PET CORNER: Scratching the surface of choosing pet food

By DEB GREEN
Guest Columnist

I have a new pet! Sparky joins our other dog, Jack, and cats, Georgie andThomas. With the arrival of the new family member, the decision of what to feed him should have been reasonably easy. But as I stood at the store looking at all the choices of dog food, I felt very overwhelmed. I decided it was time to do some research.

How do you choose the best quality food for your pet? After looking at a few packages and studying the ingredients, I was even more confused. I decided I needed to learn more about pet food in general.

My research was quite surprising. I discovered that the authority to regulate pet food is vested in federal and in state law. Although most information I read stated that these regulations and laws are very rarely enforced.

I discovered that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates animal feed, including pet food, under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and Federal Code, Title 21.

Also each state has a program responsible for regulating pet food. In Michigan, it is the State Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

A third entity, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a voluntary membership organization made up mostly of governmental feed control officials, defines and establishes standards for pet food, and its nutritional adequacy. Michigan follows the AAFCO model. AAFCO has no regulatory authority and doesn’t enforce laws or standards. Enforcement is up to the FDA and state feed control agencies.

The FDA requires pet food labels to contain the proper identification of the product, a net quantity statement, the manufacturer’s name and address, and accurate listing of ingredients. The AAFCO additionally requires that labels contain a guaranteed analysis, a nutritional adequacy statement, and feeding guidelines.

So what should pet owners look at when deciding what pet food to buy? According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Americans spent over $29 billion on pet food in 2017. With this much money at stake, pet food companies can become very masterful at creating imaginative packaging for their product. With that in mind, let’s work through the pet food label requirements.

1. Proper identification of the product. The package must state if it is for cat or dog. If an ingredient is used in the name, there are rules on the percentage of this ingredient that must be present in the product. Be aware that today’s pet food packaging carries such descriptive words as “premium,” “super-premium,” “gourmet.” These terms have no standard definition according to the FDA. They are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients. The term “natural” has no official FDA definition either, although AAFCO defines “natural” as the lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors or artificial preservatives.

2. Manufacturer’s name and address. No street address or phone number is required. The “manufactured by” statement identifies the party responsible for the quality and safety of the product. If the label says “manufactured for” or “distributed by,” the food was manufactured by an outside manufacturer.

3. Net quantity statement. Tells the consumer how much product is in the container.

4. The list of ingredients. Lists the food ingredients by weight (before processing) in descending order. This is one of the most important parts for pet owners!

5. Guaranteed analysis. States guaranteed minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. The “crude” term refers to the specific method of testing.

6. Nutritional adequacy statement. Is meant to assure consumers that a product meets all of a pet’s nutritional needs according to the AAFCO. While having the AAFCO statement on your pet food is a great place to start, remember it is based on the very “minimum” nutritional requirements.

7. Feeding guidelines. Feeding guidelines instruct the consumer on how much product their animal might need. These are very general and may not address your specific pet’s needs.

So far I have covered very general information needed to help you choose the best food for your pet. Look for part two of this article in next month’s Pet Corner. I will get more specific on what things you should consider when choosing the best quality food for your dog or for your cat.

Coming up on Sept. 16 is Homeward Bound’s 7th Annual “Strut your mutt” on the Riverwalk. This is the only time when dogs are legally allowed on the Riverwalk. The “Strut” is from 1-3 p.m. and starts at the Lion’s Pavilion at First Street Beach. This is always a great, fun event. There is a registration fee to participate. You will receive a pet bandanna (required for your dog to be on the Riverwalk), water and a hot dog lunch following the walk. Also you can raise donations for Homeward Bound with the top three fundraisers receiving a prize. For more information check our website at www.homewardboundmanistee.org. Come enjoy the day with your four-legged family members.

Deb Green is a member of the Manistee County Humane Society Board of Directors. She can be reached at dgreen1004@gmail.com.

MORE INFORMATION

Homeward Bound Animal Shelter is located off M-55 at 736 Paws Trail in Manistee. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

For more information, contact Homeward Bound at (231) 723-7387 or visit www.homewardboundmanistee.org or Facebook. Manistee County Humane Society/Homeward Bound is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Leave a Reply