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What’s in a Pet Food Name?

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  1. Peter

    In the case of Merrick cat food, the name “Pate” refers to the consistency of the food. Merrick made this change when the company reformulated all their cat foods (uh… they “improved” them, of course), which enfolded redesign of the labeling. Merrick then created 3 consistencies/textures; pate, minced, and morsels. The minced and morsels are sliced and chopped consistency.

    When Merrick “improved” their cat foods, the ingredients were changed, with the proportions altered. In some cases, the “expensive” ingredients were changed (decreased). The calorie count on many of the flavors increased, and the price increase was about 10% across the board. Quite a recipe, really.

    Common sense will tell you that “minced” and “flaked” foods often have less “food” in the can, relative to the stated weight. After all, which has more chocolate, a container packed “solid,” or, one with the ingredients the consistency of marbles… in which there are air pockets (filled, in this case, with “improved” “gravy”).

    Merrick can claim they “improved” their line all they want. The fact is they undertook the change to cut costs. There is less food in the can, and the other changes are negative. And by the way, after eight years of loyalty… my cats don’t like it. A complete betrayal, by this formerly trustworthy brand.

    1. Rita

      I noticed one of Merrick’s “improvements” was more salt! Some of Merrick’s recipes have as much as 2% salt. And of course “natural flavors” which I suspect may be MSG but I sure hope not. It was rather insulting when they reformulated, hiked the price and told us the food was “Improved”. My cats won’t eat ANY of the foods they used to eat which leads me to think the quality of the ingredients is steadily declining as pet food producers think of more and more inedible waste to dump into the food.

      1. Peter

        Merrick has also pursued the tack that many so-called “premium” brands have taken: aerating the foods to cut costs. The textures are no longer solid, but “fluffy,” and common sense will tell you that there is less food in the can. There are simply less meals per can than before they were “improved.”

        1. Jemster

          At one time a few years ago I used to buy Merrick treats because they were supposedly healthy…then they had a recall so I quit buying them. I checked into it and was told that they would start irradiating all their treats to prevent any future problems! Well, I don’t want irradiated treats either!!

          1. Peter

            Simple question: If a food or treat is “healthy” and “wholesome,” why would it need to be irradiated?

  2. Johanna

    Susan, this is excellent! The graphics really help simplify so that even people like me can understand ;-). Willl be sharing this for sure. Thanks for all you do, keep up the good work!

  3. Abra Karhan

    THANK YOU, may I hand out photocopies to my all my friends?

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      Yes – you have my permission to share.

  4. Regina

    I knew that the way the product name was worded gave an indication of how much of a meat is actually in a pet food, but I had no idea how quickly the percentage went down to ten, then three percent!!!!

    No way in heck I’m gonna buy something with only 10% meat for my cats!!!

    And, Susan, I just LOVE how you compared the new Hill’s Science Diet “Crafted” line with Beneful!!!!!

    I will never understand how Hill’s is still so blindly bought by so many people. As for the topic of this article, most of their foods don’t even mention ANY meat in the name of the food!!!! (Indoor formula, Oral Care formula, etc). If you ask people what meat is in their Hills food, they don’t even know! Of course, if they actually read the ingredient list, they will have to wade through a bunch of grain ingredients to maybe find something edible in there for their cats.

    Even folks who are trying the new Hill’s Ideal Balance, because it claims to be healthier, well doesn’t that then imply that the Science Diet stuff is NOT healthy??? Who would trust a company that sells stuff that they know is not healthy???

    I just can’t believe people are so stupid. Or do they just not care???

    This article is great information to share with unsuspecting pet food/feed consumers. A great follow-up article for those unsuspecting consumers would be how some ingredients are split into different items to hide how much is really in there! Corn, corn gluten meal, ground corn, whole ground corn, corn grits, etc. etc. etc.

    1. Peter

      Most people do care about their pets. But we must confront the societal phenomena you describe, Regina: the strange way that consumers simply grab anything that is on the shelf (commonly, at the supermarket) and feed it to their pets, without questioning the quality. It’s more than just marketing. It is an odd disconnect from rationality.

