients to be listed in order of pre-cooking weight – heaviest to lightest.) Chicken listed first on the ingredient panel would look better to the consumer – so – they split the wheat (and corn and rice) ingredients into two, or three, or more different ingredients (whole wheat, wheat, wheat flour, corn, whole corn, corn gluten meal, and on and on) to make the food appear to have more meat in it than grains. It still ends up having 245 g/kg of wheat and 215.2 g/kg of corn in the food (compared to 100 g/kg of chicken), but the consumer would never know.
When you look at a pet food label, if you notice several variations of any grain (wheat, corn, soy, rice), you can probably assume the manufacturer is utilizing the ingredient splitting trick. You can also probably assume this pet food contains far more vegetable protein than meat protein.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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