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5 Steps to Picking a Dry Kibble

DIY Label reading
label reading

So let’s begin!

1 where's it made?
Select a bag of food, turn it over and look for where it's made. Companies that manufacture their products solely in Canada & the US are proud of it and will boast about it. If there isn't a country of origin on the bag, then the ingredients used are iffy at best.

2 Where and what's the fat?
Now find the panel of ingredients (you may have to look on the side panel.) Read down that list until you come to the very first form of fat and STOP there. The fat may come from an array of sources, for example, avocado oil, coconut oil, flax oil, chicken fat, or beef tallow. So long as that fat source is from a declared species it's worth your time. However, if that fat is random i.e. “animal fat”, don’t bother wasting any more precious energy and select a different brand.  
Now pay attention to all the ingredients before the fat. This short list is what makes up 85% or more of your pet’s food. Anything below it, although often immensely healthful or immensely harmful, is merely a small ration of the entire picture. 

3 what's the protein?
Now, with our focus on these first few ingredients, we will begin to evaluate what’s in the bulk of the bag.
If you saw corn, wheat or soy put down the bag and back away. 
Choose another bag & repeat step 1 till you find a bag that does not contain corn, wheat or soy. 
OK, Good job. 
Now the first one or three ingredients should be a meat or meat meal. (Please note here that meat meals are a higher concentration of meat than actual “meat” because they have the moisture already eliminated from them see Blog Meat -vs- Meal). 
This is your pet’s primary protein source and should be an identifiable species like bison, chicken, salmon. The next ingredient should be a starch adequate for binding that’s not offensive to a canine or feline. Carnivores don’t actually require a starch to survive so this ingredients’ real purpose is to bind all the good stuff into a kibble. There are some big fat NO’s in this category to avoid: corn, wheat and to a lesser degree brewer’s rice. Some fairly healthy binders are tapioca, quinoa, oats, sweet potato, potato, chickpeas or peas. The right binder for you will depend on your pet’s dietary needs like fiber, tolerance to glutens, or glycemic index. There may be another starch or carbohydrate listed. This may be to add fiber, calories and sometimes even protein to a ration, good choices for this group are millet, amaranth, garbanzo beans, or brown rice.  Okay, now for sure you’re back to the “fat” part of list. If it’s met your criteria you can begin picking apart the rest of the list.

4 what's the rest? 
Now, after that primary fat source comes the rest of the recipe. Here you may find a plethora of vegies, fruits, seeds, oils & herbs -or synthetically derived vitamins & minerals listed -or a combination of the two. You will see preservatives, flavor enhancers, and stabilizers. Here's where you have the opportunity to decide if you want a food whose nutrients comes from whole foods -or from vitamin mineral pre-mix. Both meet the AAFCO (American association of feed control officials) approval, but remember only whole foods feed the body synergistically as nature intended. 
 Ask yourself if you recognize the ingredient? If you don't, will your pets' body?

So you've now found a food that has meats, a healthy fat, and binding carbohydrates with purpose, and you approve of the vitamin & mineral sources, great! Just 1 more step:

5 What's the price? There's a lot of hype in marketing in the pet food industry. So really pay attention to the above points and not to the picture on the bag or the TV ads. Rotating foods for a variety of nutrients has proven to be beneficial to a pet's immune system so there's no need to be "brand loyal." Check out what's on special, ask about frequent feeder cards or store deals. Because with food -you do get what you pay for, and the extra cost is worth it in the long run, but you can be savvy about it too.

Final thoughts 
 Is it fresh? Check the date code. Will it last? Is its packaging useful- not just pretty? Always store your pet food in a dark, dry, cool place and try to leave it in its original bag as any exposure to air will begin the oxidization process of nutrient degeneration. Then, put that bag into an air tight container for the most longevity.
Did you know pet food companies only have to tell you if they added any preservatives, not if they bought ingredients that are already preserved? So company morals & standards matter.
The list of ingredients is listed in order of predominance, most to least, before cooking. Feeding guidelines are just guidelines; you are the final caregiver of your beloved pet, you be the judge. 
And finally, when feeding a dry kibble-the truth of it is -is that it's dead & dry. Hydration and enzymes are the source of energy for nutrient uptake so add warm water and a digestive enzyme to every meal to prevent undue stress on your companion’s organs.
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