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Labels on Commercial Pet Food

Check out the pet food section in your local supermarket and you’ll see all kinds of labels plastered on the bags. At times, those bags of pet food look more like billboards because of all those labels.

Given how they’re are prominently displayed, those labels must be important, right? Well, that may not always be the case.

Some labels do have a significant meaning, but others are just there for marketing purposes. As a pet owner, you need to know what those labels mean. Getting a good grasp on those labels will help you buy better food for your cat and/or dog.

Read through the rest of this article if you wish to learn more about those commercial pet food labels.

Complete and Balanced Nutritional Adequacy Statement from the AAFCO

Let’s start by identifying the labels you do want to see on commercial pet food. The “Complete and balanced” nutritional adequacy statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a label you want to see.

Per the FDA, the presence of the “complete and balanced” label on a bag of pet food means that the item in question has been “substantiated for nutritional adequacy”. Commercial pet foods can meet that standard in one of two ways.

First off, commercial pet food is given that label if its formulated ingredients meet the nutritional levels set by the AAFCO. Essentially, the presence of the label means that your healthy cat or dog’s nutritional requirements are met by the pet food in question.

Commercial pet food can also earn that “complete and balanced” label if it has undergone animal feed testing and yielded positive results.


“Human-grade” is another label you want to see on commercial pet food. According to this article from PetMD, the “human-grade” label indicates that the pet food only contains ingredients that are considered edible for humans.

The manner in which the pet food was manufactured and packaged must also meet federal regulations before it can receive the “human-grade” label.

Qualifying Descriptive Terms

Look at a can of dog food’s label closely and check how the manufacturers describe it. Did they include terms like “dinner”, “entrée”, or “formula” in the product’s name? If they did, that should clue you into the proportion of ingredients featured in the product.

Those additional words are regarded as qualifying descriptive terms. Manufacturers use them when the products they produce do not meet a certain threshold in terms of meat content.

For instance, any pet food labeled as a “chicken entrée” contains less than 95 percent of chicken. The minimum amount of chicken that can be included in that example of commercial pet food is only 10 percent.

You may have assumed that you’re paying full price so your pet can dine on a meaty treat. That may not be the case with certain types of commercial pet food.

Vague and Meaningless Terms

Thus far, we’ve touched on the pet food labels that matter. They are the ones that will give you genuine insight into the quality of a certain product.

Unfortunately, not all pet food labels function the same way. Pet food manufacturers also have marketing professionals on the payroll. Those professionals are tasked with providing labels that can make a product more appealing without really saying anything.

A good example of this is the term “natural”. “Natural” has a pretty broad definition in the context of pet food. As long as the ingredients came from a natural source, they can be labeled as such. That remains the case even if they were not included in the pet food in their natural form.

“Natural” is not a bad label per se. It’s just difficult to pin down what it means when it comes to cat food.

Labels like “gourmet” and “premium” are among the most meaningless. Manufacturers can use them for their products without having to meet higher standards.

“Holistic” is one more term that carries no significance at all. If you want to be certain that the pet food is made of high-quality ingredients, seek out the “organic” label instead.

Pet food labels can be misleading. Use the information in this article to make better pet food purchases and stop falling prey to those misleading labels.

Knowing more about the food you give to your pets is essential. You should also be more discerning when choosing pet sitters. Entrust your animal companion to us at TAILored Pet Services and we’ll make sure that they are cared for properly. Contact us at 425-923-7791 or browse our website to find out more about our services.




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