Sunday, August 24, 2008

Information provided with good intention, but...

The news feed on this blog on Saturday featured an article written for the Rocky Mount Telegram by Susan Baker, owner of a pet sitting & grooming business. In it she talks about “Natural” foods not being equal and, among other advise states: “The first five ingredients listed on the label are the major products in the food. These should include meat, vegetables and whole grains to ensure excellent natural nutrition. Meats should be antibiotic free. Corn and soy are not good choices. Be leery if the first few ingredients include meals and byproducts.”
Her statement is factually incorrect and I have to set the record straight. That's just the way I am. I think, the entire topic of pet nutrition is confusing enough as it is. If that confusion gets an infusion of wrong facts, then it is just so much more difficult for a pet owner to decide what is the right thing to do. As long as contributions are made to our blog, including the news published by the Google feed, I would like to take the liberty to make our community members and readers aware of such erroneous statements. It is only in the best interest of our community.
Particularly I cannot agree with that she says to stay away from food with “meals” as one of their main ingredients and look for foods with actual “meat”. I believe she got words a little mixed up and confused.
Meal, whether it is chicken, turkey, beef, lamb or any other animal meal is a good ingredient to have in your food. Meal is essentially whole meat which has been ground and dried.
Instead of “meal” it should correctly say “meat meal”. With less moisture content meals are a concentrated protein source which translates into more and better nutrition. Meat on the other side has a very high moisture content since it includes water. The weight of the water makes the meat heavier thus placing it on the top of the ingredient listing (By AAFCO regulations ingredients have to be listed by their weight, the heaviest first). As a result, the actual percentage of meat contained in the food is less than a dehydrated meal ingredient would provide.
Example: Let’s assume a chicken dry food. If the first ingredient is chicken and we would dehydrate the chicken it probably would move down to the fourth, fifth or even a lower ranking in the ingredient listing. If the first ingredient is chicken meal you can be assured that you have a highly concentrated, more dense protein source on hand and I would prefer and recommend the second one as the better food.
I believe what Susan meant to say was stay away from literally spoken and declared “meat meal” (notice the difference to chicken meal, turkey meal, lamb meal, etc.). The key and problem with meat meal is that you never know what you get, it may be meal from any animal, i.e. beef, or chicken or pork, or you name it or even a combination of all of those and maybe even then some who knows what. Meat meals make foods way less desirable since we actually don’t know what we are getting.
How do you memorize all this when you go shopping or ordering pet food: Try this: The ingredients which sounds better (Meat) is less desirable than the ingredient which was made out of it (which is the “named” meal). Meals must be named, i.e. chicken, lamb, etc.., don’t go generalized (meat meals).
As a side note and in the interest of completeness, I do have no problem at all with what Susan states about veggies, whole grains, corn, soy and byproducts.
I feel so much better now after having cleared up things and put the healthy pet nutrition world back in order. What is your take on all this confusing stuff, especially how do you think information and education should be presented so that it is easier to understand for all us non-scientists?

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