And the Ingredients Are?

Updated on October 27, 2021

And the Ingredients Are?

All ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight, under standards established by the Center for Veterinary Medicine for the FDA. Weights of ingredients are established as they are added in the formulation, including their inherent water content (pre-cooked). Water content is important when evaluating relative quantity claims, particularly comparing ingredients.

Act 36 of 1947, Regulations R. 1087, Clause 22, sub-clause 1 cover the requirements for marketing and labelling of pet foods.

Why it’s important to understand the importance of water…

Therefore, ingredients that appear at the top of an ingredient list —typically the main proteins, carbohydrates, and fat sources —are present in higher amounts by pre-cooked weight in the food than items at the bottom, such as vitamin and mineral supplements, flavouring agents, and preservatives for dry foods.

Because water is included in the weight of the ingredients, ingredients with high water content (like meats and vegetables) are going to be listed higher than similar amounts of dry ingredients even though they may contribute fewer nutrients to the overall diet.

As an example, a dog food may list “meat” (cattle, not poultry) as its first ingredient, and “corn” as the second ingredient. The manufacturer trumpets that a competing brand lists “corn” first (“meat meal” is second), suggesting that the competitor’s product has less animal-source protein than its own. This exploits research showing that consumers often shop by “the first ingredient rule,” and industry marketing departments likewise make it their “first rule” of advertising (see: “The Secret Practice of Ingredient Splitting”).

Consider McKibble from Canada, even claiming that they are Biologically Appropriate …

Fresh chicken meat (13%), fresh turkey meat (7%), fresh whole eggs (7%), fresh chicken liver (6%), fresh whole herring (6%), fresh whole flounder (5%), fresh turkey liver (5%), fresh chicken necks (4%), fresh chicken heart (4%), fresh turkey heart (4%), chicken (dehydrated, 4%), turkey (dehydrated, 4%), whole mackerel (dehydrated, 4%), whole sardine (dehydrated, 4%), whole herring (dehydrated, 4%) , whole red lentils, whole green lentils, whole green peas, lentil fiber, whole chickpeas, whole yellow peas, whole pinto beans, whole navy beans, herring oil (1%), chicken fat (1%), chicken cartilage (1%), chicken liver (freeze-dried), turkey liver (freeze-dried), fresh whole pumpkin, fresh whole butternut squash, fresh whole zucchini, fresh whole parsnips, fresh carrots, fresh whole red delicious apples, fresh whole bartlett pears, fresh kale, fresh spinach, fresh beet greens, fresh turnip greens, brown kelp, whole cranberries, whole blueberries, whole saskatoon berries , chicory root, turmeric root, milk thistle, burdock root, lavender, marshmallow root, rosehips, enterococcus faecium.BEFORE RENDERING the ingredients.

Chicken (or any listed meat) is the muscles. skin, and bones (and more) of chicken that have been ground together. The water content averages around 70%, and the product contains approximately 18% protein and 5% fat. If this same ground chicken is dried to a moisture level of 10% it is called “chicken meal”. The protein content is now 65% and the fat level is 12%. This rendering process creates a concentrated protein product (a reason why dry foods appear high in protein).

As a marketing protocol, it takes very little unprocessed beef to weigh more than this powder: so, in reality the food in question is based on the protein meal, and in fact very little “meat” as the consumer perceives that term.

Understanding this, “first ingredient” claims should be ignored. In fact, “first ingredient” claims should fairly be regarded as intentionally misleading.

Thus, a consumer may favourable respond to a claim that their diet is better because it has chicken as the first ingredient and corn as the second; while a competing product lists corn as the first ingredient and “chicken meal” as the second ingredient. Chicken meal sounds processed (it is), but that does not necessarily discount its value as a protein source. Remember also that the word “fresh” carries no meaning.

If both products are compared on a dry matter basis (mathematically “remove” the water from both ingredients), it is clear that the second product had more animal-source protein from meat meal than the first product had from meat, even though the ingredient list (and the vendor) seems to suggest otherwise.

Remember that “meat meal” “poultry meal” or “by-product (waste) meals” are not fresh, but dry rendered ingredients—dried powders—and we should not conclude that the second product has more “meat” than the first, (or in fact, any meat at all). Rendering (boiling) separates fat (used as an ingredient elsewhere), removes water, and kills bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other organisms. However, the high temperatures (130 – 148° Celsius / 270 – 300° Fahrenheit) used can alter (denature) or destroy natural enzymes and proteins found in the raw ingredients.

Denaturing can contribute to development of food intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease, and generalized immune system response that can become inappropriate (allergies) in dogs. These problems are more common with dry foods, because the ingredients are cooked twice: first during rendering, and, again in an extruder; and the baking process—perhaps 260° Celsius / 500° Fahrenheit – can further stimulate the formation of carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds (in production, all of the ingredients – meats, grains, vitamins, minerals – are mixed together and run through the extruder: the extruder cooks the mixture by adding steam and water, producing carefully planned shapes familiar to consumers as “kibble” (McKibble) and is subsequently dried; fats are then sprayed on as a “palatant”).