The safety, adequacy, and efficiency of pet foods are significant considerations for consumers. Pet owners like you and I give equal or more priority to buying healthy food for their furry friends compared with themselves. Price and promotions don’t represent a top influence on pet food. Pet food processing is required to adhere to multiple regulations from various governmental and state agencies, making it easier for consumers to purchase healthy, balanced, and quality products.
To date, there are countless pieces of legislation, and they’re all under review to adapt to scientific and technological requirements. Pet owners spend dozens of hours researching options, talking to pet food manufacturers, and quizzing vets.
Imagine the following situation: You’re standing in the pet food aisle of the store. There are so many choices that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to make up your mind. Your dog’s or cat’s nutrition is just as important as your own. The ingredient list can help you determine what to buy – pet food labels can be confusing, but they’re crucial.
Your pet is a family member, just like anyone else, and their food should contain nutrients that keep their coat healthy and shiny, help their digestive system work properly, boost their immune system, and enable them to lead a happier life.
In The EU, Pet Food Labelling Is Governed by Regulation No 767/2009
Pet food packaging must be labelled with the registration/approval number of the manufacturing plant. Attention must be paid to the fact that there’s no specific regulation to govern the manufacturing of pet food. Pet food is mainly governed by Regulation No 767/2009, which sets the rules for the animal feed industry.
The aim of the regulation is to harmonise the conditions for placing products on the market and the use of feed, ensuring a high level of safety and protection of public health. Recently, the European Council and Parliament have agreed on new labelling rules. Manufacturers will earn the EU’s organic production logo provided 95% of agricultural ingredients are organic.
What Are the Most Important Ingredients on A Pet Food Label?
A healthy, well-balanced diet for your furry friend includes:
Since meat ingredients consistently outperform vegetables as far as their protein efficiency ratio is concerned, it shouldn’t come as a surprise it’s the first ingredient in pet foods. Dogs are direct descendants of the grey wolf, yet as they’ve become domesticated, they’ve developed different eating habits. To be more precise, they derive nutrition from both animal and plant sources.
With cats, it’s a completely different story. While dogs can do without meat, cats need it. They’re obligate carnivores, meaning that they eat meat out of biological necessity. Cats aren’t able to synthesise the necessary nutrients from plant matter, so it’s not a good idea to feed your pet a vegan diet. Cats can’t be vegetarian.
Indeed, the natural pet food category has advanced rapidly owing to grain-free products. Unless your four-legged friend doesn’t have an allergy or intolerance, some carbohydrates are perfectly fine. Not only do they provide an important source of energy, but carbohydrates also help the digestive system. Besides grains, common carbohydrate sources include but aren’t limited to barley, oats, brown rice, whole wheat, whole corn, potato, and millet. Needless to say, you should look for organic or non-GMO vegetable matter.
Fat is an important nutrient in your dog’s or cat’s diet because it ensures energy, insulation, and cushioning. Animal sources such as beef and chicken provide sufficient triglycerides and arachidonic acid. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to your furry friend’s health as it promotes a glowing coat and helps prevent chronic inflammation.
Similar to us, pets’ bodies can’t make omega-3 fatty acids from scratch, meaning they must get them from their diet. Ingredients like fish oil add omega-3 fatty acids. If you purchase packaged food, it’s recommended to look for a guaranteed analysis on the label to ascertain its nutrient content.
Probiotics improve healthy gut bacteria that help digest food, so you don’t have to worry about diarrhoea or an upset stomach. Our four-legged friends have colonies of bacteria in their digestive tract, so they benefit from probiotics. The pet food label should indicate the expiration date, how many microorganisms are in the product and provide support for its efficacy (e.g., a study by an external researcher). Probiotics are suitable for both adult pets and young animals, but it’s important to make dietary changes gradually.
Prebiotics are the main food source for probiotics, so the more prebiotics are ingested, the more probiotics there are. At times, prebiotics prevent unhealthy bacteria from attaching to the digestive tract. More and more products with prebiotics are popping up in pet stores. It’s possible they could play a role in preventing allergies in dogs and cats. Pets can develop allergies to anything they’ve eaten before.
Finally, yet importantly, there’s calcium. It helps maintain healthy bones and teeth, supports proper muscle building and functioning, and maintains a healthy nervous system. Supplementation is necessary only if there’s a deficiency in your dog or cat’s diet. Since calcium comes mainly from eggshells and bones, it’s listed on the ingredient label as bone meal. Fish is an equally good source of calcium, as it helps your furry friend meet their nutritional needs. Pregnant and lactating animals use high amounts of calcium to support the growing foetus and produce sufficient milk for the litter.
All things considered, the way pet food is labelled can give you information about how much of a certain ingredient is added. Ingredients are listed in decreasing order by ingoing weight, which basically means that the first ingredients listed on the label are present in the highest quantity.
Good nutrition is critical for the wellbeing of companion animals, but the subject is anything but straightforward. Remember, there’s a lot of misleading advertising surrounding pet food, and the competition is fierce to get you to buy. Using the information on the label, you can calculate the protein, carb, and fat balance to determine quality.