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Ingredient order and relative weight

3 min read

One of the most critical factors when evaluating dry cat food is the order and relative weight of the ingredients listed. This practice offers valuable insights into the nutritional content and quality of the food. Here’s a closer look at why this matters and how it affects dry cat food quality.

Importance of Ingredient Order #

According to regulations, pet food manufacturers must list the ingredients on the product label in order of their predominance by weight. This means that the ingredient present in the highest amount is listed first, followed by the next highest amount, and so on.

This requirement’s rationale is to provide consumers with transparency about the primary ingredients and their relative proportions in the product. This listing order is crucial for understanding the composition of the food and evaluating its quality based on the ingredients.

Since cats are obligate carnivores, animal-based proteins at the top of the list generally indicate higher food quality.

Ingredients are weighed before processing; thus, meats containing a lot of moisture might appear higher on the list compared to denser, drier ingredients like meat meals, which could offer more protein overall.

Relative Weight and Ingredient Quality #

The relative weight of ingredients helps determine their contribution to the overall nutritional profile of the food. For instance, a cat food listing ‘chicken’ as the first ingredient suggests chicken is the most substantial component by weight. However, if the next ingredients include multiple carbohydrate sources like corn and rice, these might cumulatively outweigh the meat, reducing the vital protein percentage for cats.

Impact on Nutritional Balance #

Protein is a critical component of a cat’s diet, essential for growth, repair, and overall health. The source and amount of protein are significant, with animal-based proteins preferable. Foods with plant-based proteins listed high (e.g., corn gluten meal, soybean meal) might not provide the complete amino acid profile cats require. Moreover, the position of these proteins relative to other ingredients can affect the food’s nutritional quality, as plant proteins are generally considered less desirable than animal proteins.

Misleading Practices #

Manufacturers might manipulate ingredient lists through a practice known as “ingredient splitting.” This involves listing different forms of the same ingredient separately (e.g., ground corn, corn gluten) to lower their apparent contribution by weight. This can make the animal protein appear as a more significant part of the food than it truly is, potentially misleading consumers about the quality of the product.

Evaluating Carbohydrates and Fillers #

Cats can only partially digest carbohydrates, so they should form a minimal part of their diet. High carbohydrate content, indicated by several grain or vegetable entries in the top ingredients, can suggest lower food quality. Carbohydrates are often used as fillers to reduce production costs but offer little nutritional value to cats, who thrive on a protein-rich diet.

Examples #

  1. Ingredient List: Chicken meal, brown rice, peas, chicken fat, flaxseed…

In this example, chicken meal is listed first, indicating that it is the ingredient present in the highest amount by weight in the food. Brown rice is the second-highest ingredient, followed by peas, chicken fat, and flaxseed.

  1. Ingredient List: Salmon, ocean fish meal, lentils, peas, chickpeas…

Salmon is the predominant ingredient by weight, followed by ocean fish meal, lentils, peas, and chickpeas.

  1. Ingredient List: Lamb meal, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, chicken fat, dried beet pulp…

In this case, lamb meal is the primary ingredient by weight, with brewers rice being the second-highest, followed by corn gluten meal, chicken fat, and dried beet pulp.

Updated on June 12, 2024
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How the score is calculated?

The actual calculation of the score is based on sophisticated and advanced algorithm that takes into account multiple parameters.

To simplify the explanation, the calculation is based on three main criteria:

(1) Amount of protein (more is better)

(2) Amount of carbohydrates (less is better)

(3) Quality and source of ingredients.

Based on that 3 main criteria, 9 score calculation rules are used to compare the different foods.

One major assumption is that the closer an ingredient is to the top of the ingredient list, the greater its relative weight and contribution to the food.

In general, cat food is composed of protein, fats, carbohydrates, fibers, vitamins, and minerals.

Protein is the most important component in a cat’s diet, and cats primarily get their protein from animal meat.

Fat is a primary source of energy and essential fatty acids.

Carbohydrates are controversial in a cat’s diet, as cats are obligate carnivores and typically consume very few carbohydrates.

Fibers play an important role in digestion and food absorption, and vitamins and minerals are essential for different organism functions.

Dry matter values are used to compare the amount of nutrients in different cat foods.
This means that moisture is excluded from the equation to provide a more accurate comparison.

Putting all of these and more into a formula results in a product score.

The maximum score a cat food can receive is 100.
Points are added or removed based on the score calculation rules.