Pet food regulations require that all pet foods provide the petsumer with ‘guaranteed analysis’ information on the label. Four bits of information on the pet food must be provided; protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. Is the Guaranteed Analysis beneficial to the petsumer? Or is it misleading?
A Wellness cat food gives us the perfect example to begin this discussion.
Wellness Complete Health Chicken Recipe Cat Food Can
Protein 10%, Fat 5%, Fiber 1%, Moisture 78%
Interestingly, the Wellness website provides additional information to the Guaranteed Analysis. It is stated as “As Served Per Can”. The ‘as served’ analysis states…Protein 12%, Fat 11%. Below is a screen shot copy of the Wellness Chicken Recipe Can Food website…
Guaranteed Analysis: Protein 10%, Fat 5%
As Served Analysis: Protein 12%, Fat 11%
What? A more than double the fat content ‘as served’? The ‘as served analysis’ contains almost equal amounts of protein and fat. Why wouldn’t that be stated in the Guaranteed Analysis which is on the label and a petumer would use to determine which food is best for their pet?
The problems lies within AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) regulations. Existing regulations state protein and fat percentage in the Guaranteed Analysis be stated as minimum amounts; not actual amounts of protein and fat as the Wellness ‘as served’ analysis shares. I have to commend Wellness for providing this information (though it sheds a fatty light on this particular pet food).
A Guaranteed Analysis statement on a pet food might state 10% protein and 5% fat, when the truth is the food contains 12% protein and 11% fat.
Let’s look at another canned food…
Iams ProActive Health Adult Ground Dinner with Beef and Rice Dog Food
The Guaranteed Analysis (GA) states
Protein (minimum) 9%
Fat (minimum) 6%
Fiber (maximum) 1%
Moisture (maximum) 78%
The Iams website also tells us this food contains 488 calories per 12.3 ounce can.
Iams doesn’t provide ‘as served’ analysis of this dog food, but we can do some calculating to discover more about the food.
Per the GA, protein is 9% of the 12.3 ounce can.
9% of 12.3 ounces = 1.107 ounces of protein in the 12.3 ounce can. To calculate calories, we must convert ounces to grams. 1.107 ounces = 31 grams. Using AAFCO’s Modified Atwater System, 3.5 calories per gram of protein – 31 grams protein X 3.5 calories per gram of protein = 109 calories. Now we know that this dog food provides 109 calories from protein in the 12.3 ounce can.
|9% of 12.3 ounces||31 grams||109 calories from protein|
Next, per the GA, fat is 6% of the 12.3 ounce can.
6% of 12.3 ounces = 0.74 ounces. Converting to grams, 0.74 = 21 grams. Using Modified Atwater System, 8.5 calories per gram of fat – 21 grams fat X 8.5 calories per gram of fat = 179 calories. Now we know that this dog food provides 179 calories from fat in the 12.3 ounce can.
|6% of 12.3 ounces||21 grams||179 calories from fat|
Totaling the calories from protein and fat – 109 + 179 = 288. But, Iams states this dog food contains 488 calories per 12.3 ounce can. We have a remaining 200 calories to account for – 488 – 288 = 200.
|Total calculated Calories from GA||288|
|Iams 12.3 oz can Calories||488|
|Unaccounted for Calories||200|
Where do those 200 remaining calories come from? Could it be carbohydrates?
Calories in pet foods are calculated on protein (3.5 calories per gram), fat (8.5 calories per gram) and carbohydrates (3.5 calories per gram). Working backwards, 100% of this dog food minus 78% moisture = 22% food. 22% food minus 9% protein, minus 6% fat – leaves us with 7%. 7% of this dog food is a combination of carbohydrates and supplements.
So…using the full 7%…
7% of 12.3 ounces = 0.86 ounces. Converting to grams, 0.86 = 24 grams. 24 grams of carbohydrates times 3.5 (3.5 calories per gram of carbohydrate) = 84 calories.
|7% of 12.3 ounces||24 grams||84 calories from carbohydrates|
Our total calories from protein and fat was 288. Add our (high) estimate of carbohydrate calories – 288 + 84 = 372. Still, we have 116 calories unaccounted for.
|Estimated Calories Carbohydrates||84|
|Total estimated Calories||372|
|Iams 12.3 oz can Calories||488|
|Unaccounted for Calories||116|
116 calories unaccounted for, that is IF the carbohydrates in this dog food actually did provide 84 calories to the total calorie content. Let’s guesstimate the calories from carbohydrate ingredients in this dog food…
This Iams dog food contains the following ingredients that could provide carbohydrate calories…
brewers rice, carrots, sweet potatoes, dried beet pulp, flax meal, alfalfa, broccoli, and spinach. We have established that at maximum, all of these ingredients combined would only account for 7% of the 12.3 ounce can or 0.86 ounces (24 grams).
Next we turn to the USDA nutrient database. If you’ve never visited this website, I recommend it as a good resource to discover the actual nutrient content of almost any food.
Only 24 grams of all of these possible carbohydrate providing ingredients (brewers rice, carrots, sweet potatoes, dried beet pulp, flax meal, alfalfa, broccoli, and spinach) isn’t much. Though this is just a guesstimate, let us assume there are 3 grams of each ingredient in the 12.3 ounces of dog food.
The USDA nutrient database doesn’t provide information for brewers rice, but they do for white rice. 3 grams of cooked rice provides 4 calories.
3 grams of cooked carrots provides 1 calorie.
3 grams of cooked sweet potatoes provides 3 calories.
No beet pulp listed, but 3 grams of cooked beets provides 1 calorie.
No flaxmeal provided, but 3 grams of flaxseeds provides 16 calories.
3 grams of alfalfa sprouts provides 1 calorie.
3 grams of broccoli provides 1 calorie.
And finally 3 grams of cooked spinach provides 1 calorie.
Our estimated calories provided by the carbohydrate ingredients in this dog food…28 calories.
Per the minimum levels of protein and fat stated in the Guaranteed Analysis of this dog food we calculated 288 calories. Add in our estimate of 28 calories from carbohydrate ingredients – 288 + 28 = 316 calories.
Iams states the 12.3 ounce can contains 488 calories.
488 calories minus our calculated 316 calories = 172 unaccounted for calories.
|Estimated Calories Carbohydrates||28|
|Total estimated Calories||316|
|Iams 12.3 oz can Calories||488|
|Unaccounted for Calories||172|
If those 172 calories came from fat (remember, the fat percentage stated in the Guaranteed Analysis is stated as minimum) – 172 divided by 8.5 = 20 grams. Add 20 grams to the stated 21 grams of fat (0.74 ounce = 21 grams) – and this dog food could have as much as double the stated fat contents (from 6% to 12%) in the Guaranteed Analysis. Calories from fat could be significantly higher than calories from protein (31 grams protein to 41 grams fat).
The two pet foods used in this explanation were chosen at random. They were used solely to demonstrate that current pet food regulations requiring minimum amounts of protein and fat contents in a pet food can be misleading to the petsumer. As well, these examples were used to demonstrate the need of carbohydrate information statements within the Guaranteed Analysis.
Clearly, the Guaranteed Analysis can be very misleading to petsumers. Plus, considering the pet obesity epidemic in the US, petsumers need to be provided with actual information – not minimums. All pet food labels should state actual protein, fat, and carbohydrate information – not minimums of some and maximums of others. If I spend my money on a commercial pet food, I shouldn’t have to do mounds of calculations and conversions in an attempt to know what my pet is eating. AAFCO, isn’t it time to give petsumers the truth in the Guaranteed Analysis?
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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