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Complete and Balanced and Misleading

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  1. Wolf

    we do not carry kitten, puppy, weight management, senior, hairball, indoor cat, or any of these other “special” foods in our store. We’ve always said a good clean FOOD is the best food. With proper sourcing, fed in proper amounts. My opinion has always been these “special” foods are nothing but a marketing trick. And one that does much harm.

  2. Jeri

    Consider also that the so-called “studies” which many of the big name brands claim to have done, are only done with 8 animals and for 6 months. During that time ANYTHING short of death can happen within the animal’s system: infections, sickness, etc… as long as the blood panel comes back within “normal parameters” and the animal doesn’t die, well, that proves the “food” is quality for the life of the animal, doncha know. Talk about deceptive!!

  3. If meat is only 16 – 20% protein & that’s what natural dogs (wolves) eat .. what does dry food contain the 40% + that soy has ????? dO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM??? Soy is not meat & does not do the same in the body … especially a carnivore!!!

  4. Peter

    AAFCO is a voluntary commercial enterprise, and your essay displays why I have no respect for their declaration of authority or “approval” on any pet food. AAFCO testing standards are extraordinary meager: trials of only 8 animals must complete a 26 week feeding trial with 75% (6 of 8) not showing clinical or pathological signs of nutritional deficiency or excess. This is determined by measuring 4 blood values after the trial (hemoglobin, packed cell volume, serum alkaline phosphatase, and serum albumin) and the average values of the test subjects must meet minimum levels. No animal is allowed to lose more than 15% of its starting weight. And two of the animals can be dropped from the test for “non-diet” reasons. When pet food manufacturers complained that the tests were inconvenient, AAFCO established a new standard: foods can pass if they comply with “nutrient profiles.” But as Susan/Mollie have written here, there are a myriad of ways to do that… So really… no testing is even required. Products meeting either of these AAFCO standards can bear the designation: “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (product name) provides complete and balanced nutrition…” No long-term testing of these products has been undertaken: it is the dog or cat guardian who conducts “feeding trials” when they use these products!

  5. Jane Eagle

    Numbers show that since the advent of people feeding kibble rather than table scraps, dog cancers have become the #1 killer for dogs. (I don’t know about cats). Since cats never eat grains in the wild, and I know that grains are indigestable “filler” for dogs, that they are even included in pet foods is theft. They are not “food” for dogs or cats. And I try to avoid all “foods” with soy, which is 99% GMO, in addition to other problems.

  6. Jackie

    Love these educated comments found here. Great article revealing the lunacy surrounding “complete and balanced” claim from AAFCO. Absolutely worthless.

    I agree that foods labeled “puppy”, “Weight Management/Senior” are just marketing ploys.

    Another issue that needs to be addressed as well is that pets’ bodies are not fully able to truly utilize the plant proteins that are included in that “Guaranteed Protein Analysis” percentage. It is the animal protein that is most important. Very few dry kibble manufacturers state what the “Animal Protein Inclusion” percentage that is found in that GA. Hello???? Carnivores thrive on animal protein not plant protein. Got to know that answer.

    Beyond that, to make a dry kibble style food you have to have a starch of some kind to act as a binder. Dogs don’t need carbs in general as they can promote inflammation in the body ( not to mention the rise of diabetic animals or that carbs/sugar also feeds cancer. That all being said, if a carb has to be used to make a kibble then whatever starch is being used does not have to be high glycemic such as potato or tapioca ( by the way tapioca, while very palatable AND adds nothing in the way of nutritive value ) is higher than table sugar on the glycemic scale. Therefore if choosing to feed dry kibble ( equal to our human diet as a processed food ) it would be advisable to search for a kibble that utilizes a low glycemic starch.

    Finally, kibble is hard to digest. Once eaten, swallowed usually whole, a dogs digestion begins in their acid pit of a stomach. Dogs digestion does not begin in their mouth as humans as they do not have the enzymes in their saliva to chew and begin the breakdown process. That’s why when a dog or cat regurgitates right after eating food has the same shape as it started. Furthermore their teeth are made specifically for ripping and tearing as compared with a cows teeth for example which are flat for chewing. When that mostly whole kibble hits the stomach , it has to be hydrated before digestion can begin. Hydration of dry food takes a lot of water. Therefore animals that are only kibble feed tend to run a bit dehydrated and that in itself is difficult on all organs to work efficiently for the life of the dog. Digestion of kibble is difficult and long.

