What’s In Your Dog Food?

Check out this great article and find out what’s in your dog’s food…

Read any good mysteries lately?

You might try the back of that bag of dog food you picked up at the store today. Plenty of mystery there, along with some real bad guys, disguises, subterfuge, everything you’d find in a spy novel, well, except maybe the blond.


What’s In Your Dog Food

So, just what are you looking at? You think dog food, you figure meat, right? Should be pretty straightforward, right?

Well, there’s meat and then there’s, well, there’s what’s in most dog foods you’ll pick up at a major retail outlet.

To start out, understand that if a dog food says it is a formula, whether it’s lamb and rice, fish and chicken, beef, poultry or whatever the manufacturer specifies, those ingredients only have to make up 25% of the product, so you can, in effect, be buying a lamb and rice formula dog chow with very little actual lamb protein included.

It gets worse.

Pick up a bag or can labeled with chicken, salmon, beef, fish, or other meat source and it only has to contain a paltry 3% of said substance, according to AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) regulations.


Then there are the mystery meats.

Meat meal/meat & bone meal: for starters, it’s a non-specific meat source – just whatever mammal is in the bin, whatever tissues are left over, as long as there’s not any added horn, hoof, hide, hair, manure, stomach or rumen contents “except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.”

That’s reassuring. Though some specify what is and more importantly what isn’t in their meat meal – if you see something like “does not include hair, blood, hoof, manure, etc”, that is a good sign.

Another non-specific source is “animal fat.” Once again, obtained from the tissues of whatever mammal (or poultry) is handy and undergoing commercial extraction and/or rendering processes.

“By-product meal” is most commonly chicken by-product meal. Pretty much what it says, if you think about it: by-products, feet, necks, undeveloped eggs, intestines, pretty much anything but heads and feathers that hasn’t already been dressed up and called something else. And again, the so comforting “except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.”

Oh, and we can’t forget “animal digest.” Here’s how the FDA’s website describes digest: with respect to flavors, pet foods often contain “digests,” which are materials treated with heat, enzymes and/or acids to form concentrated natural flavors. Only a small amount of a “chicken digest” is needed to produce a “Chicken Flavored Cat Food,” even though no actual chicken is added to the food.

Technically, animal digest is “a material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue.” Hydrolysis is defined as the “decomposition of a chemical compound by reaction with water, such as the dissociation of a dissolved salt or the catalytic conversion of starch to glucose.” So, they take “clean and undecomposed animal tissue” and do what with it, exactly?

If you read “Beef,” “Lamb” or a specific meat source without added verbiage, expect honest muscle including skeletal, heart, esophagus, tongue, etc. Actual meat, in other words. If you’re picking up a bag of food at one of those major sell-everything-under-the- sun stores, don’t expect to see much of that sort of information on the labels.

It’s rare that you’ll find a commercial-type dog food that doesn’t contain corn.

Nothing wrong with corn – unless your dog happens to have an allergy to it.

Where it gets dicey is when you start seeing corn mentioned more than once. Often a food will list corn, then corn gluten meal, which is basically the residue of the corn after everything humans want out of it is dried and processed.

Rice is another popular ingredient. What you want to see is something like “brown rice” or “rice.” What you’re more likely to see is “rice flour.” All that is, essentially, is ground up rice leftovers – pretty much the same story as the corn gluten meal. Same thing with soybean mill run,

An ingredient found in at least one “premium” lower calorie food is peanut hulls. There’s a no-brainer.

Dried egg product, anyone? You can’t, it seems, make dog food without breaking a few eggs. But it’s egg product – not a whole egg broken into the mix like you would when you’re making a meatloaf. No, it’s the goofs from egg graders, breakers and hatchery operations then either dehydrated, handled as a liquid or frozen.

And really, how far up the ingredient list do we really need to see salt? At least make it sea salt, laden with all sorts of vital trace minerals.

Hopefully, this gives you some of the clues you need to decipher the mysteries of the dog food label. One good thing, though: if it says it’s a red herring, it’s red herring – unless it’s red herring meal or digest.