Is the “New” Pet Food Label Any Better Than the Old One?

For the last couple years, we’ve been hearing rumors that AAFCO was working on a new design for pet food labels. We’d also heard that these would be based on human food labels. Knowing what I know about the human food processing industry, I was suspicious. It’s true that human food labels are marginally more informative than pet food labels. However, they still leave all kinds of room for deception on the part of manufacturers. 

Creating Illusions

I’ve been keeping an eye on the commercial pet food racket for a good 25 years now. What I’ve learned is that pretty much everything they do is meant to create illusions to cover up what they really are.  My theory about this new label is that it’s a response to all the negative information that’s being shared on social media. Everybody knows that kibble is garbage, for example.  Witness the explosion of “alternatives” like “Just Food for Dogs” and “Honest Kitchen.” The problem with these “new” foods is that they are just more of the same: illusions. Colorful packaging, fancy websites, all the right buzz words. 

Feigned transparency

In their current form, labels on pet food are completely meaningless.  Consumers actually think there’s something wrong with their minds because they don’t understand pet food labels. Even people who read labels and think they understand them really don’t.

What they don’t realize is that pet food labels are not intended to provide information. They are intended to HIDE information while pretending that they’re revealing something. Now that people are realizing this, the industry’s job is to dig themselves out of the mess. The conundrum they have is that they still can’t be fully transparent because of what they are – a profitable waste disposal arm of the food processing industry. So designers of the new label have a very difficult task: how to appear like they are giving us useful information without actually providing it. 

A familiar template

Human food processors and label-fixated nutritionists have been wildly successful at convincing consumers to trust the labels on human food. The pet food industry realizes this, so they designed their labels to look exactly like the human food label.   

Caloric Distribution

One thing that human food labels do better than pet food labels is provide information on caloric distribution. It’s important to know the caloric distribution of the macronutrients in the food we eat. The only way a person can track their “carb” or fat consumption, for example, is by having this information. And it seems like everyone is watching one or the other. Caloric distribution simply means the number of calories that are contributed by a given macronutrient. We don’t exactly get THAT information, but it’s closer than what is provided on pet food labels.    

Here’s an example for you. When a human food product says on the label that it’s 5% fat, what is actually meant is that a serving size of the product will provide 5% of the recommend daily allowance (RDA) of fat. For that information to be useful, a person must know the maximum amount of fat the government recommends consumers eat each day. Currently, the RDA for saturated fat is 25% of total daily calories. So what this means is that one serving of the product will provide 5% of that 25%. If the RDA for total daily calories is 2,000 for an adult human, then no more than 25% or 500 of them should come from fat.  The label says that one serving of this product provides 5% of that 500. So, the calories in the product that are contributed by fat is 25. 

Who goes through all of those mental gymnastics before buying a product? Right. Nobody. And that’s exactly what the food processing industry is banking on.

Knowing about these shenanigans and many others in the human food processing system, I figured something similar would be going on with these new pet food labels.

Suspicions confirmed

I got my first look at the new pet food label a few days ago. (See the image at the bottom of this article.) The sample label  came from AAFCO “advisor” Dr. Jean Hofve and was published in Dogs Naturally Magazine. 

Using an imaginary product, the processors have given us a breakdown of 375 total calories. 200 of these are contributed by protein, 81 calories by fat and 94 by carbohydrate. Now look at the percentages below the word “Guaranteed.” One would assume these would ALSO be based on caloric distribution, but they’re not. How do we know that? Because 28% of 375 does not equal 200. So, we can infer that the word “Guaranteed” refers to the obscure “guaranteed dry weight analysis” that has always shown up on pet food labels.  In other words, nothing new.

Meaningful information?

HOWEVER, the “per cup” column next to the percentages MAY offer a way for consumers to get to the bottom of this deliberate obfuscation. Especially if they know the caloric content per gram of the various macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrate) in food. As a reminder, protein and carbohydrate each have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9. 

So, let’s do a little math:

28.8 grams protein x 4 calories/gram115 calories from protein
20.6 grams fat x 9 calories/gram185 calories from fat
26.8 grams carbohydrate x 4 calories/gram104 calories from carbohydrate
TOTAL CALORIES 404

Here’s a direct comparison of the calorie count based on the grams shown versus the calorie count provided above that.

Their calculationMy calculation
Total375404
Protein200115
Fat 81185
Carbohydrate94104

What accounts for these numbers being so off? Do you see how much lower the protein is now, and how much higher the fat? The protein is almost halved and the fat is more than doubled. 

If the gram count is accurate, here’s what we can NOW know about the caloric distribution of this product by percentage:

Protein:  28.4%

Fat:  45.8%

Carbohydrate:  25.7%

This is closer to what we normally see on pet food labels when we convert the “guaranteed analyses” to real caloric distribution. And that fat percentage is very likely even higher than 45.8% since the “fatty acids” that are being added to this product are probably oils. 

Do we know more?

So are there any meaningful changes here? Do we know any more about the macronutrient caloric distribution in the food than we did before? I’d have to say “NO,” based on what I’ve seen so far. I’m fully open to the possibility that I’ve misunderstood something! So if anyone reading this can set me straight, I’d surely welcome the information. 

Just walk away

If you’re already home feeding, congratulations. That’s the only way I know of to keep pets out of the sick pet industry. If you’re not, I hope you will start. My recently expanded book will walk you through all that you need to know. You can learn to avoid and even reverse disease in your pets. Whatever you do, however, please do not be taken in by the commercial pet food industry’s feeble and self-serving attempts to clean up its image. 

pet food label

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1 thought on “Is the “New” Pet Food Label Any Better Than the Old One?”

  1. Seems that we are lucky in Europe, because the pet food labels seem quite different to me, at least in the German speaking countries. There is often a percentage of protein, carb, fat, … and water, which adds up to 100%.

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