Worst Reasons to Choose a Dog Food: The Name

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filet mignon dog food?

What’s in a dog food name?

We had a great reaction to the first installment of our “Worst reasons to choose a dog food” series.  Today we present another questionable reason for choosing a dog food: the NAME.


What is in a Dog Food Name?

One of the most common traps that pet owners fall into when choosing a pet food is their reliance on the food name when making their purchase decisions.  Using a food’s name, or the name of a food brand, is not a great way to find healthy pet food.    To understand why, let’s  first examine the FDA labeling requirements for pet food.


There are four key labeling rules that impact how the pet food manufacturer can label their products.  Summaries of these are provided below (visit the FDA website for all of the details)

  1. 95% Rule:  This rule states that if named, at least 95% of the product, not including water and condiments (e.g. vitamins), must actually be that named ingredient (e.g. Chicken Dog Food).  Counting the added water, the named ingredient still must comprise 70% of the product.  If the name includes a combination of ingredients, such as “Chicken and Beef Dog Food,” the two named ingredients together must comprise 95% of the total weight of the food.
  2. 25% Rule:  This rule, also known as the “dinner” rule, states that if the named ingredients comprise at least 25% of the product (not counting the water for processing), but less than 95%, the name must include a qualifying descriptive term, such as “Dinner” (e.g. “Chicken Dinner for Dogs.”).  Counting the added water, the named ingredients still must comprise at least 10% of the product. If more than one ingredient is included in a “dinner” name, the combination of the named ingredients must total 25% of the product and be listed in the same order as found on the ingredient list. Each named ingredient must individually be at least 3% of the total weight of the food.
  3. 3% Rule: This rule, also known as the “with” rule, generally applies to ingredients highlighted on the principle display panel, but not in the product name, in order to allow manufacturers to point out the presence of minor ingredients that were not added in sufficient quantity to merit a “dinner” claim. For example, “Chicken Dinner for Dogs” could include a “with cheese” on the food label if at least 3% cheese is added to the recipe.
  4. Flavor Rule:  This rule states only that a product must contain an amount of the “flavor” ingredient that is sufficient to be able to be detected and that a minimum percentage is not required. Further, pet foods can use “digests,” which are materials treated with heat, enzymes and/or acids to form concentrated natural flavors, and use these to meet the ‘flavor’ rule requirement. Thus, only a small amount of a “chicken digest” is needed to produce a “Chicken Flavored “food,  even though no actual chicken is added to the food. Stocks or broths are also occasionally added as the flavor ingredient.


It is apparent from the FDA pet food rules that unless you are aware of the nuances of pet food labeling, what you see (or read) is not necessarily what you get.  A real example can help illustrate this point.


Yummy Sounding Dog Food that isn’t so Yummy

There is a dog food that is called: “Filet Mignon Flavor with bacon and potato”.   That sounds quite delicious!  Filet mignon and bacon, what’s not to like about that?  Not so fast.


Although the ingredient panel does list bacon, there is no filet mignon in this food.  Just something called ‘filet mignon flavor’, which is the 24th ingredient on the list. The primary source of protein in this food is the infamous “beef by-products”, followed by “animal liver” and then “meat by-products”.  Indeed, there is no way of knowing what is really in this food at all.


What if your dog is allergic to chicken and you choose this food because it is a ‘beef’ based dog food?  You are out of luck.  Both chicken and chicken by-products are also included in the recipe.


What is the Name of Your Dog’s Food?

What is the name of your dog food?  Does it sound really good to you?  It is worth taking a few minutes and reading the ingredient list to make sure that the food’s name matches with its actual ingredients.


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  1. Great post guys! I love this series. I would highly recommend “It has Natural in the Name” as one of your next ones. This means so very little when it comes to pet foods.

    This video kind of sums it up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AftZshnP8fs

  2. More advertising deception. Food doesn’t fool us as we study up and know what we will buy, but treats are tough. Now our system is that we know the brands that are good and can then choose the more appealing names/flavors from that brand. Food and treats are a giant mine field! Look out!
    emma recently posted…Hey Fido! Hey Fluffy! Is your weight making your fur feel snug? | GBGV | #HillsPetMy Profile

    • Deception? Maybe, maybe not. The food companies are abiding by the ‘rules’. For us pet owners, we just need to learn to dig deeper than the surface level information. Also, we need to learn to de-emphasize the information we get from the advertising. It is meant to catch our attention, not to educate.
      steve recently posted…Worst Reasons to Choose a Dog Food: The NameMy Profile

  3. It’s so hard to know what you really are getting. This is when I love the owner of the locally owned (NOT a chain) pet store, who does lots of research and will only even stock the foods that meet her high standard. In fact last year one brand changed their formula and she stopped carrying them! Unfortunately grocery stores and chain pet stores are not so picky. And not everyone can afford the high quality foods she carries.
    Amy recently posted…Let The Camping Begin!My Profile

    • True that! We, too have an awesome pet retailer nearby and the owners stock high quality products.