      You’ll meet highly educated, “caring” pet parents struggling to dump the 40lb. bags of dry food into their cart at the big box store… and they never consider how something that works out to 40 cents a pound just can’t be any good for them! Its frightening!

      1. Jemster

        A lot of people are just sadly lazy. Dump some dry over-processed and unhealthy krapple in a bowl and it’s done Then they wonder why their pet is sick. It is maddening to me that people say they love their pet but yet don’t do any research regarding the quality of the food they’re feeding.

  5. Anne

    “Good Info..”.thanks!

  6. Celeste

    Very well done, Susan — nice & clear. I’m definitely sharing this one!

  7. Jean McCarthy

    And, remember that “meal” of any kind is a filler made from decaying meat, diseased animals, and by-products.

    1. Mike L

      @ Jean McCarthy –

      This is news to me. Could you please provide sites/published documents (including here as I may have missed ’em) that detail what you’ve shared? This is not a challenge, just me wanting to read up more on the serious subject.

      Many thanks in advance,
      Mike

      1. Jean Mccarthy

        Hi Mike,
        Meal is a by-product of a process called rendering. The quality of the meal is determined in part by what goes into it. So, if diseased, decomposed animals, etc are used, then garbage in, garbage out. There may be some high quality meals produced, but we as consumers generally do not have the resources to determine which dog foods contain them. There are many sites that you can google…”dog food contents meal”…that you will find revealing reading. A few are: dogfood advisor.com, Meat Meal -the Mystery Concentrate…
        “the Shocking Truth About Commercial Dog Food
        Dog Food Project.com, Meat vs Meat Meal
        Truth About Pet Food.com, a Pet Food Ingredient By-product Meal, Meat..!,,also Pet Food and Rendering Plants by Jerry E.

        Lots to read!

  8. Gitta

    If you think about it: 3% of the total weight of the bag or can is chicken for example. How much chicken protein is that then per meal? That means whatever is the guaranteed minimum percentage of protein – it is most likely plant based with very varying degrees of digestability. If a food is in the lower range of minimum protein levels and consists of primarily proteins with low bioavailability – the step to deficiencies can’t be a big one. Especially for growing dogs, pregnant and lactating dogs. Now, how can such a food claim to be balanced and complete and tested? Oh well – test dogs only need to survive 6 months and how many foods are actually tested that way? Common advice for dog owners of non-working dogs is to make sure they don’t feed a food with a high protein content.

    If my math is right there are 16 oz per lb. So, a 5 pound bag of dry food is 80 oz. 3% of that is 2.4 oz of chicken for that whole 5 pound bag. I think it would take a microscope to find the chicken in a single meal. Now, note on the picture of the Crafted Science Diet is a chicken leg. Now, does a cooked chicken leg not weigh more than 2.4 oz????? I won’t even discuss that the type of chicken in that bag may not even be a distant relative to the one pictured on the bag.

    In any other area this would be called fraud and be illegal.

  9. Gloria JH

    I’m grateful for your work. I take care of about 18-19 feral-born cats some are outside some we have inside the house with varying degrees of socialization.

    I’m convinced that healthy food equals more healthy cats and I would rather spend my $$ on healthy food rather than on vet visits – not to forget to mention a healthy cat is a happier cat.

    Because of the comments here about Merrick I guess I’ve been in a “fool’s naïve paradise”. I’ve been foolishly spending $$ on this expensive canned food from Merrick because I thought I was getting the protein. Boy!, I am sure disappointed, although not too surprised.

    So, Susan, with you as the Tip of the Arrow, guiding me through this maze of confusion I am better informed.

    Thank you for your continuing education, however, I’m afraid that I am unable to attend all the classes so when I miss something – well, that’s on me!, Thanks, Susan! 🙂 Gloria

    1. Jean Mccarthy

      But, I think if you buy Merrick canned 96% meat, you are on the right track…cans are heavier and contents dense.

