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Dogs and cats are the most popular pet species in the United States.
What's in it for Spot and Puff?
By Pauline Oo
From eNews, April 21, 2005
In 2004, 36 percent of U.S. households had a dog and 35 percent had a cat (more than 60 million dogs and nearly 70 million cats), according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. (Fish, birds, and horses are other common pets.) And pet owners spend about $13 billion a year on food for their canine and feline charges.
Pet food labeling is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and many states have also adopted rules set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an advisory council made up of feed control officials from all 50 states, Canada, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico.
Pet food labels should have:
- A product name and brand name on the main display panel
- Species of pet for which the food is intended (either in pictures or words)
- Quantity statement (weight, volume, or count)
- A listing of all ingredients in ascending order (by percentage from minimum to maximum) and identified by their common names.
- The name and address of the manufacturer or distributor
- Feeding directions, a nutritional adequacy statement (if the product has been tested by AAFCO), and a guaranteed analysis (a breakdown of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture content)
Marshall Stern, University of Minnesota animal nutrition professor, offers the following tips to better interpret pet food labels:
- 100 percent rule--If one ingredient is named on the front of the label (for example, "Beef"), the product contains only that ingredient and the moisture in that ingredient. (This rule applies only to canned food.)
- 95 percent rule--If the product names two ingredients (for example, "Beef and Chicken"), 95 percent of the product contains the first ingredient. The second ingredient must be at least 3 percent of the net weight. (This rule also applies only to canned food.)
- 25 percent or "dinner" rule--If the words "entrie," "dinner," "supper," or "formula" appear after the named ingredient (for example, "Lamb formula"), the product contains at least 25 percent of that ingredient; for combined food (such as "Lamb and Rice Formula"), the ingredients in combination equal 25 percent.
- 3 percent or "with" rule--If the label says "Made with Chicken" or "With Beef and Rice," for example, this means the product contains at least 3 percent of the ingredients.
- Flavor rule--If the label says "Salmon and Tuna flavor," there is no minimum content required for the ingredient.
- There is no standard definition for words such as "premium," "super-premium," "ultra," "holistic," "gourmet," and "natural" on pet food packaging.
Most owners feed their dog or cat commercial pet food because it is convenient, cost-effective, and reliable, says Stern. "You can feed your pet a homemade diet, but it's very difficult to be fair to the animal and meet all of its nutrient needs," he adds. The pet food you choose should achieve "vitality and health, good coat quality, healthy skin condition, and proper body physique and muscle tone."