Dog Food Labels Unmasked

Dog Food Labels are extremely important to the Manufacturer, however, they need to be properly understood before they become of importance to you!

A label is the catalyst of the manufacturers' best opportunity to "make the sale"!

Within seconds that label has to convince you to buy, or confirm your pre-determined expectation to purchase.

That humble label is really a sophisticated power of persuasion tool that "makes or breaks" on the store shelf!

Don't tell me you thought they were there just to put a name on the product! Shame on you!

Reading Dog Food Labels is, to me, pretty much the same as viewing a poster for a movie, or looking at the cover of a book, because in all cases they have to get you to make a decision.

Has the poster convinced you to go to the movies, did the books' cover convince you there was a good story inside, has the label made you feel this is the right product for your dog?

Don't be swayed by the label. In a lot of cases the label is full of inference that does not relate to substance!

Let's start to UNMASK those LABELS!

You are about to see through the very clever disguises that are yelling out to you "Pick Me, Pick Me"!

Let's say you are looking at a dog food label that has "Active Formula" on it. Is it very close to a picture of a dog jumping over a hurdle, or catching a frisbie? I bet the dog is looking like it is having the time of its' life!

If you and your dog play with a frisbie, or your dog fetches, or jumps things you will readily relate to that label. Should you pick it up for a closer look the odds are pretty high that it will end up in your shopping basket and you buy it! Great job label - you made a sale!!

Same scenario for a label that wants you to think "Healthy" Just look at that bunch of "dew laden vegetables" with rolling hills in the background. That will make you think of the Great Outdoors, Healthy Living". Wouldn't we all love to be roaming the great outdoors, and eating food that fresh. So would your dog. Ker-ching, SOLD!

"Vets Prescription", "Science Diet", "German Shepherd" (or any other breed) "No Artificial Flavours" are just label terms designed to get your attention, and to make you feel all "warm and fuzzy" about selecting that particular product.

"No Artificial Flavours" is a great one because they are rarely used in dog food!

Here's a couple more real good "Smoke and Mirrors"dog food label tricks.

One of the biggest problems with labels is they do not have to give you any ingredient percentages, of what is within the dog food you are buying.

Dog Food Labels do however have to to list ingredient by weight, now I am going to show you how easy it is to bend the rules in the area of labels!

Question. Would you consider (1) "Dog Food With Beef", (2) "Beef Dog Food" and (3) "Beef Flavour Dog Food" all to be pretty much the same thing?

I know I used to! Maybe it's because perhaps I'm not the smartest of shoppers, or perhaps it's that those dog food labels are worded in a way that I consider is misleading!

Answer. Those 3 dog food label definitions mean (1) Only needs to have 3% of beef in the ingredients! (2) Found a "real" one here because it has to have 95% beef in the ingredients. (3) How does "no beef required" sound!!

Whilst some companies may put a token amount of beef by-product into the recipe, to add some beef flavour, if the "chemistry department" can come up with a cocktail of chemicals, that gives a beef flavour, then that's close enough!!

Chemicals can be sprayed on, or dripped into the recipe at some stage, and that is far cheaper than using beef!

I have used BEEF in the above examples but it is the same "rules" should the product be CHICKEN or any other named "main" ingredient!

If you think we are finished at those 3 levels, think again!

"DINNER" on a dog food label means even more opportunity for confusion!

A dinner in dog food label terms means a "25%" rule applies.

When expressed as "Beef Dinner" there should be 25% beef. By now you have probably realized that there will be a however!

"Beef rice and vegetable dinner" means that the rice and vegetables are allowed to be part of that 25%! If the label reads "Rice vegetable and beef dinner" then rice will be the main ingredient, by weight, of that 25%, followed by the vegetable weight, and then of course comes our token beef inclusion!

Are you feeling "used and abused"? I do think our expectations are being messed about with, but it's within "the rules" of course!!

Dog Food Labels have also adopted the word "Natural" and the problem here is there are no "guidelines" or "criteria" to be met!

In the main "Natural" appears to be used to indicate that there are no "artificial flavours" (hardly ever used anyway), artificial colours (if used they would be for your benefit, not the dogs!), or artificial preservatives.

"Natural" is often confused with "Organic" but they have two very distinct meanings. If it is organic you want, ensure you are buying correctly by reading the ingredients.

Although law makers of our nations are fairly slow in protecting us "Organic" is a term that seems far more controlled in how the word is being used.

If the food is organic then you will find the ingredients are prefixed by the word organic, which is there to indicate only natural forms of growth, or pest prevention, are involved, and that the item is free of chemical intervention.

Mind you I did chuckle when a label promoted the contents as being organic, but contained (as its' main ingredient by weight) chicken that was not even noted as being free range, let alone organic!

"Premium" on a dog food label begs the question "premium to what, or whose, standard"?

If a manufacturers' product is already one of the low quality, full of filler, types, then they really do not have to do much to raise the bar, do they!

In that particular manufacturers range it may well be the premium selection, HOWEVER, when compared to other products, from other manufacturers, it can still be very inferior!

Just because a dog food label reads "Premium" do not think you are buying the best!!

When reading dog food labels I suggest you ignore everything you see on that dog food label EXCEPT the list of Ingredients.

Don't buy the dog food label, buy the dog food ingredients, because, what you see on a label could be poles apart from what you think you are getting!

I believe the above information will give you enough "protection" and will make you acutely aware of some of the pitfalls on adopting a "seeing is believing" approach to buying your dog food.

For those who wish to get further into the "nitty gritty" of how the USFDA regulations apply to dog food labels you can use the follwing link (opens new window)

Labels USFDA

Other areas you will find covered will be the regulations for :- Manufacturers Name and Address - Calorie Statement - Net Quantity Statement - Guaranteed Analysis - Feeding Directions - Nutritional Adequacy Statement.

To go to Dog Food Manufacturers click here

To go to Dog Food Ingredients click here

To go to Dog Food Recalls click here

To go to Dog Food AAFCO click here

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