Pet Food Labels, Simplified

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pet food labelPet Food Labels, Simplified

Pet food labels can be confusing so owners must be savvy at dissecting packaging claims and opt for trusted pet food brands to ensure pets get the right nutrition, says Hughes. Before you shop for your pet’s next meal, keep these label-deciphering ideas in mind, based on American Animal Hospital Association Nutritional Assessment Guidelines, to determine what elements will add to your pet’s overall health.

Natural and Holistic Pet Foods
When a pet food is labeled as “natural,” it means that according to FDA guidelines, food ingredients have not had any chemical alterations, says Hughes. (Similarly to human food, organic products must be marked with an official seal from the USDA to qualify). Hughes cautions about putting stock in the term “holistic,” since there is no legal definition and doesn’t necessarily mean anything on a pet food label.

AAFCO Nutrient Profile (Life Stages)
Notice that pet foods are marked with either “All Life Stages” or “Adult Maintenance”? “’All life stages’ is formulated to meet requirements for a growing puppy or kitten,” says Hughes. This usually means it’s higher in calories, calcium and phosphorus. However, brand marketing often use phrases such as “senior medley,” which can be confusing to consumers. Read the pet food packaging carefully, as Hughes cautions that more flowery language usually amounts to nothing; the food’s nutrient profile is still “all life stages“ which may not be appropriate for an adult or mature pet. She recommends healthy adult pets stick with “adult maintenance” food that is designed for their appropriate nutritional needs.

Formulated Pet Foods
Consumers want to ensure that pet food is formulated to meet minimum nutrition requirements. The package label should include an AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) nutritional adequacy statement that reads: “[Name] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog (or Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles for [life stage(s)]". Meeting this minimal requirement means the food formulation is determined via laboratory analysis versus being actually determined by feeding to animals.

For the complete article on pet food label guidelines, visit petMD!

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