Reading a pet food label can be confusing. Long lists of ingredients, obtuse and incomplete macronutrient (protein, fat, and carbs) information, and “marketing speak”, can all make it difficult to determine which are the best foods for your pet. One of the worst reasons to choose a pet food is because it is colorful.
Maybe all the foodie shows are making us focus too much on presentation. Or maybe we think that colors denote freshness or that the foods contain fruits and vegetables. Whatever the reason might be, serving your pet a multi-colored food is not a good strategy. Let’s take a look at an example from a well known pet food brand.
Below is a picture of a dog food, which was obtained directly from the Brand’s website. This is what the Brand wants you to see and is used, believe it or not, to entice a pet owner to purchase this food. There are many colors and cool shapes. This must mean that it is a good food choice and contains a lot of healthy ingredients, right? Not so fast.
Besides the fact that three out of the first four ingredients are corn or wheat, and that there are no named meats until the seventh ingredient, this food contains not one, not two, but three artificial colorings: Red 40, Yellow 5, and Blue 2. No wonder why the picture of the food is so colorful!
Artificial colorings add zero nutritional value and some artificial colorings are linked to cancer and other diseases. Even worse, your pet does not care what color their food is! Dogs and cats have limited ability to differentiate colors and don’t even see greens or reds.
Why are these artificial ingredients included in the recipe? To make you, the pet owner, think that the food is a good choice. The fact of the matter is that healthy foods that include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables simply won’t look as colorful as those foods using artificial colorings. So don’t let color influence your pet food choices.
Do you see lots of bright and shiny colors in your pet’s food? If so, take a few minutes and look at the ingredients. If possible, avoid foods containing artificial colorings like those mentioned above and other derivations of “red”, “yellow”, “blue”, and “color”. Instead, stick to foods containing healthy ingredients that provide natural color like cranberries and other berries, carrots, cherries, spinach and other healthy and colorful ingredients instead.
Steve is an advocate for healthy pet food offerings.