Can pet food labels be misleading?

Ingredient splitting is the most deceptive and commonly used marketing tactic in the pet food industry. On top of that, all pet food manufacturers deny any wrongdoing. They claim they are only according to Federal labeling regulations.

However, smart and honest pet food companies know all about these fake ones. They claim that ingredient splitting is an intentional attempt by pet food manufacturers to deceive customers and a misleading approach to make an ingredients list appear more appealing to potential buyers. So to know more about misleading pet food labels, we must know what ingredient splitting is.

Ingredient splitting explained

Ingredient splitting is when pet food manufacturers use a creative method that involves separating more inferior or low-quality ingredients into smaller parts of similar goods.

It’s a deceptive approach to artificially enhance the score of a more desirable item like meat and at the same time lower the value of an item that is not so desirable like corn or rice.  Is this legal? Yes, unfortunately, it’s all perfectly legal.

How do pet food label misleading works?

Assume you have a dog food recipe that includes corn and rice as the main ingredients. Now because grains are less tempting for pet food than meat, manufacturers are forced to lower the placements of non-meat products on the ingredients label.

Take note that pet food manufacturers are legally required to list each ingredient in the right order before processing. Take a look at this example.

Before ingredient splitting, corn and rice rank first and second.

Then what happens if the first two things on the list are “divided” into smaller parts of similar ingredients?

With that in mind, pet food manufacturers divide the corn into smaller portions of corn meal and corn flour. Then divide the rice into white and brown rice.

And, just like that, even though the amount of chicken meal stays the same, it has been moved to the top of the ingredients list.

Can you avoid this misleading ingredient trick?

Do you see how pet food manufacturers could deceive by separating ingredients?

An example from real life is a pet food packaging that advertises “meat is the first ingredient”? It usually goes as “100% chicken.”  What exactly does a hundred percent chicken mean?

Does “100 % chicken imply that chicken is the most abundant element in the recipe?

Or does it mean that the pet food manufacturer was effective in manipulating the nutritional information label?

Splitting ingredients is neither good nor harmful. Unless a pet food company chooses to mislead by using ingredient splitting.

From this, pet food manufacturers can conclude that one must not claim if any meat or ingredient is the main ingredient. Keep in mind that the order of the ingredients can be changed.

That is why the first five ingredients in any label tend to provide a much more realistic representation of the actual content of pet foods.

The actual amount of meat

Raw meat is either boiled or dehydrated before being included as an ingredient in pet foods or meals. Aside from the reduction in nutrition, the issue is that some corporations weigh the meat in its raw state and utilize that amount to place the meat at the top of the nutrition label. Raw meat is relatively heavy due to its fat and moisture content, but once cooked or dehydrated, it naturally drops way down the list of ingredients, which includes cheap maize, rice, and grains.

The following is the first section of a pet food ingredient list from a large pet food company. The product’s advertised characteristic is that it contains “genuine beef”:

  • Beef
  •  Corn
  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Whole Wheat
  • Chicken By-Product meal
  • Corn Gluten Meal

Meat is only at the top of this list because it was weighed in the raw form once the pet food is prepared it is obvious that the ingredients below are in a higher quantity.


This is why pet manufacturers should genuinely try and keep the quantity of their first ingredient higher even after being processed. In this way labels will not be misleading. Another important factor pet food companies should consider is to only buy their ingredient from high quality pet ingredient suppliers as there are also some suppliers out there who supply fake or low-quality ingredients.

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