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Why Are Pet Food Labels So Hard To Read?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates pet foods in the United States. Here is link to their web site about pet foods


Some states also enforce their own labeling regulations. Many states have adopted the model pet food regulations established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

These regulations are more specific in nature, covering aspects of labeling such as the product name, the guaranteed analysis, the nutritional adequacy statement, feeding directions, and calorie statements.

Virginia does have regulations.

Maryland is in the process of updating their laws.

Pet Food Labels

The labels can be very confusing. The first place to start is that labels are “as fed”. This means that it includes water. So Canned or Tinned food is 70% – 80% water. The amount of water is on the label. Dry or Kibble food is 10% water. So how do we make this apples to apples and not mangos to oranges.

If you loved math, you are going to love this.

Take the percentage of energy (lets’ use Protein). Divide that by 100 – the percentage of water

So a dry product has 30% on the label and 10% water- subtract 10 from 100 for the denominator (probably have not heard that word in awhile) result of 90. 30 divided by 90 times 100 is 33% protein – Dry Matter

A canned product has 9% protein. Well that sounds like the dry has more protein. So the canned product is 78% water . 100 minus 78 is 22. 9 divide by 22 times 100 is 40.9% protein. Wow that seems tricky . Fortunately with the Internet you can use the calculator on the this web site to figure out the dry matter. Click here(unless you really love doing math) So now you can compare apples to apples

Cat Nutritional Needs

Some things to keep in mind – Cats are carnivores. They have a much higher requirement for protein than dogs or humans. Most of their vitamin and protein sources need to be animal based. It is a matter of evolution.

Different life stages have different nutritional requirements. Kittens are rapidly growing. They need more protein and energy than an adult cat. So keep this in mind when purchasing a kitten food. Some foods claim to be okay for all life stages. That does not seem possible.

So now you can compare dry to canned to freeze dried. What about ingredients versus nutrients? Nutrients are the sources of energy for your cat. Ingredients are the vessels for those nutrients.

There is a lot of discussion on what is a “good” versus a “bad” in ingredient. At this point, I would recommend that you fed a diet from a reputable manufacture. We will have more about nutrition in the future.

Calories and Body Condition Score

So we get to Calories – Most cats need about 200 calories per day. That is usually ½ cup of most dry food or 1 can and a ¼ of most 5.5 oz cans of cat food

So a great help is the Pet Nutrition Alliance web site. You will need to know your cats Body Score Condition (BSC). Here is a link to their web site We will have another blog about BCS in the future.

Here is a link to a previous blog about food labels

Please feel free to call or email with any questions or concerns.

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