Trying to compare different brands or examine the nutrition content of your pet’s food? Sometimes reading a guaranteed analysis can be confusing and may even be misleading. Here is a Kabo guide to understanding the nutritional information listed on your pet’s food.
What is a guaranteed analysis?
A guaranteed analysis is required on pet food labels and displays the macronutrient levels in the food. Ultimately, it gives owners an idea of a product's nutrient content. Crude protein, crude fat, crude fibre and moisture is required to be listed on the label but it may sometimes also include additional information like calcium, omega 3, and sodium content.
Where do I find a guaranteed analysis?
Labelling of a guaranteed analysis is required by AAFCO, the governing body of pet food. This means that you will find the guaranteed analysis somewhere on the pet food packaging, usually the sides or back of the bag/box. At Kabo, we list our guaranteed analysis on the info card included in our shipments. Most pet food companies also list nutritional information on their websites.
Here is an example of what a guaranteed analysis chart looks like:
How do I read a guaranteed analysis?
This is where it gets a little more difficult. Guaranteed analysis’ are required to be displayed on an “as fed” basis. This means that they take into account the amount of water in the pet food, which is represented by moisture % on the guaranteed analysis chart.
Unfortunately, “as fed” is not the most accurate way to read about nutrient content. When taking into account the water content of food, it can be difficult to compare pet food across different product types. For example, kibble looks like it has a much higher nutrient content than canned, fresh or raw food, when read on an “as fed” basis. This is because wet food has +30% moisture, while kibble only contains around 10-12% moisture.
In order to accurately compare nutrient content of pet food, the nutritional information on a guaranteed analysis needs to be converted from “as fed” to “dry matter”. Dry matter removes the dilution factor of water and makes all pet food equal. Some simple math is involved but it is relatively easy to calculate. Below is the calculation to convert as fed to dry matter:
The following is an example of how to compare the protein content of kibble and fresh cooked food on a dry matter basis.
1. Upon first glance, it looks like kibble is much higher in protein. This is why we must convert to dry matter in order to accurately compare the 2 food types.
2. Use the dry matter equation to calculate the dry matter protein content of each type of food.
3. After conversion, you can see that the fresh food actually has a higher protein content than kibble.
Take home message
In order to critically evaluate the nutrient content of pet food, owners must consider moisture content and the type of food. Converting the information on the guaranteed analysis is the only way to ensure that you are feeding your dog the proper amount of food. This will help you to avoid over or under feeding your pet. It is also important to consider dry matter nutrient content when feeding animals with health problems that can easily be influenced by nutrition.