Pet food labels

Apart from the government stipulations regarding the listing of the guaranteed analysis and the contents, there’s a good chance that what you think is in your pet’s food… isn’t.

1 Don’t believe everything you read!
Always bear in mind that most, if not all that you see on the packaging, is designed to make you believe that your pet is getting everything that they need. In other words, a “balanced meal”. Nothing could be further from the truth!

2 Minimum labelling requirements
Pet food manufactured in south africa must be registered at the National Department of Agriculture under Act 36 of 1947. Once registered, a “V” number is issued and registration must be renewed each september.
The label must show an “id/batch number” or “date of manufacture” and a “best before date”. The crude protein, moisture, crude fat, crude fibre and crude ash analysis must also be shown. “Crude” in this instance does not describe quality, but rather the method of measurement of these constituents.

3 The ingredients… Are they or aren’t they?
So what does it really mean when your food is described as “chicken flavoured” or “beef dinner”?
I’ll use “chicken” as an example:
“With chicken flavour” – up to 4% chicken
“With chicken” – at least 4% chicken
“High/rich in or with extra chicken – at least 14% chicken
“Chicken dinner, chicken recipe or chicken menu” – at least 26% chicken
“All chicken” – at least 65% chicken
“Chicken cubes or any other form” – at least 26% chicken “Cubed chicken” – at least 65% chicken

4 So, what’s in it?
Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. You would definitely want to see the protein source listed first. The greater the detail regarding ingredients the better the quality of the food. This stands to reason, as the manufacturer of a higher quality food definitely wants you to see as much as possible. This also allows you to compare the contents more accurately. However, chicken meat and chicken meal are not the same thing. Chicken meal consists of a ground-up composite of animal feed-grade chicken parts.

If you are in doubt about what an ingredient is or what it does, you can contact the manufacturer and request the details. Reputable companies will take there time to explain in detail or offer to send you written information. If you get vague answers then move to another brand.

Your vet is also a source of information. However, vets seldom have the time to look carefully at what the various brands contain outside of those that they stock. Be prepared to read the label carefully and do a little investigation of your own.

Check for harmful chemicals such as BHT, BHA and ethoxequine. These antioxidants and preservatives are linked to cancer in companion animals and their use has been condemned internationally. You can be sure that food that has a “best before” date up to 18 months in the future is preserved using these ingredients.

Food that is naturally preserved using vitamins C and C has a shorter shelf life but is far healthier for your pet.

5 Who died for your pet?
Globally, the pet food industry is a multi-billion rand business. It is not surprising then, that most of the better known brands belong to some of the worlds worst offenders when it comes to environmental and animal rights issues.
Who owns whom?
Royal Canine, Vets Choice, Pedigree, Whiskers – Master Foods.
Hill’s Science Diet – Colgate Palmolive.
Iams Eukanuba – Proctor And Gamble.
Olympic, Friskies, Alpo, Epol, Pamper – Nestle Purina
All these companies conduct animal testing on a regular basis. The inhumane and invasive testing that is performed on the animals unlucky enough to be caged in research facilities worldwide is done with the express purpose of providing new marketing material to support sales and marketing campaigns.
By law, any claims a manufacturer makes regarding their food must be supported by approved testing.

6 Are you recycling?
Check to see whether packaging material is recycled or recyclable. Most foods, especially imported ones, are packed in thick plastic bags. Consider the vast quantity of plastic that is being introduced into the environment. Buy in bulk where practical.

Try, if at all possible to select locally manufactured products that are produced by companies that respect the environment and use packing materials that are environmentally friendly. Look for indications that the inks used are lead free.