“Paws” with us & click here to listen to Paul discuss what “balanced & complete” means?

All Pet foods have to be balanced by law but balance is not the only criteria for a nutritional and healthy meal. As humans we aspire to have a correct balance of minerals and vitamins but we do not judge our health on every meal that we consume. Rather we measure it against a period of time, say one month. We certainly do not a have a balanced meal each and every time we eat a meal.

To prove my point, I have designed a ‘balanced’ meal that, when tested, will tick all the boxes, and appease the authorities:

1 x leather shoe for protein
1 x brewers rice (left overs from beer breweries)
1 x left over oil from your motor car service
1 x iron metal nails

This produces a ‘lovely’, ‘balanced’ meal that is NOT fit for consumption!

Not too long ago, the pet food world was shocked to learn that many major pet food brands had included a coal extract, Melamine, in their foods. This cheap protein extract showed suitable protein levels, but was a dangerous inclusion in the meal.

Balance and guaranteed analysis should not be the only standard set by the regulatory bodies, which is true in pet food, but also the quality and type of ingredients used.

The pet food labeling is so complex and the script so small that it is no doubt that the consumer has no chance of understanding the label and deriving at an informed decision. So often we read of preservatives, colorants, stabilizers and emulsifiers without really understanding what they are or mean. Other terminology that is used which leaves us confused is: ‘meal, digestives, by-products, fat, flavouring, etc.’ Then there are ingredients that we do not know of and are worthy of understanding: ‘brewers rice, gluten, beet pulp’ and the many added synthetic vitamins and minerals.

Remember, your pet food contains very little meat and most of the composition of your companion’s diet is made up from the ‘other’. This makes it even the more important that you understand what is in fact the bulk of your companion’s diet.

Most people pick up a bag of kibble or a can of food and read ‘with chicken’ or ‘with beef’ and think that they are feeding a diet that contains plump whole chickens or choice cuts of beef. But the law is very clear:

The ‘WITH’ rule allows an ingredient name to appear on the label, such as ‘with real chicken,’ as long as each such ingredient constitutes at least 3% of the food by weight, excluding water for processing.

The ‘flavor’ rule allows a food to be designated as a certain flavor as long as the ingredient(s) are sufficient to ‘impart a distinctive characteristic’ to the food. Thus, a ‘beef flavor’ food may contain a small quantity of digest or other extract of tissues from cattle, or even an artificial flavor, without containing any actual beef meat at all.

The ‘dinner’ product is defined by the ‘25% Rule’, which applies when ‘an ingredient or a combination of ingredients constitutes at least 25% of the weight of the product (excluding water sufficient for processing)’, or at least 10% of the dry matter weight; and a descriptor such as ‘recipe’, ‘platter’, ‘entree’, and ‘formula’.

So whilst a balanced and complete diet is important, the quality and source of the ingredients should also be a priority.