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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pet Nutrition & Labels #3--Guaranteed Analysis

Let's spend some time looking at the box on the pet food label designated as "Guaranteed Analysis".  I feel that there is more misinformation about this section than almost any other part of the label besides the ingredient list itself.   Here is a picture of a typical pet food label.

Looks pretty thorough, right?  Okay, tell me how much protein this diet has.  You're probably saying "21%".  Well, that's correct in a way, but look at the label again.  It says "min" next to the 21%, meaning that this is the minimum amount and the actual protein could be higher than that.  Is it 25%?  30%?  82%?  Honestly we simply don't know!  And it's also just a percentage, not an actual value.  Can you tell how many grams of protein a serving size contains?  Nope.  Heck, a "serving size" will vary greatly depending on the size and health of the pet.  A serving size for a poodle is going to be very different from that of a mastiff.  But we don't even get how many grams per cup!

What about fiber?  Okay, you're doing better if you can see that it has a maximum of 12% fiber.  But again, we don't know if this is 1%, 8%, 11.9% or something else.  There are also different kinds of fiber that can be included in foods, both soluble and insoluble.  Different kinds of fiber do different things in the body, some beneficial and some neutral.  You have no way of telling what kind of fiber is in this diet or in what amounts.

What about calories?  Can you easily tell how many calories per cup the food has?  Or what about the amount of each nutrient compared to the recommended daily allowance? Nope, none of this is on the label.  All of these values have the same problem.  They're minimums and maximums, but not absolute amounts and there is no way to tell the real value based on the label.  And there is a lot that is left out.  

Most pet food labels limit the information to protein, fat, fiber, and moisture.  These are four nutrients (if you count water as one), and really they are rather broad categories.  Did you know that there are over 30 nutrients that are important in the daily diet of pets?  There is absolutely no information whatsoever on labels about these other nutrients.  So the majority of what your pet needs is nowhere to be found on the package.

Can you start seeing the problems with relying on this label on pet foods?  Let's look at a human food label by comparison.

Can you see the difference?  We get a serving size, how many calories, the actual grams of essential nutrients, and what percentage of daily value it has.  You can get a lot of good information when you are looking at the labels of human foods.  Pet foods?  Not so much.  

So what does a guaranteed analysis on a pet food label tell you?  Diddly-squat!!!!  It's not even really worth looking at.  I wish that pet food companies would start really detailing the specifics of the nutrients in the same way that is required of human foods.  If they did that we would have a much better basis for comparison between foods.

Yes, it really is this difficult to read pet food labels!

Next time we'll get into details of what the ingredient list really means and how easy it is to manipulate it.