      1. Gloria JH

        You’re right there! 🙂 I should have considered that before, thanks for reminding me, Jean. g

        1. Rita

          Merrick’s protein level is just fine. For example, the Duck Pate has 43.22% protein on a dry matter basis. The problem with Merrick, in my opinion, is the high salt content. (altho it seems all the “premium” foods are now very high in salt) The Duck Pate has 2% salt!! This is WAY high and would be really bad for a cat with heart issues. If you look at the Merrick 96% meat, salt is high up in the ingredient list and there is yeast extract (MSG) in it as well. Some of their recipes have really unbalanced ratios of calcium to phosphorus. For example, the phosphorus in Grammy’s Pot Pie is more than double the calcium which is SO bad for the kidneys. Anyhow, I know this is off the topic of the article but thought the info might be helpful to some. I think it is really important to ALWAYS ask the companies for complete nutritional analysis and then convert to dry matter basis so you know exactly what your pet is eating.

          1. Gloria JH

            Pet food – The Maze of Decisions
            I mostly buy Weruva, Wellness, Merrick, Royal Canin Urinary SO, some TOW kibble.

            The outside, feral-born “colony”, I buy mostly Friskies canned.

            I have this variety because I care for so many cat sand they have various appetites. I purchase a number of brands to make everybody happy — I prefer canned or pouch food because of the moisture content, but grain-free kibble is also on the menu – and, Sadly!, I have two on a Veterinary Diet – canned with kibble as treats – like my first sentence means – food ingredients are never stagnant and one needs someone like Susan to guide us through the maze.

            Now IF I were younger, smarter, and with more energy I would probably be feeding raw -and- on occasion the feral-born do get raw chicken breasts.

        2. Jean Mccarthy

          You are welcome…it takes a village

  10. Ellie

    This is excellent information especially since most consumers have no idea what they are looking at when they look at the name or any of the other information concerning the pet food they buy.
    Pet food manufacturers have a huge book of rules and the consumer has nothing except this forum when it comes to being informed about what they are feeding their pet.

  11. Mike L

    Superb article Ms. Thixton! Easy to follow, perfect supportive graphics – this is just the sort of document we can share with others to help educate. Many, many thanks.

    Mike

  12. DogLover

    Could anyone decode taste of the wild “high prairie canine formula with bison and roasted venison”? Ingredients are: Bison, lamb meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, egg product, beef, roasted venison, natural flavor, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, potato protein, salt, choline choride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, probiotics, vitamins and minerals. Protein is 32% and fat is 18%.

    1. Johanna

      Based on what I’ve read here, the “with” would indicate 3% each of bison and venison. However, keep in mind that these are not human grade and are therefore made with ingredients not deemed safe for human consumption (especially in the case of “meal” such as your TOTW lamb and chicken meal) including rancid store meats ground with the foam packaging intact, as well as diseased segments of meats and tumors which have been removed from human-grade meat and “denatured” by being shredded and sprayed with petrol-based chemicals. AND that is just assuming that they are telling you the truth on the label- consider that many studies which have been done show that labeling is incorrect, and many times the meat protein listed on the label is not included in the product. Speaking from my own experiences, I know how expensive these “high-end” kibbles can be, and trust me, it’s way cheaper (and WAY better for your pets health) to just feed real food. If prep time is an issue, you can cook chicken in a pressure cooker and the bones will soften to paste and will be perfectly balanced with minerals and calcium, plus you can add some veggies for added nutrients.

      1. Peter

        The water content of TOTW is so high–I’ve had cans that were more like soup– that there simply cannot be much “quality” ingredients in the can, regardless of what the focus is, specifically. This is an increasing problem with many “super premium” foods, there just isn’t any food in the can.

  13. Guylaine

    Why did I find different numbers on the FDA website for the percentages? They talk about 95, 25 and 3% for the same explanations…

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      I’m not sure – if you provide the link to that page I’ll try to respond.

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