Can You Believe Your Pet Food Label?May 1, 2012
As owners of pets we go above and beyond to spoil and take care of our beloved companions. From grooming them, to buying them new toys, to even feeding them the best food for their health – or so we think. It was pointed out in a Huffington Post editorial last week by Donna Solomon, DVM that the so-called “human-grade” pet food some of us may purchase for our pets is not in fact “human-grade” food at all!
Feeding Your Pet “Human-Grade” Food
Using the label claim “human-grade” is a way of saying that the meat you are feeding your pet is consistent with meat that is edible for humans. However, in the United States, “human grade” is technically a “government stamped approval” from the USDA. Dr. Solomon points out that even if a food manufacturer buys meat from a slaughter house that was originally intended for human consumption, the moment that meat leaves the slaughter house bound for pet food consumption it becomes inedible by humans.
But why, if it is the same meat a person would eat?
The simple reason is that the USDA does not have jurisdiction over meat intended for pet food. Once that human grade meat is in the hands of a pet food manufacturer, it is out of the hands of the USDA and into the hands of the FDA. However, the FDA does not have jurisdiction over meat products.
So, since the USDA cannot and does not inspect pet food manufacturing plants, it cannot be officially determined that the food meets human standards. So, the dog food you are feeding your furry friend at home is NOT officially “human-grade” or approved for your consumption – in case you ever wondered.
Other Terms Marketers are Feeding You and Your Pets
There are a variety of terms on labels that have no legitimate legal standards backing them up. “Holistic,” “premium,” and “natural” have all become common labeling terms among pet food products, even without any official definition for these claims. In fact, Whole Foods openly admits that the terms that are used on pet food labels such as “premium,” “super premium,” “ultra premium,” and “gourmet,” are not subject to any particular standards. “They’re just yummy-sounding adjectives!” according to Whole Foods’ Pet Label FAQs web page.
But would consumers know that without reading the FAQ page on a pet food company’s website? Probably not. These are terms used by the pet food industry to make their products more marketable and appealing to consumers. Who wouldn’t want to buy “gourmet” food for their pet?
On a side note, there is also yet to be an official law for “organic” pet foods. According to the FDA’s website, the USDA is in the process of developing regulations that would dictate what types of synthetic additives (vitamins and purified amino acids), will be allowed to be used in pet foods labeled as organic.
Understanding Terms on Pet Food Labels
The average consumer will most likely not know that some pet food label claims are just “yummy-sounding adjectives.” If you are concerned about what kind of food you are feeding your pet and want to become better-educated about what products are on the market, please check out the following resources:
For pet food information that is regulated by the FDA prior to being placed on labels, check out their Animal and Veterinary page on their website.
Also, the Association of American Feed Control Officials provides a secondary backing to the FDA’s regulations along with more specific and focused labeling rules in terms of nutritional analyses and adequacy, feeding directions, and calorie statements.