The Importance of Learning to Read Nutritional Labels

I am a marketer with a solid career of convincing people that the product I represent is something they cannot live without. While I have enjoyed this career for many years, there are times when I believe the profession goes too far practicing borderline deceptive activities where marketers convince the consumer that the product they produce is actually good for you. The pet food industry is one of those areas.

For years we have watched endless commercials for Kibbles & Bits and Friskey’s showing happy pets and colorful pet food. The commercials play on the consumers emotions and do little to educate the consumer on the quality of their product. The truth is, they know the majority of consumers don’t or don’t know how to read a nutritional label on a bag of pet food. Often, if they do read, they see ingredients that they don’t recognize but because the television is telling them their pet will be happy, they put faith in the company that it would never provide our pets with any ingredient that wasn’t good for them. Right?

It now seems that the trend with pet food manufacturers is to make “natural” and “holistic” claims. After all, I’m sure research has shown that adding these claims to a bag of food further convinces the consumer the product is good for their pet. This has always been disturbing to me but the recent launch of Hill’s Ideal Balance CRAFTED Naturals has taken consumer gouging to a whole new level.   With a fancy bag and claims of “crafted in small batches” similar to a micro-brewed beer, they have claimed to develop a dog food that is worth $70 for a 15-pound bag. Buyer beware.

Before investing in such marketing claims, do your research. Below is the nutritional label from the Hill’s Ideal Balance Crafted Natural Pacific-Style Trout & Mixed Vegetables. In most dog foods, you will find the first 5-7 ingredients make up the bulk of the food. Similar to human food nutritional packaging, the foods are listed with the highest amount of a product first BUT beware, this is by weight PRIOR to cooking. Note, the first ingredient is trout, a high moisture fish. Once the food is processed through the traditional “extrusion” process (a high heat and pressure process that removes most of the moisture), there could be very little trout actually remaining in the product. This is likely why the overall protein in this product is a low 18%. In addition, be suspect of claims such as “chicken liver flavor” without a natural reference. Also concerning are ingredients like “powdered cellulose” and “dried beet pulp”, both receiving a 1 star rating (out of five) by Natural News, a science-based natural health advocacy organization ( The icing on the cake for me was the inclusion of apples, broccoli and zucchini at the end of the list indicating likely only trace amounts are found. It’s almost like they finished the formula and noticed the lack of “real” ingredients and decided to throw these in.

In closing, I am a believer in investing in good quality foods for your pet. I believe it not only leads to a longer life but a higher quality life for your pet. There are many ways the current pet food manufacturers mislead the consumer into thinking their product will provide just those benefits we are seeking so take the time to educate yourself. You and your pet will be glad you did.


Warranty, Awards, Certifications or Expert Recommendations:
Hill’s Ideal Balance Crafted Natural Pacific-Style Trout & Mixed Vegetables Recipe Dog Food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance of adult dogs.

Trout, Cracked Pearled Barley, Yellow Peas, Whole Grain Oats, Pea Protein, Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat, Chicken Liver Flavor, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Powdered Cellulose, Dried Beet Pulp, Parsley, Canola Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Malted Barley, Flaxseed, Choline Chloride, Green Peas, Carrots, Potassium Chloride, Iodized Salt, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Cranberries, Taurine, Mixed Tocopherols (For Freshness), Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Apples, Broccoli, Zucchini, Citric Acid (For Freshness), Beta Carotene and Rosemary Extract

Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein (min) 18.0%
Crude Fat (min) 10.0%
Crude Fiber (max) 7.0%
Moisture (max) 11.0%