The Pet Scoop: Understanding the pet food label

Hey Bill. What should I look for (label wise) when choosing healthy food for my pet?

Bill McQuade and his dog, Purdy.

Bill says: Species appropriate nutrition! Nutrition is the foundation for good health. In any dry kibble, the first ingredient should be an animal based meal. Chicken meal or beef meal are examples of an appropriate first ingredient.

The quality, however, of the chicken meal depends on the ethics of the company using it to manufacture their food. If the product is advertised as made with fresh, whole chicken and if the first ingredient is listed as chicken, beef, lamb or any other animal it should be followed immediately with chicken meal, beef meal or lamb meal etc. The ingredients are listed in order by how much they weigh before they are processed.

Obviously there is no whole fresh chicken floating around in a bag of dry food. Chicken (weighed before processing) can be anywhere from 66-80 percent moisture and that moisture is removed in processing. “Chicken meal” is a powder with moisture removed and could be a product made only from high-quality, deboned chicken (much like the kind you would find in a grocery store), or it could be made from the entire carcasses of spent egg farm hens at the end of their productive cycle.

In other words, it’s always best to find a manufacturer that you trust for your pet’s food. This is the reason we like small family owned manufacturers like Fromms Family Foods. They live or die by the reputation of the product they produce, not by the amount of money spent on TV advertising. Also, your retailer should know as much about the company making the food as possible.

You want to avoid foods with by-product meal, animal fat, tallow, artificial dyes, gluten meal, meat meal, meat and bone meal, and foods that are primarily high glycemic carbohydrates. Grain or starch as the predominate ingredient in any pet food is bad. Dogs and cats require meat protein.

You can visit our website for more information on ingredient definitions and pet food myths. Other great sites are, and Another great source of information is a publication called The Whole Dog Journal.

Purdy’s answer: I count on my friend Bill to read the ingredients. I can’t read but I do watch television and I don’t understand why Bill starts cussing when one of those emotional, heart tugging ads with the cute dogs comes on. He says that most people get their education from the boob tube, whatever that is. I get my education from Bill, but there is this dog model on the TV that is just so good looking…

If you have a question for Bill, email it to bill(at)

Bill McQuade is the owner of The Whole Pet, located at 2423 N. College Ave. in Fayetteville. The Whole Pet specializes in nutrition for cats and dogs and offers a wide variety of quality diets in raw frozen, cans and kibble. The store also offers affordable, unique and high quality pet supplies and accessories. Bill is a professional dog handler, and has worked in the pet care business since 1972.