      Price can be an issue. We hope that pet owners will do the research on the food ingredients and then choose the best food possible given their budget.
      steve recently posted…Worst Reasons to Choose a Dog Food: The NameMy Profile

  4. Our brands have fancy names, but not descriptive of the ingredients in them. I never knew there were rules. Thanks for the info.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…DistractionsMy Profile

  5. This has been a great series! I’m constantly referring people to your site to check out what you have to say about dog foods and treats. Keep up the good work! (I have no idea what my dog food is called – I think it’s adult maintenance)
    Flea recently posted…3 Reasons My Puppy Loves the L BoneMy Profile

  6. Such an important series. Paws up to you and others like you, providing such valuable information for the rest of us. I’ve now dived into making homemade treats because I’m more aware of the ingredients that are in what I “used” to buy. Not to mention it’s a whole lot cheaper. Thanks Slim, really appreciate you…
    Cathy recently posted…LIVIN FOR THE WEEKENDMy Profile

  7. Our dog food is called Acana and our cat food is called Merricks before grain. So neither really have an appealing title but both are great foods! Food for my pets is something I try and pay close attention to. Great post and info as always Slim!
    (Voting reminder, thanks pal!)
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…It has arrived!!My Profile

  8. So very true! I used to shop based on the picture and the name – never turning the bag or can around to see if that’s what it really was.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…A Dog Mom’s Wish List for a New Dog Car #SubaruMy Profile

  9. This is great–and important–information. Thanks!

    –Woofs (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats
    Susan and the gang from LifeWithDogsAndCats.com recently posted…Haiku by Dog: AgainMy Profile

  10. Didn’t know that about the naming rules, but we’ve been researching and reading labels carefully for years. Great post!
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…Monday Mischief: A Message in the MischiefMy Profile

  11. This is a great post. So many dog foods are just total junk with slick marketing

    retro rover
    retro rover recently posted…Tasty Tuesday Hare of the DogMy Profile

  12. I am now a label reader on all of Bentley’s food and treats!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Petbrosia and Tuesday’s TailsMy Profile

  13. Very informative. Thanks for getting back to me so soon on the food listings. I think Honey will be a much healthier dog soon with all this good information.

  14. Just read the foods database – so helpful – will throw out her old food (low ranked) that she doesn’t like anyway and go to the store today for a better brand to try. Thank you bunches!

  15. You don’t even want to hear the conversation mom had with my grandma over her thinking Beneful is a good food! Mom learned so much about food labels because of my allergies, its the most important thing a pet parent can do. Love Dolly
    Dolly the Doxie recently posted…Pet Blogger Education to Benefit our ReadersMy Profile

  16. The more I read about dog food, the harder it becomes to be sure I am giving the best! Sigh! But I guess it is really no different then buying many of my own food and cosmetic products.
    Hailey and Zaphod recently posted…Spring – Will You Ever Come?My Profile

  17. Been very conscious on what’s on the name/label versus the actual ingredients. Every pet parent must know. Great info. Happy Tasty Tuesday. Golden Woofs
    Golden Woofs: Sugar recently posted…A Treat Makes Sugar Happy, Smiley Banana FrostyMy Profile

  18. That is a very informative post about dog food. Pet owners should be educated more with this kind of information. The pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar industry – we can be sure that there are some bad apples out there. For me, I sometimes feed my dogs with a fresh, raw chicken diet for the natural glucosamine found in it 🙂
    Shelly recently posted…Dealing With Excitement and Submissive UrinationMy Profile

  19. Great info! The manufacturers are sneeky, sneeky I tell you.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Wordless Wednesday~World Epilepsy Awareness DayMy Profile

  20. This really is eye opening! I bet my Mum has no idea about these rules!

    I have Honest Kitchen Dog Food, so I’m hoping they’re honest about what’s in it!

    Hope you’re having a fun day

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂
    snoopy recently posted…Monday Mischief – Squirrel ProtocolMy Profile

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