How To Read a Pet Food Label Part1
How To Read a Pet Food Label Part 1: Product Name and Guaranteed Analysis
Dr Mark Roberts PhD
The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) produces a Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food Labeling Guide for manufacturers to help understand labelling requirements. This was developed in conjunction with the feed control officials from all the different states in the US. The intention was that the pet food industry adhere to these requirements, with each state essentially ensuring that products sold meet the regulations. Although some countries have different labelling needs, as AAFCO is by far the most applied around the world (not just the US), we shall discuss how to read a pet food label based on their requirements.
The "95% rule" regarding a product name basically means that for a product, for example called "lamb for dogs," a minimum of 95% of the product must be the named ingredient (lamb in this example). This should not account for water included. If however added water is included, the lamb should amount to at least 70% of the product. If two ingredients are named as a product name for example “lamb and fish,” the two ingredients collectively must total 95% of the weight. Additionally, the ingredient first named in the product must be the one that is higher in its level of inclusion in the product.
Moving onto the use of the term ‘dinner,” if several ingredients have been used, the combination of the named ingredients must total 25% of the product and be listed in the same order as they appear on the ingredient list. In addition to this, each of the named ingredients must be at least 3% of the total. An example of this would be beef and chicken dinner. In this case, beef would have to be included at 22% of the total diet, however chicken only a minimum of 3%.
Finally, the "flavour" rule, does not require a certain percentage of inclusion, however a product must contain enough of a favour so that it is detectable. If a product is labeled as “lamb flavoured dog food” in this case either lamb, lamb meal or lamb by-products would be acceptable.
In summary, care must be taken in how a product name is interpreted. Indeed, it is a fair and reasonable assumption that based on the current requirements, a pet owner is likely to believe that more meat, derived from a specific species is within a given product, than a label might describe.
Care should be taken in interpreting what a pet food product name actually means
The Guaranteed Analysis (GA)
The guaranteed analysis is always reported on an "as fed" basis, which can make a big difference to values. For example, fat which is 70 percent moisture might be 15 percent of a product, however at 10 percent moisture that same amount of fat would be 45 percent of the total product mix.
The minimum percent of crude protein and crude fat, and the maximum percent of crude fiber and moisture are always required. It is important to understand that the use of "crude," refers to the specific analysis method (a chemical analysis based on nitrogen levels), rather than the quality of the nutrient.
In addition to reporting these required nutrients, a company may decide to include other nutrients. This is typically done in order to help support a product. Notable in its absence for requirement is carbohydrate. This is unfortunate as a dog owner could easily believe a product to be low in carbohydrates (especially based on the product label requirements). Instead, a product could, and many do, have an excessive amount of carbs – some over 60 percent.