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Labelled for Success – Reading Pet Food Labels


For most of us, knowing what is in our pet’s food is just as important as knowing what is in the food we eat. Brands like to keep things simple with ‘Venison Formula’ or ‘Chicken & Rice’ on the front of the bags we buy, but, unless you are feeding a raw diet, there are usually more ingredients listed on the back panel than what is shown on the front.

How do we decipher the list of ingredients on the back to know what we are actually buying and feeding our pets?

Under ‘Ingredients’, foods and vitamins are listed in order of weight before these are mixed and cooked into what we feed our furry friends. So if ‘Chicken’ is listed first, that is the largest ingredient in the food before it is cooked. Of course, there’s a curve ball here. Because of the high water content of all fresh meats, the weight is significantly reduced after the cooking process. Therefore, if a fresh meat is listed as the first ingredient, after the kibble is cooked it may be closer to the fifth or sixth ingredient by weight. For this very reason, most of the foods Treats Unleashed carries will have a fresh meat as the first ingredient backed up by a meat meal as the second.  The easiest way to think of meat meal is much like jerky, as it is dried out after rendering. This helps keep the moisture content low and the protein content high throughout the cooking process.

What are we looking for on the ingredient panel?

Keep things simple. Look for good quality protein sources, such as a fresh meat backed up with a meat meal, listed among the first ingredients. Then look for high quality, whole ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, and grains (unless you are feeding a grain-free diet). These should lead up to your fat source, where after most ingredients are part of the vitamin pack.

For a more in-depth look at your pet’s food, talk to one of our team members today!