When trying to understand the food you are feeding your pet there are four main parts of a pet food label you need to check:
Whilst this tells you what’s in the food, but it doesn’t give you an idea of the quality of the ingredients (i.e. the digestibility or nutrients). Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Note that the meat is heavier than grain due to its high water content so often listed first.
2. Guaranteed Analysis
This shows the guaranteed minimum or maximum levels of nutrients such as protein, fat and fibre. There’s generally no information on many of the 35-40 essential nutrients for cats and dogs.
3. AAFCO Statement
AAFCO stands for The Association of American Feed Control Officials, which is an organisation in the United States that sets the nutritional standards for foods sold. AAFCO certification confirms that it’s balanced (although an American standard, it’s what we rely on here in Australia too, it provides nutrient profiles and regulates pet food labelling for growth, reproduction, and maintenance).
This statement is the most important one. It will tell you if the diet is complete and the life stage the diet is intended for.
4. Manufacturers Contact Details
This is how you can get in contact with the manufacturer for any questions about their food. Usually a phone number is supplied.
The bottom line is that you can’t really tell if a diet is good or bad just by looking at the label, other than making sure there is an AAFCO statement. My advice is to stick to a reputable company with good quality control and don’t be afraid to ask away to find out what you want to know!