    Other issues concerning kibble is the high heat at which most are cooked causing denatured protein and undesirable toxins. Lost nutrition from denatured meat protein means adding of synthetic premix vitamins that mostly comes from China to meet AAFCO nutrition standards. That’s the words at the end of the ingredient list you cannot pronounce without a chemistry degree. Yikes! Also the over fed dog/cat can in the course of time time build up to too much of these synthetic vitamins,which are difficult for the body to recognize/utilize, can become a toxic overload to the body (as opposed to readily recognized vitamins as found in more natural forms of whole food vitamins).

    Best advise is to seek out what is easily recognized, digestible, species appropriate diet for your pet. This site is a great place to become informed. It is worthwhile to garner as much information concerning the animal members of your family so that they can live vital lives, not just surviving but thriving. Bonus….keeps vet bills down. There is so much more information to discover. Be your pets’ advocate by taking the time to research. It’s at your fingertips. With good info, you can make good choices. Good luck to those in the search as the animal food world is at best a convoluted one indeed.

    1. Wolf

      I agree – all terrific comments, and so many good points made. Heartening to be part of such a community, and man thanks to our fearless leader!

  7. june lau

    One aspect of these food labels I want to point out: a label lists the first 3 ingredients chicken, chicken meal, ground brown rice, pea flour , etc.
    when calculations show 25% protein, we do not know what percentage is coming from each source listed. What is the concern with this? Each protein has a biological bioavailable if mist of the protein is coming from a high protein grain, or an egg vs. Chicken even, the quality of protein will vary. The higher the percent coming from a lower quality protein, the kess quality of the food. Most vary even batch to batch since companies put mire or less of the ingredients depending on market price.

  8. Jackie

    So true! Included in the Guaranteed Analysis is the percentage of all proteins. . That percentage is a combination of animal protein AND plant protein. Of the two, animal protein is the most easily utilized by the body. Therefore it is key for pet food companies to be upfront about how much animal protein you are getting in a bag of kibble. That is called “Animal Inclusion”. This is most often avoided by many pet food companies that want to use less animal protein because animal protein is more costly. They chose instead to bump up the protein percentage using plant protein. Way less expensive to utilize more plant protein. Keep in mind the goal for a species appropriate diet for a carnivore, be it canine or feline (an obligate carnivore ), is to get the most meat or animal protein ( including muscle meat, organ meat, and bone hopefully in proportion in percentage to what one would find in a whole animal ) you can buy in a bag of dog food. That is if kibble is your choice way of feeding your pet.

  9. PawPawPete

    Sorry to dissappoint you folks but the protein content is a laboratory analysis of the nitrogen content, not the food value.

    1. Jeri

      I seriously doubt anyone here is in the least “disappointed”, Paw Paw Pete. On the contrary, NOTHING the PFI does will surprise most of us. We have been disappointed far too long in the PTB to be shocked at anything they throw at us. If you want to talk “food value”, though, we can start with quality of ingredients and the lack of any such guarantee in “pet food” thanks to the FDA compliance policy which pretty much leaves the door open for anything from feathers to rendered, 4 D animals to be mixed into kibble!

  10. ellie

    Excellent article.
    It always amazes me that humans need to know little about nutrition or how to prepare a balanced diet and yet when it come to pet nutrition we have to have some “expert” prepare highly processed questionable ingredients for us to feed them.
    The food industry has Americans convinced they can buy nutrition out of a box, bag, or can while giving no regard to what a balanced diet really is. it doesn’t really matter does it? People will buy what tastes good to them and the food industry does not care if they get the proper nutrition as long as they buy.
    Pet food on the other hand has to be disguised as a mystery to humans since they might just think for themselves and buy something natural and healthy instead of the usual box, bag, or can.

  11. Kelly

    For the record if a food says that it contains a minimum of something, do you really think they would add “extra for free” if they didn’t have to? For example, if a food says “with chicken” the AAFCO standard is that it contain a MINIMUM of 3% chicken. Do you really think the company is going to give you more than that if they aren’t required to?

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      Chicken I doubt they would add more. But easily I could see a alternative protein source (such as a grain) could increase the stated protein percentage. And a larger concern would be fat. Again, I can easily see a manufacturer adding higher levels of fat to a formula while stating the minimum.

  12. Amelia

    When you say, for example, “26% protein”, is that referring to 26% by weight, or 26% by calories?

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