We’ve examined the handful of information provided on your pet’s food packaging; however, several useful items are missing.
     For example, feeding instructions are printed on the back of the bag, but there’s no indication of its calorie content. By the time we realize we’re serving too much, our pet may be twice his original width.
We’re assured that the food meets AAFCO ( Association of American Feed Control Officials) nutrient profiles, but there’s no indication whether the contents can be adequately digested by the pet.
     An often-repeated comparison states that shoe leather can technically be used to meet the AAFCO standards for protein, but using it for sustenance would be ludicrous.
     Passing an AAFCO feeding trial is widely regarded as a signal of higher quality or reliability. It’s not commonly known that feeding trials span only six months and utilize a total of eight animals. In the context of an entire lifetime on the same food, six months isn’t a lengthy interval for the detection of mild to moderate nutrient imbalances.
     Pet food labels do have to list the ingredients in order of their predominance, but not with actual quantities. If a diet contains six major ingredients and each of those comprises 13% of the total, the seventh could contribute just 15% and still legitimately qualify as the First Ingredient.
     An ingredients origin is never detailed on the package, and that could be another country with entirely different regulations and inspection standards.
     Meat is considered a desirable component, but you won’t read on the package that “chicken” contains skin, tendons, gristle and bone. “Beef” might mean the heart, tongue, esophagus, or diaphragm if that’s what remains after the actual steaks are trucked away to the grocer. It’s a bit of a letdown after that mouth-watering Porterhouse portrayed on the front panel!
     “Byproducts” are a frequent inclusion in pet food; they are basically the non-meat tissues of a meat animal. They might include spleen, liver, and kidneys. These items are edible and can be quite nutritious, but an assortment of other tissues may be incorporated as well (including such delicacies as beaks and feet). The ultimate value of the mix can vary greatly from one company to another and even from one batch of food to the next.
     Manufacturers use very specific wording when it is to their benefit, so be cautious of the more ambiguous ingredient descriptors: e.g., poultry byproducts (not entirely chicken, or this would have been specified), meat meal (species not disclosed), or animal digest (??). These really vaguely defined materials are unlikely to bear even a slight resemblance to the foods you purchase for yourself.
     Are you a pet food expert now? You’re not fully informed until you’ve really done your homework. Use the internet, but don’t be gullible. Don’t trust every yoyo with a pet store name tag. Call that 800 number yourself and ask some of the hard questions. Your pet will reap the benefits every single day.

Dr M.S. Regan