Last night's bumper edition of Supershoppers (CH4, 8pm, 29 Feb) included a brief focus on pet food looking at the pet food label highlighting terms such as 'meat and animal derivatives'. To ensure pet owners are well informed, PFMA would like to expand on the snippets of information given.
About Pet Food Labelling: Pet food labelling falls under EU legislation for farm animal feed, it doesn’t have its own set of rules, nor does it come under the regulations for human food. Whilst there are a small number of exemptions for the pet food industry, the legislation is more geared towards the farmer which means it is not as consumer friendly as we’d like it to be. (For example the term “crude ash” is well understood by farmers to refer to mineral content, and not understood at all by consumers!).
What ingredients are typically used in pet food? There are strict rules in the EU about the animal based raw materials that can be used in pet food. The by-products come from animals that have been inspected under veterinary supervision and are considered fit for human consumption at the time of slaughter.
How ingredients are listed on the pet food packet: Current legislation means that manufacturers can label ingredients by category e.g. ‘meat and animal derivatives’, or by providing a full list of the meat ingredients present. Industry uses by-products from the human food chain and because of this, raw material supplies can vary during the year. Manufacturers may therefore use ingredients from different animal species based on supply levels. All the materials selected are of equal quality and provide the same nutritional benefits to the animal. Listing ingredients by category (sometimes referred to as open formula) means some producers can select ingredients based on supply without having the high cost of changing labels constantly, which means they can deliver an economical product of high quality.
For consumers who prefer to buy a pet food with a full ingredients listing, there are many products available on the market. The difference with these products is that manufacturers follow a consistent recipe so the same ingredients are always used.
The pet food industry offers a range of pet foods to suit all needs and preferences from value products to premium.
What does ‘Meat and animal derivatives (4% chicken)’ mean? Each pet food recipe includes a blend of different ingredients which are all combined into a food which will meet, in part or entirely, the daily nutritional requirements of the pet. The 4% declaration is a legal labelling requirement which represents the minimum percentage content of the named ingredient, for example chicken, that is guaranteed to be present by the manufacturer. Other nutritious meat and animal derivatives can also be present. All members of the PFMA formulate their diets in line with the FEDIAF Nutritional Guidelines for Cats and Dogs. These guidelines detail the nutritional needs of cats and dogs at the varying life-stages and they are peer reviewed by independent veterinary nutrition experts throughout Europe. Pet owners can therefore have complete confidence their pets’ nutritional needs are being met.
Where can pet owners find out more? To help pet owners be well informed, pet food manufacturers often provide full product information on company websites and all companies provide contact details for further information. There is absolutely no intention to hide or mislead the pet owner in any way. Ongoing education is important and PFMA along with all our members continue to focus in this area developing tools and resources for retailers and owners to help demystify the pet food label. Indeed we have a dedicated fact sheet on ‘Understanding Pet Food Labels’ along with a 2 minute film animation on how pet food is made for cats and dogs. This highlights the legislation behind the industry, the ingredients are commonly used and the production process.
 For instance, pet food manufacturers are able to label pet foods as ‘complete’ rather than as a compound feed. If a product is labelled as ‘complete, it must by law contain all the nutrients a pet needs for healthy body function.