How to REALLY Read A Dog Food Label

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Part of our mission is to help you navigate the often-confusing world of natural pet food. We've continued our food education series with the four top things to read on a nutrition label.

1. Order of the ingredients.

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The most prominent ingredients are to be listed first, just like for human food. So, if you see “chicken broth” as the first ingredient and “chicken” listed later in the list, you should know that the product is primarily made up of broth. Look for products that list meat first, but also know the difference between wet and dry foods to understand the ingredient list.

2. Additives and Preservatives

If you can’t pronounce it or know what it is and you would not consider eating it, then perhaps you don’t want to give it to your dog either. If a dog is eating wholesome nutritious meals, one must also consider if supplementation is necessary all the time or any of the time.

3. Where's the beef... and what does beef even mean? 

Dog food labeling allows pet food manufacturers to use the term  “meat” very broadly. For example, an ingredient label may state “beef”, but in the pet food world, that could mean byproducts like the heart, tongue, or diaphragm. There is nothing wrong with some of these ingredients. In fact, we use beef heart due to its nutritional value, but it is not the primary meat ingredient in our products. 

Look for companies that are transparent. But even companies that are transparent face a challenge informing the consumer.

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For example, we can not list “ground beef” or chicken thighs” in the ingredient list but must use only the terms “beef” or “chicken.” Because of this, companies who try to educate the consumer that they are using wholesome meats can only do so in other parts of the packaging. This limitation does not serve the consumer or manufacturer who wants to provide high-quality cuts of meat to the consumer.

Did you know “beef flavored” has a higher percentage requirement for meat ingredients than foods that say "with beef"? The latter only requires 3% beef. Most consumers would think “beef flavored” would be a less amount but it is actually more than labels that use “with” an ingredient on the label.

4. Meat vs. meat meal

According to the AAFCO, meat is classified as the “clean flesh of slaughtered mammals and is limited to… striated muscle...with or without the accompanying and overlaying fat and portions of the skin, sinew, nerve and blood vessels that accompany the flesh."

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Meat meal is classified as “the rendered product from mammal tissues.” Some meat meal is high quality and offers your pet a high protein low carb diet. However, meat meal is more processed and has the potential to have parts of the animal that are less than desirable.

Which should you feed your pet? The answer is to always do careful research on the product you’re interested in and consult your vet.  In the meantime, Portland Pet Food Company can guarantee that your pets are getting premium human-grade meat and produce intended for sale to humans, never from renderings, with additives or fillers. We use only chicken thighs, turkey legs or breast, pork loin, and ground premium beef. Because these meats and vegetables are of the highest quality we do not add any supplementation or additives.

Real food...just like Mother Nature intended.

Please note: At Portland Pet Food Company, we make healthy, natural dog treats and healthy, natural dog food toppings. Our dog treats and toppings are especially good for senior dogs and dogs who are picky eaters. Gluten-free options are available in our dog treats and dog food toppings. We also offer a fresh dog food subscription, delivered to your home.

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