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Is All Pet Food Created Equal?

Categories // Helpful Info

I recently had a conversation with someone about the standards of pet food. This person worked for a very well known pet food company and claimed that all pet foods were relatively similar. Her argument was that since all pet food must pass AAFCO’s (Association of American Feed Control Officials) nutrient profiles, that they were all nutritious enough to keep pets healthy. After all, as long as the guaranteed analysis looks good, there is no reason to question the ingredients that make up that guaranteed analysis….right?

The interesting thing about the nutrient profile standards set up by AAFCO is that the nutrient profile in no way guarantees the digestibility or quality of ingredients in the pet food. All that is required is that a food meets a minimum or maximum percentage on the guaranteed analysis of a label. Pet food companies would like us to believe that the Crude Protein found on its guaranteed analysis label is coming from meat. This is not the case; in fact, Crude protein encompasses all of the protein found in the product (it does not have to come from any meat source at all)! Technically, as long as you were to throw a vitamin pack in the food, someone could make a pet food that passes the nutrient profile standard with car tires, leather boots, and horse tails. These three ingredients contain protein, fat, and fiber, and with the addition of a vitamin pack, one has created a pet food that passes the nutrient profile standards.

Below, I have compared two very different pet foods with the ingredients found in a common kid’s cereal. I believe we would all agree that it would not be healthy to feed kids cereal for every single meal, every day, for their entire lives. Yet, the ingredients in pet food #1 (a mainstream food found in your local supermarkets) are very similar to the ingredients found in the Kid’s Cereal. According to AAFCO, that’s fine, since Pet Food #1′s nutrient profile meets all of the minimum requirements for the nutrient profile set by the organization. Pet Food #2, in great contrast to pet food #1, contains a variety of meat sources. The ingredient panel is completely different from the one found on the Kid’s Cereal.

Bottom line, pet foods are not created equal. Your pet may be able to survive on pet foods that meet the minimum nutrient standards set by AAFCO, but that does not mean that your pet will thrive (or even live very long) on every pet food on the market.

Pet Food #1 Kid’s Cereal Pet Food #2
corn, soybean meal, beef and bone meal, ground wheat flour, animal fat (bha used as preservative), corn syrup, wheat middlings, water sufficient for processing, animal digest (source of chicken flavor), propylene glycol, salt, hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, caramel color, sorbic acid (used as a preservative), sodium carbonate, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), choline chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, D-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), calcium sulfate, titanium dioxide, yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40, BHA (used as a preservative), dl methionine. While grain corn, sugar, corn meal, corn syrup, canola and/or rice bran oil, salt, tricalcium phosphate, Trisodium Phosphate, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Other Color Added, Natural and Artificial flavor, citric acid, malic acid. BHT Added to Preserve Freshness.

Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Zinc and Iron (mineral nutrients), Vitamin C (Sodium ascorbate), A B Vitamin (niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin monoitrate), Vitamin A (palmitate), A B Vitamin (Folic acid), Vitamin b12), Vitamin D3.

Fresh deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, russet potato, fresh deboned pacific salmon (a natural source of DHA and EPA), herring meal, sweet potato, peas, fresh deboned lake whitefish, fresh deboned northern walleye, chicken fat (naturally preserved with vitamin E and citric acid), chicken liver, salmon meal, fresh deboned turkey, fresh whole eggs, fresh deboned herring, sun-cured alfalfa, salmon oil, chicory root, dehydrated organic kelp, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, turnip greens, apples, cranberries, saskatoon berries, black currants, choline chloride, psyllium, licorice root, angelica root, fenugreek, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, chamomile flowers, dandelion, summer savory, rosemary, sea salt, vitamin supplements (vitamin A, vitamin D3, vitamin E, niacin, vitamin C, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12), mineral supplements (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, selenium), dried Lactobacillus acidophilus, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product.

Link to the FDA’s website about AAFCO’s nutrition standards:


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