Four Rules for Pet Food
Have you ever wondered whether a food labeled “tuna dinner” is better for your cat than a food labeled “with tuna?” Pet food companies like to find creative and appealing names for their products, but these names may be confusing. Four easy to understand rules about how pet foods are named can help you to understand what’s really in a product.
Four Rules number 1: The 95% rule
This rule applies to pet foods with a limited number of ingredients. At least 95% of the product must be the named ingredient. For example, a dog food may be named Chicken for Dogs. If there are two named ingredients, then they must total 95% of the product. The ingredient that makes up the larger percentage must be named first. A company can’t market a product as lamb and rice, for instance, if rice is actually the main ingredient.
Four Rules Number 2: The Dinner Rule
Some foods, especially cat foods, are labeled as a “dinner.” If the named ingredient makes up at least 25% of the product, but less than 95%, then the company has to give it a name like “dinner,” “platter,” or “entree.” There are many different types of names that may be used. For these products, the named ingredient has to make up only 25% of the product, and it is likely not the main ingredient. As an example, a “chicken formula” could also contain fish, and could contain more fish than chicken. It’s important to check the label on this type of food, especially if your pet has a food allergy. Remember, the ingredients are required to be listed in descending order of predominance by weight. If there are two named ingredients, then they must make up 25% of the product together.
Four Rules Number 3: The 3% Rule
Sometimes a pet food manufacturer may want to point out a special ingredient on the label, although it only makes a small percent of the food. In this case, the name might be “Chicken Dinner with Cheese.” The special ingredient only has to make up 3% of the food. So don’t be confused. Dog Food with Beef is not the same as “Beef Dinner for Dogs.”
Four Rules Number 4: The Flavor Rule
The last rule may be the trickiest. There aren’t any rules for the amount of flavor that must be included. The flavor simply has to be detectable, generally by animals trained to detect the flavor. And, the flavor may contain the named ingredient, or it may not. “Liver Flavor” could contain liver, or it could contain a mixture of other ingredients that taste like liver.
As the four rules demonstrate, pet owners should always read pet food labels carefully. This is the first in a series of articles about pet food labeling and ingredients. Next up: What are Byproducts? You may also learn more about labels here.