Ingredient Splitting

Pet food ingredient lists can be deceptive

Posted on

August 14, 2021

Pet food ingredient lists can be deceptive

Ingredient splitting

Ingredient splitting is a misleading yet pervasive practice throughout the pet food industry.

Ingredients in a pet food are required to be listed in order of weight according to federal regulations. The first ingredient must compose the largest amount by weight than the following ingredients. This is why so many owners prioritize seeing a named meat ingredient listed first on the list– because they want to feed a diet that is made primarily of meat-based ingredients.

But pet food companies know this, and they have a trick up their sleeves to make their ingredient lists read better while still complying with federal regulations. This trick is called ingredient splitting.

If a company formulates a dog food that is made primarily of peas, they would have to list peas as the first ingredient. But thanks to that trick up their sleeve, the company has another option: rather than having to list peas as the first ingredient, a pet food company could instead break that one ingredient up into three separate ingredients: pea flour, pea protein, and pea fiber.

Now they can list the ingredients by weight with meat as the first ingredient, because the weight of the individual pea components will be less. Pet food companies can even split ingredients into different color varieties: like “yellow peas” and “green peas” or “red lentils” and “green lentils”. There are still the same amount of peas in the food – but based on the ingredient list, a pet owner might be led to believe there is actually more meat than peas!

Unfortunately, companies that don’t use this ingredient splitting trick can end up with ingredient lists that don’t look as appealing to consumers as an ingredient list from a company that does participate in this deceptive practice. Even though refraining from ingredient splitting is more honest and transparent, many consumers simply aren’t aware and fall for the trick instead of choosing the food that has been more accurately marketed and likely has more meat than the other food.

For this reason, the common practice of avoiding particular ingredients in the top 5 of an ingredient list is not an effective method of choosing a food. For example: let’s say we are trying to choose between food A and food B.

Food A’s ingredient list: Chicken, pea flour, green peas,yellow peas, pea protein, sweet potato, pea fiber, chicken fat, vitamins &minerals

Food B’s ingredient list: Chicken meal, peas, sweet potato,chicken fat, vitamins & minerals

At first glance, some owners might avoid food B because they believe feeding a food with chicken fat in the first 5 ingredients is unsafe.However, food A very well might include more chicken fat than food B. Unfortunately, there is no way to know that because pet foods aren’t actually required to disclose how much of each ingredient the food contains.