Demystifying Dog Food - Part 1


I remember when I decided to start baking dog treats, I started looking at the ingredients in some of the popular store-bought treats. I was often staring down at a list of chemicals, by-products, non-specific animal sources, etc. Little did I know that dog food manufacturers have taken simplicity out of dog food purchasing.

With a plethora of dog food, it is crucial to take a step back to understand what is going inside the packaging. In the interest of keeping the post short and to the point, let us get into the gritty details.


Pet Food Naming



Let’s start with the pet naming convention; this is where things start to get misleading. Pet food manufacturers have taken simple English words and twisted them to meet AAFCO regulations.


Below is a table with AAFCO approved terminology and percentage content of the primary protein source


Every protein has moisture content, and the above regulations do not account for moisture content. Most meats have almost 70% moisture content. Remember Lamb Formula for a dog requires to have at least 25% of lamb (table above). Let’s consider the following two scenarios. 

 1. If the first ingredient reads – Lamb Meal. Meal by definition is dehydrated. So the probability of this Lamb formula having at least 25% Lamb is high.


2. If the first ingredient reads – Lamb, i.e., the inflated weight due to moisture content has not been accounted for. This Lamb Formula could potentially have as little as 7.5% lamb. (70% of 25% = 7.5%)


Interestingly, this particular “Lamb Food” has a cheaper “Poultry by-product” meal in it.

The implication of this is that a Lamb formula bag, which is supposed to have at least 25% Lamb can now have only 7.5% of Lamb – the other 17.5% would account for moisture.


The manufacturers are required to put the list of ingredients (before processing) by weight in descending order; however, they are not required to disclose the exact amount of ingredients. This makes for a fun guessing game.


The “and” rule

Let’s say a dog food bag says Lamb and Rice Formula. Since there is the usage of the word “and” AAFCO requires the net weight of Lamb and Rice to be 25% with a minimum amount of Lamb to be 3%.

Mostly, once the pet food manufacturer adds the word “and” to the name, they get a pass to lower the protein requirement from 25% to 3%.


Let’s try to bring it all together with the example below:



  1. The name has Formula in it; hence AAFCO requires minimum protein to be 25% (Naming Rule)

  2. Since it is a Lamb “and” Brown Rice Recipe, AAFCO overrides the minimum protein rule and states that the weight of Lamb and Brown Rice needs to be at least 25% with Lamb to be at least 3% (And Rule)

  3. Note that the bag’s first ingredient is Deboned Lamb and not Lamb Meal. There is a numerous possibility that this Lamb is not dehydrated, accounting for the water weight. 70% of the water has been included to male lamb the first ingredient. (Moisture).

  4. You don’t have to go down the ingredient list much to realize that this bag might have more Turkey than lamb, which is cheaper meat than lamb. Note that the 2nd ingredient is Turkey Meal, which is dehydrated (no moisture)


I want to continue this discussion in the interest of educating myself and creating awareness with my readers. Keep a lookout for further analysis of dog food. If you want a more detailed report, please visit the source links below.

 Please note, you should always consult a vet before making any changes to your dog’s food. 

 Source: AAFCO

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