Decoding Deceptive Pet Food Companies Practices: How they make their Ingredients Lists Look More Attractive

Decoding Deceptive Pet Food Companies Practices: How they make their Ingredients Lists Look More Attractive

As the saying goes, "you are what you eat." This timeless adage rings true not only for humans but also for our beloved pets. The food we provide to our furry companions plays a crucial role in their overall health, well-being, and longevity.

In an era where pet food options are abundant, the importance of transparency and quality in pet food has never been more critical. Understanding what goes into your pet’s food and ensuring that it meets high standards of quality can make all the difference in their health and happiness.

This blog post will explore why transparency in pet food labeling and the quality of ingredients are essential factors to consider when choosing the best diet for your pets.


The First step in choosing a quality pet food is by looking at the ingredients.  

  • Rule: Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight as required by law. The first few ingredients are the most predominant in the product.

  • Action: Focus on the first three to five ingredients to get a sense of the primary components of the product.

Unfortunately, many commercial pet food companies employ various tactics to make their ingredients list appear more attractive, even when the actual quality may be questionable.

Here’s a closer look at FIVE of these deceptive practices and what they mean for your pet's health.

1. Ingredient Splitting

What It Is: Ingredient splitting involves breaking down a less desirable ingredient into its component parts and listing them separately.

Example: A label might list "corn meal," "corn gluten," and "ground corn" separately, which makes each component appear lower on the list. However, if combined, corn might actually be the primary ingredient.

Why It’s Deceptive: By splitting the ingredient, manufacturers can push more desirable ingredients, like meat, higher up the list, creating the illusion that the food is meat-based when, in reality, it might be mostly corn.


2. Using Vague Terms

What It Is: Companies use vague or generic terms instead of specific ones.

Example: "Meat meal" or "animal fat" rather than specifying "chicken meal" or "beef fat."

Why It’s Deceptive: These vague terms can encompass a wide range of sources, including lower-quality or even unidentified animal parts. This lack of specificity hides the true nature of the ingredients.

3. Highlighting Beneficial Ingredients

What It Is: Prominently featuring beneficial ingredients that are present in insignificant amounts.

Example: A pet food label might highlight "blueberries" and "spinach" in large print, but these ingredients are often included in minuscule amounts, listed far down on the ingredients list.

Why It’s Deceptive: This tactic makes the product appear healthier and more nutritious than it is, misleading pet owners into thinking their pets are receiving significant amounts of these beneficial ingredients.


4. Using By-products and Meals

What It Is: Including by-products and meals as primary protein sources.

Example: "Chicken by-product meal" instead of whole chicken.

Why It’s Deceptive: While by-products and meals can provide protein, they often consist of lower-quality parts of the animal, such as organs and connective tissue, which may not be as nutritionally beneficial as whole meat.


5. Artificial Enhancements

What It Is: Adding artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives to enhance appearance and taste.

Example: "Artificial chicken flavor" or "Yellow 5."

Why It’s Deceptive: These additives make the food more appealing to pets and owners but offer no nutritional value and can potentially cause health issues, such as allergies or behavioral problems.

Understandably many pet owners rely on commercial pet foods for their convenience and wide availability. Below is a list of good and bad ingredients, ranking them from best to worst.


The Best Ingredients

  1. Whole Meat (Chicken, Beef, Lamb, etc.)
    • Why It’s Good: Whole meat is a primary source of high-quality protein, essential amino acids, and natural nutrients. It closely mimics a pet's ancestral diet, promoting optimal health.
    • Example: Chicken,  Beef, Lamb
  1. Organs (Liver, Kidney, Heart)
    • Why It’s Good: Organs are nutrient-dense, providing essential vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. They are crucial for a balanced raw diet.
    • Example: Beef Liver, Chicken Heart, Lamb Kidney
  1. Bone (Ground Bone, Bone Meal)
    • Why It’s Good: Bones provide calcium and phosphorus, essential for strong bones and teeth. In a raw diet, bones also help keep teeth clean and gums healthy.
    • Example: Ground Chicken Bone, Bone Meal
  1. Vegetables and Fruits (Spinach, Carrots, Blueberries)
    • Why It’s Good: While not a primary part of a carnivorous diet, vegetables and fruits offer fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, supporting overall health and digestion.
    • Example: Spinach, Carrots, Blueberries
  1. Eggs
    • Why It’s Good: Eggs are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. They support muscle development and provide a shiny coat.
    • Example: Egg Yolk, Whole Egg
  1. Fish (Sardines, Salmon)
    • Why It’s Good: Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote a healthy coat, skin, and brain function. It also provides high-quality protein.
    • Example: Sardines, Salmon


Ingredients to Use with Caution

  1. Meat By-products
    • Why It’s Cautious: By-products can include various low value animal parts like lung, intestines and feet. While they provide nutrients, the quality and source can vary significantly.
    • Example: Chicken By-products, Beef By-products, Meat Meal
  1. Plant-based Proteins
    • Why It’s Cautious: Plant-based proteins can supplement protein needs but lack the full amino acid profile found in animal proteins. They should not be the primary protein source for carnivorous pets.
    • Example: Pea Protein, Lentil Protein, Soy Protein
  1. Cooked Carbohydrates
    • Why It’s Cautious: While some carbs provide energy, they are not necessary in large amounts for carnivorous pets and can contribute to weight gain if overfed.
    • Example: Rice, Potatoes, Carrots, Beet Pulp


The Worst Ingredients

  1. Artificial Preservatives (BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin)
    • Why It’s Bad: These chemicals extend shelf life but are linked to potential health risks like cancer and organ toxicity. Natural preservation methods are preferable.
    • Example: BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), Ethoxyquin
  1. Artificial Colors and Flavors
    • Why It’s Bad: These additives offer no nutritional value and can cause allergic reactions or behavioral issues. They are used to make the food look better to humans.
    • Example: Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 5
  1. Fillers (Corn, Wheat)
    • Why It’s Bad: Fillers are low-cost ingredients that provide bulk but minimal nutritional value. They can cause allergies and digestive issues in some pets.
    • Example: Corn Gluten Meal, Wheat Middlings


Choosing the right pet food, whether raw or commercial, involves understanding the ingredients listed on the label. It's crucial to select high-quality, natural ingredients that closely mimic a pet’s ancestral diet to optimize for health.

For commercial foods, prioritize whole meats, organs, and natural sources of nutrients while avoiding artificial additives and low-quality fillers.

When in doubt, consult with a pet nutritionist or your veterinarian to ensure your pet receives the best possible nutrition tailored to their specific needs.

By making informed choices, you can significantly enhance your pet’s health and happiness. Happy feeding!



Coates, J. (n.d.). Whole Meats and Pet Nutrition. Retrieved from PetMD.

Pet Food Institute. (n.d.). Understanding Pet Food Labels. Retrieved from Pet Food Institute.

American College of Veterinary Nutrition. (n.d.). Artificial Preservatives in Pet Food. Retrieved from ACVN.

Hill, R. (n.d.). Understanding Meat By-products in Pet Food. Retrieved from University of Florida.

Becker, K. (n.d.). Corn and Wheat in Pet Food. Retrieved from Healthy Pets.

Philippine National Standard. (2014). Pet Food Labelling (PNS/BAFS 140:2014). Retrieved from Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards. 



Back to blog