If you’ve never heard the term “buzzword” before, let me explain what it means and how the pet food industry lures you in with this pretty powerful technique.

If you’ve ever taken the time to study marketing or advertising, you’d have uncovered a plethora of buzzwords and clever terms used to scoop customers into whatever product or service the marketing scheme is geared toward.

There is a mountain of information, emotional appeals and tricks used by advertisers to get customers to race toward a certain product or service without questioning or thinking critically.  This also extends to pet food and pet products as well, of course.

This wholistic veterinarian recently shared that we now have another buzzword to add to the list: “reformulated.”  She reported on the news that a “very large pet food manufacturer” is in the process of “reformulating” one of its brands of dog food in order to add more natural ingredients.

The reformulated products will theoretically include more “quality protein” as its primary ingredient; or will they?

Here’s my feelings on what they will do.  Yes, they will add a protein such as chicken and they’ll even add enough of it to make it the very first ingredient on the label.  Sounds good huh?  Not so fast.

If that first ingredient were chicken meal — that would be better because chicken meal actually contains much more protein than just chicken.  Chicken contains roughly 70% water, while chicken meal has been depleted of the water.  This is how manufacturers of questionable pet foods trick consumers.

The next paragraph explains a little more.

So, What Does This Mean for The Pet Food Consumer?

The first item on these so-called reformulated products is a “named animal protein” or a “named protein meal.” This means something like chicken or lamb meal or some other such term. However, pet food ingredients are listed by weight before moisture is removed.

In other words, because the meat still contains all it’s moisture, it weighs much more.

Once the chicken or lamb meal is depleted of moisture through the manufacturing process, it now weighs a lot less and really shouldn’t be the first name on the list of ingredients unless the dog food manufacturer is increasing the amount of meat in the first place.

While we’re looking at certain words, we should also check out the word “meal” in these sorts of contexts. On pet food labels, meal refers to the fresh meat that has been dried and then pulverized. Any heavy water or moisture content has been removed to make the “dry stuff” of your commercial pet food.

Because pet food companies are not required by law to disclose the type or quality of meat involved in the so-called meal, sorting through pet food ingredients becomes less an act of educating yourself a more a magic trick worthy of David Copperfield.

What Do You Do?

Check at least the first five ingredients on the dog food label. You’re looking for a specific meat by name, not some nebulous or impossible to understand mix of chemically-altered products. You also don’t want to see grains as key ingredients.

Watch Out for The Grain

Pet food should have meat or meal as first and second ingredients, ideally, and even as the third ingredient.  If this is not the case, be aware that you are effectively purchasing a grain-based food for your dog.  Given the weight diminishment that comes through the removal of moisture, if a grain turns up as the second or third ingredient on the pet food you’ve got some trouble.

A lot of commercial dog foods have something called “brewer’s rice” as the second ingredient. These are the small milled fragments of rice separated from larger kernels of milled rice. It doesn’t have many of the nutrients found in brown rice and is of relatively low quality.

See Janie’s favorite dog food pick!

On top of brewer’s rice, ingredients like whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, brown rice, pearled barley, whole grain wheat, and other grains are often included. Once again, these are grain-based dog foods.

The lesson here is to check the labels and learn to read behind the marketing jargon. Define terms and set your own standards for your pet. Don’t rely on some marketing team in an office somewhere. Trust your instincts and your know how.

Here’s an article that’s the perfect example of using buzzwords on dog food labels to lure unsuspecting dog owners to buy.

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Showing 2 comments
  • gspal

    You 404’d it. Gnarly, dude. Error
    Read more: https://yourolddog.com/10047/shop-smart-pet-food-buzzwords-to-watch-out-for/#ixzz2LHeuaCOX when one clicks on “here” at Learn more about dog food labels and what to look for here.

    I have been subscribing to your newsletter since 2009-2010. I am from India. My pets are usually abandoned and abused German Spitz whom I adore and have had this breed of pets for coming to 30 years. The current one, Bozo, of about 6 years in age, that I adopted in Oct 2010 suffers from partial cataract, bladder calculi resulting in nephrolithiasis. Being an adult dog on adoption I told the vets to go to hell with their combo vaccination suggestions though I monitor its health with blood and urinal tests every 6-9 months and take corrective vet advice if its creatinine/BUN, calcium/phosphorous, heme/platelets/WBC, pH, etc is not normal. It has been on ayurvedic Nefrotec DS two tabs a day for calculi and nephrolithiasia, and 2-3 g of Venky’s Gutwell being pre & probiotics and digestive enzymes (. It is a challenge what to feed it as we are vegetarians by choice and German Spitz are quite finicky. Its food needs to be of high biological value. Does not like boiled eggs, but is ever-ready for a plain omelet. For kibble I give it Venky’s Regale (http://www.venkys.com/products/pet-food-and-health-care/pet-food-and-treats/regale-meal/) which is basically imported by Venky’s from Total Alimentos, Brazil, as it hates anything that smells less of protein like that from Farmina or Royal Canin diet food. Other than that some milk with Gutwell, some home derived cheese with a chapatti or Isabgol ( psyllium husk). I would appreciate comments about Bozo’s diet and on Venky’s Regale, a chicken-based product.

    • janie knetzer

      Hi Gspal:
      Let me start by saying “thank you” for following my newsletters for the past couple of years. It’s always nice to hear from a veteran visitor. 😮

      It sounds like you’re doing a great job with Bozo and his stone problem. I’m not familiar with the dog food “Venkys”, but it appears there is alot of grain, but for dogs who are susceptible to to stones, this is often recommended. However, this isn’t to say that Bozo doesn’t need or shouldn’t eat good forms of protein — he should. But as you know, you have to watch the purine content in foods. Egg is definitely an excellent idea for him mixed with the Venky’s if he’ll eat it, but you should add liquid to it for the kidneys.

      You can also season the omelet with a little olive or sunflower oil and even throw in some green beans and other low purine fruits and veggies. The thing to keep in mind is that Bozo needs high quality protein with low purine levels and this is where the balancing act comes. Dry dog food alone is not a good idea. These dogs definitely need moisture in their foods. Certain soups are also good Gspal because of the liquid. I’m including a couple of links for you that I think you may find helpful.

      Hope this helps.
      Janie 😮

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