Sometimes pet food labels can cause confusion as the pet owner questions the differences among products called beef flavor, beef dinner, beef or 100 percent beef (or fish, liver, etc.).
When a flavor designation is made, such as "beef flavor," the words "beef and "flavor" must be in the same size, color and type of lettering. The source of beef flavor must be shown on the ingredient listing. This could be "beef’ or "beef and bone meal" or other beef source ingredients.
If the product name includes the words "beef dinner," "beef dish," or words of similar meaning, at least 10 percent beef must be in the product and the source must be shown on the ingredient list. When the name includes only the word "beef," such as X Brand
Beef Dog Food, this means the product contains at least 70 percent beef and the would "beef’ would be first on the ingredient list. If the name is "X Brand Fish, Liver, and Chicken Cat Food," the product must contain a total of at least 70 percent of all three of these ingredients with equally as much or more fish than liver or chicken and equally as much or more liver than chicken. This product can also be formulated for complete and balanced nutrition.
"All" or "100 percent beef" means that the ingredient is the total content of the product. The "100 percent" or "all" does not permit the addition of nutrients other than water for processing and trace amounts of preservatives and condiments. Such products cannot be formulated to be a complete and balanced diet.
The label should indicate whether or not the product provides complete and balanced nutrition and is adequate for all life stages or just for a particular life stage, such as maintenance of the adult cat or dog. If the product does not contain complete and balanced nutrition, the label should have a statement such as "not to be fed as a sole diet" or for "intermittent feeding only" or indicate if the product is only a snack.
The label will also indicate if a product is formulated to meet a specific nutritional need. For example, Purina* Kitten Chow* brand kitten food and Purina* Puppy Chow*brand puppy food were developed to meet the special nutritional needs of kittens and puppies respectively during their periods of rapid growth and development. The Purina* brand Hi Pro* dog meal label defines the purpose of this diet: to provide higher levels of protein and energy for hard working dogs as well as complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages.
Instructions concerning the amount to feed the pet should be included on the label. These instructions are a "rule of thumb" or a starting point, as the actual feeding amount will depend upon the pet’s age, activity, environment and body metabolism. Start with the feeding instructions on the package. After feeding for a period of time, observe the pet’s body condition and, if necessary, adjust the amount accordingly.
Labels Do Not Tell The Entire Story
Pet food labels provide the pet owner with a great deal of information. However, labels do not tell everything one might want to know about the various pet foods. It is necessary to rely on the manufacturer’s testing, research, and overall reputation to ensure that the pet food is of high quality and provides complete and balanced nutrition. The reputation of the manufacturer is peril’s the best assurance that the research behind the product proves its nutritional merit by actual feeding tests and that high quality assurance standards are maintained. If pet owners have questions about the food, they should write to the manufacturer or distributor.