There is a big difference these days between understanding an ingredient, or a label, and understanding what the ingredients or label means. Consumers nowadays are left in a whirlwind of chaos and confusion when it comes to labels, especially in the pet food industry.
Beautifully marketed bags with big pictures of fresh cuts of chicken, whole peas and carrots, and whole oats on the front of the bag and stamped with claims like, “100% Complete and Balanced for All Life Stages” leads consumers to believe that their product of choice is safe, complete and high quality.
Then other packages with basic labels and no claims appear confusing to consumers. As icing on the cake, Veterinarian’s seem to only recommend a limited number of products that are available on the market and don’t seem to have many answers about the things they don’t recommend. They don’t seem to know much about most brands (of which there are too many to count) and when it comes to wholesome raw foods they tend to claim that they are dangerous, they aren’t complete and balanced and a variety of other claims that would be ludicrous for a pediatrician to make about a child, but seem sort of sensible about a pet… maybe… but maybe not… not really sure.
So how does someone go about understanding the truth about these labels and ingredients when everyone seems to have a different opinion. Well a long time ago we asked that question too, and after years of living in that whirlwind we realized it really comes down to regulation. The regulatory topic is so vast and unending that we had to make an entire website and alliance to cover all the parts and pieces in small, manageable bites. However, here are some bullet point considerations on the value of understanding regulations as a method to understanding how to read a label and what specific ingredients even are (or can be):
BY-PRODUCTS: Some companies say that by-products are nutritious, or even healthy, while many companies say they are the trash that other companies won’t purchase. What’s the truth? No matter what a company tells you (and why wouldn’t they tell you whatever they want you to hear to make their product sound better than others… no matter what their stance is on that ingredient?) understanding what a by-product is ALLOWED to be, and what it isn’t, can allow consumers a perspective that lets them determine their opinion of the ingredient without having a company try to give them only the pro’s or only the con’s of that ingredient. Is a by-product just poop inside of intestines? Is a by-product just the neck meat of an organic cow that’s being sold to the Pet Food Industry because humans don’t like that cut? Those are two very, very different products, one of which you’re probably ok with and the other you’re not. So what’s the truth? What are companies actually using? Understanding the regulations, rules and definition behind this ingredient could mean the difference between a healthy product and a toxic product. This is the type of ingredient that FRFA addresses.
PATHOGENS IN RAW FOODS: It seems like every day there are consumers that are seeking to find healthier alternatives to their pets food and asking their Veterinarian’s for help on their search. Often times when pet owners ask their Veterinarian about feeding raw foods their Vets recommend that they do not feed them. The reasons given are based on the foods not being complete and balanced or having excessive and dangerous pathogens in them that may cause illness or death in their pets. So what’s the truth? Are all raw foods incomplete and not balanced enough to support your pets? Are all raw foods high in pathogens and likely to cause illness and death? What are the actual statistics? What about dry foods? Are those safe? This is also a question that FRFA addresses using actual rules and regulations as well as statistics gathered from government entities such the FDA, CDC, AAFCO and the USDA to determine where the truth lies.
CORN PRODUCTS: There is a lot of controversy on the value vs. damage of corn products. What is the truth? Is corn a nutritious source of amino acids and protein? Is corn highly allergenic? Is corn used in pet food and agricultural feed even the same thing as the corn we eat? Did you know that AAFCO has 72 different definitions for corn? How is a consumer supposed to navigate what “corn” is where it has 72 definitions? This is another thing FRFA will address with it members.
As you can see with only 3 basic things, understanding regulations, rules and definitions can actually be far more important than understanding an ingredient meaning. We all know that corn can be highly nutritious, but is it nutritious in pet and agricultural feed? If it isn’t, why? If it is, why is it controversial? We all know raw foods can harbor pathogens. But what industry regulations are in place to ensure the safety of pets and people? Are these regulations evenly enforced among the entire industry or are they specific to only dry foods or only raw foods? How do those regulations affect the statistical likelihood of a recall or illness in your household, business or company?
FRFA was created to answer these questions and many, many more that you may not know to ask. To learn more, become a member and help be a part of making a change in industry!!!