What’s in a Pet Food Name?
There’s more in a pet food name than most pet food consumers know. Key words in a pet food name – required by regulations – can give consumers clues to how much meat is actually included in the pet food.
When you buy a chicken TV dinner – you can clearly see how much chicken is in your dinner. When you buy chicken soup, you can clearly see how much chicken is in the soup – perhaps the amount of chicken within that soup has even influenced your purchase (buying a soup that contains more chicken). But when you buy a chicken pet food (or any other meat variety pet food), consumers are provided with little information as to how much chicken is actually used in the pet food.
Little information until we take a close look at the regulations.
In the massive AAFCO book of animal feed/pet food regulations, there are numerous pages regarding pet food labels and several pages specific to “Brand and Product Names”. These Brand and Product Names regulations state that…
A dog food with the name: Chicken Dog Food – is required to consist of at least 70% chicken (of the dog food total weight). Regulations require a pet food that includes an ingredient stated in the product name (this example ‘Chicken’) – with nothing else stated in the product name (more below) – to consist of a minimum 70% of that stated ingredient. Same regulations for cat food.
A dog food with the name Chicken Adult Formula Dog Food – is required to be only 10% chicken (of the dog food total weight). Here, the word ‘Formula’ is the key. Regulations state that pet foods that include the “descriptor” Formula, Dinner, Platter, Entree and Recipe – along with an ingredient in the product name (in this example ‘Chicken’) to consist of a minimum of 10% of the stated ingredient. So the pet food examples below, because these pet foods include the word ‘Formula’ in the product name, they are required to include ONLY 10% chicken (of the total product weight).
A dog food with the name Chicken & Rice Dog Food Adult Recipe (two or more ingredients stated in the pet food name) – is required to be only 3% chicken (of the dog food total weight). Pet food regulations state that pet foods that include two or more ingredients in the name of the product, are only required to include 3% (minimum) of the stated ingredients.
A dog food with the name Adult Dog Food with Chicken – is required to be only 3% chicken (of the dog food total weight). Pet food regulations state that product names that include the word “with” – such as ‘with Chicken’ – are required to consist of only 3% (minimum of the total pet food weight) of the stated ingredient. The regulations are specific that the word ‘with’ must be the same size, style, color and case print than the rest of the words in the product name.
And a dog food with the name Adult Chicken Flavor Dog Food – is not required to contain any chicken at all. Regulations allow a pet food with the descriptor ‘Flavor’ stated in the product name to include no (zero) amount of the stated ingredient. Regulations require the word ‘Flavor’ to be the same size as other words in the name and the company must provide substantiation of the flavor claim if they are asked.
A look at a few actual pet food examples…
The name of this Hill’s Science Diet pet food is “Crafted Grain Free Herbed Chicken & Chickpeas Recipe” Dog Food. There are no regulations governing the words ‘Crafted’, ‘Grain Free’, or ‘Herbed’. Regulations require these words to be truthful and non-misleading.
With two ingredients being listed in the name (Chicken & Chickpeas), regulations only require this dog food to contain 3% chicken (minimum of total product weight).
The name of this Purina Beneful pet food is “Healthy Radiance with Real Salmon” Dog Food. There are no regulations governing the words ‘Healthy’ or ‘Radiance’ or ‘Real’. Regulations require these words to be truthful and non-misleading.
Because the name includes ‘with’, regulations only require this dog food to contain 3% salmon (minimum of total product weight).
The name of this Merrick pet food is “Purrfect Bistro Chicken Pate” Cat Food. There are no regulations governing the words ‘Purrfect’ or ‘Bistro’ or ‘Pate’. Regulations require these words to be truthful and non-misleading.
It is unknown if this pet food is using the word ‘Pate’ as a descriptor (‘Pate’ is not a recognized descriptor per AAFCO regulations). If ‘Pate’ is being used similar to accepted descriptor words such as Entree or Dinner or Recipe, regulations require this dog food to contain 10% chicken (minimum of total product weight). If this pet food is not using the word ‘Pate’ as a descriptor, regulations require this pet food to contain 70% chicken (minimum of total product weight).
The name of this Big Heart Brands Meow Mix pet food is “Tender Centers Salmon & White Meat Chicken Flavors“. There are no regulations governing the words ‘Tender Centers’ or ‘White Meat’. Regulations require these words to be truthful and non-misleading.
Because the name states “Salmon & White Meat Chicken Flavors”, regulations do not require this pet food to contain any salmon or white meat chicken.
Unfortunately for pet food consumers, learning these pet food name regulations is no guarantee that the pet food contains 70%, 10% or even 3% of the stated meat. The reason…there is little to no enforcement of regulations in pet food. It is doubtful that any state or federal authority performs DNA analysis of any pet food to provide consumers assurance that the product meets regulatory requirements. Also – unfortunately for pet food consumers – a pet food that would contain 70% meat is allowed by FDA regulations to be sourced from diseased meat — without any disclosure to the consumer. But…understanding the regulations does give you a foundation to know more of what you are feeding your pet – and gives you regulation requirements to base your questions to pet food manufacturers on.
The best – call your pet food manufacturer and ask how much chicken or beef or whatever meat listed on the label is included in the pet food ( a percentage of total product weight). If they claim this is proprietary information (many of them will), you can assume the food barely meets the minimum requirement (if that). In my experience, pet foods that add more meat than what is legally required are more than happy to tell you exactly how much meat is in their pet food.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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