Understanding Pet Food Labels

Statements and claims made on pet food labels, and even the name of the food itself, are regulated by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). For example, AAFCO requires that such claims as “complete and balanced nutrition for all stages of life” must be substantiated either through feeding trials or by formulating the food to meet AAFCO Nutrient Policies for Dogs and Cat Foods. If a product uses a flavor in its name, that flavor must have been detected by a recognized testing method.

The ingredient list can tell consumers the principal components of the pet food and whether the components are from plant or animal sources. Usually if an animal source ingredient is listed first or second in a canned pet food or within the first three ingredients of a dry food, the food can be assumed to contain animal products as its principal protein source. However, the ingredient list does not provide information about the quality of ingredients.