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Where's the Meat?
When selecting a high-quality pet food, the golden rule has always been 'meat first,' This means unprocessed, whole meats like chicken, beef, pork, salmon, etc., should be listed at the top of the ingredient list.
Just like human nutrition, pet food manufacturers are required to list the ingredients in order of pre-cooked weight. When you look at the ingredient label below, "chicken" is listed first. Therefore, appearing to be a high-quality pet food. But don't be fooled. Kibble is made via a process called extrusion. During extrusion, the raw chicken loses nearly 75 percent of its weight as the moisture is cooked out. On the other hand, lesser-quality ingredients, like by-products, retain most of their weight when cooked. In the example below, the company claims farm-raised chicken is the #1 ingredient, truthfully, it's more likely second or third if weighed post extrusion.
Pet food manufacturers may also resort to something called ingredient splitting to keep meat at the top. This deceptive practice involves subdividing a more abundant and typically lower-quality ingredient into smaller portions to reduce the overall weight. In the label above, whole grain corn and corn gluten meal have been split from a single 'corn' ingredient. Now, smaller-sized ingredients are scattered further down the list. If corn were left intact, it would likely be the number one ingredient. The same can be said of soybeans. This legal practice allows pet food manufacturers to manipulate the ingredient list to prop up higher-quality meats falsely.
When searching for your pet's next bag of food, be aware of these manipulative tactics. Confirm that the primary ingredient is real meat and be conscious of ingredient splitting.