Pet Food Sleuthing: Dispelling Some Common Misconceptions About Pet Food

The products pet owners have available to them are staggering.  Each year, the number of suppliers grows, as does the number of products. Perhaps one of the biggest segments of pet products is food. It makes sense. It is the only thing all pets need.

Just like in human food products, there are many myths and misconceptions with many “experts” espousing their opinions. Who do you trust, especially when the “experts’” opinions contradict each other? In our most recent email newsletter, we talked about the good and bad of grain-free diets. Here, we will continue our food information articles and dispel some food myths.

The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is responsible for setting the standards and guidelines for pet food. High-quality pet food manufacturers follow these guidelines when coming up with recipes for their food.

By-Products Are Not inferior Products
When most people hear by-products, they immediately think of something not desired. With pet food, by-products usually refer to meat products and are simply the parts of a slaughtered animal that humans do not generally use. These parts include internal organs like liver or lungs, which provide great sources of energy, vitamins, and minerals.

Grains Are Not Bad
Like we discussed in our newsletter, grains are not inherently bad. Research does not show that grains cause health issues. Many grains are great sources of quality protein, vitamins, and minerals. And many grains are highly digestible. Pets need carbohydrates, which grains provide. Grain-free diets add potato or tapioca as a carb source, which decreases the nutrition but adds calories.

Chicken Meal Is Basically Concentrated Chicken
While you may think that whole chicken is superior to chicken meal, the truth is chicken meal is more nutritionally dense. It is dehydrated and defatted chicken and ends up providing a highly digestible source of protein. Whole meat is at least 70% water and in the cooking process, the water weight is lost. Ingredients are listed in order by weight *before* processing, so when a whole meat is listed first, it will drop on the list perhaps five-six places.

Wheat Gluten Has Major Benefits
Like most people, dogs and cats do not have a problem with gluten in food. Offering 80% protein, wheat gluten is a highly digestible source of the nutrient. It also has an amino acid profile similar to meats (dogs need 10 essential amino acids; cats 11).

Raw Food Has Many Negatives
A recent trend in pet food, especially dog food, is feeding a diet where the meat source is not cooked or processed much in advanced with the idea being that raw would be closer to eating what wolves eat in the wild. Raw diets pose a significant risk as they can have many different parasites. We’ll cover this topic specifically in our next Newsletter.

We all want to feed our pets the very best and since eating organic seems to be healthier for people, it’s easy to want that for your pet. Just remember that organic simply means the way in which animals were raised and plants were grown. It does not necessarily mean the ingredient was of good quality to start. Furthermore, many organic diets use flax seed instead of marine plants and fish as a source of fatty acids. Flax seed has precursors to the EPA and DHA that pets need, and not the full-fledged fatty acids marine plants and fish have.

Most people think of their pet as a member of their family. Just like human food, pet food manufacturers desperately want you to pick their brand and will use advertising buzzwords to help steer you towards their product. Don’t be fooled!

Our next blog will be a primer on how to read pet food labels. When combined with our information here, it will give you a good background at making sense of pet food, helping you to make a well-informed decision.

Source: Royal Canin Nutritional Truths

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