Wednesday, June 3, 2009 3:10 PM

Examining a Marketing Concept (aka Pet Food Labels)

Let's say you've finally found your glasses and you are reading a canned cat food label's "guaranteed analysis" section. What are you to make of this, particularly since we now know that pet food manufacturers do not bother to conduct feeding trials or perform chemical analyses on their products on a regular basis?

Let's take on the easy ones first. When a label says that 78% of a product is "moisture", that's self-explanatory. Realizing that you just spent $2.00 on a can of food that is really only 22% product will probably put you into a funk, perhaps discouraging you from further reading and therefore comprehension regarding this fine example of marketing you now hold in your hand. Snap out of it! You must soldier on if you want to know what your furry friend is really ingesting.

The first item on the list is "crude protein". On the example I am looking at right now, that percentage of product is 9. That seems low, doesn't it? Cats need 12-13% of their total calories ingested to be protein once they are adults; kittens need 18-20% for growth, as well. Since these percentages are figured on dry weight, though, we will need to do a little math. Dividing the 9% by the dry weight (the aforementioned very expensive 22%) gives us nearly 41% crude protein by weight. That seems high, doesn't it? Remember, we're talking about "crude" protein here, not the good stuff cats get from the muscle meat they would be eating if they ate their natural diet of live prey. Much of the protein in these products is not biologically available to the animal, meaning that their bodies can't use it because it is such poor quality. It is just excreted as waste (more of your money going down the drain). That is why the industry loads their pet food with this nutrient, in the hopes that cats will actually get what they need.

The next ingredient, "fat", weighs in at 5% or, for dry weight, 5/22= 22.7%. That definitely seems high! A high-fat diet will not necessarily harm a healthy cat, although it will contribute to obesity (which will definitely harm a healthy cat). Since the word "crude" prefaces this nutrient as well, we can further assume that this is not good fat, i.e., omega 3s and 6s. It's basically filler, since fat is cheaper to incorporate into pet food than good protein. Again, animals do need fat in their diets so manufacturers put plenty in so that pets will be able to absorb what they need (and store the rest for later, unfortunately).

Tune in tomorrow for more tasty morsels...

Movie of the Week: Another great example of a film about women in untenable circumstances comes from French director Philippe Claudel. I picked up his I've Loved You So Long, starring Kristen Scott Thomas, without knowing anything about it and, after seeing the film, completely recommend it. The plot revolved around a woman (Thomas) who is half-heartedly trying to re-enter life after 15 years in prison, assisted by her younger, estranged sister who refuses to give up on her. The climactic scene between these two will tear your heart out; Thomas really shows her acting chops here.
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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