How to Evaluate Pet Food Using Ingredients


    The ingredients list does not tell you the quality of the ingredients, the quality control processes implemented during intake and use of the ingredients, the overall digestibility or bioavailability of the diet, or the formulation of nutrients of the diet (proportion of nutrients such that the diet is complete and balanced for daily nutrition). 

    The ingredients list does not tell you the recipe. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight prior to processing. Kibble is dried/extruded. That means that all of the water that contributes to weight of the ingredients is lost during processing, changing the final composition in terms of what remains. Meat as the first ingredient? It's mostly water, and you don't know how much more it weighed compared to the second, third, or fourth ingredient. 

    Ingredients can help you identify ingredients that your dog has a known sensitivity to (diagnosed by a diet elimination trial with a veterinarian) or identify possible ingredients of concern (such as peas or other pulse legumes). Not much else. There are better ways to evaluate your pet food. 

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Additional Resources

American College of Veterinary Nutrition: Why is the ingredient list not the way to evaluate a food for my dogs?

Tuft's Clinical Nutrition Service: Stop reading your pet food ingredient list!

Why you shouldn’t judge a pet food by its ingredient list

Feeding Raven Doodles: How to read a pet food label

"The ingredients list is important if your pet has been diagnosed with a food allergy by a veterinarian (see Food allergies for more information). Otherwise, it should not be used to make a decision when choosing a new diet."

Cat The Vet ft. NutritionRVN: Can You Judge A Pet Food On The Ingredient List? (Spoiler Alert - No!)