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Ingredient Splitting: How Pet Food Brands are Deceiving You

June 10, 2022 5 min read

We’ve seen it time and time again- the food industry tricks unknowing customers into overpaying for food lacking any sort of nourishment, getting away with sneaking an absurd amount of sugars and fats unbeknownst to the consumer. For example, at only $3.99, a Big Mac makes for an easy and cheap meal, but thetoll it takes on your body may not be worth it.

Similarly, processed dog food brands have developed many strategies and practices to hide the lackluster nutritional value of their food while still abiding by AAFCO’s guidelines. Today we’ll be focusing on the craft of ingredient splitting: a practice that slips under the noses of many unsuspecting pet parents.

dog holding empty dog bowl


What is Ingredient Splitting?

Ingredient splitting, in simple terms, is the act of separating an “undesirable” ingredient into multiple parts, making it look like there are fewer harmful substances in a package of processed dog food.

For example, a brand could write their ingredient percentages as so:

  • 30% chicken meal
  • 15% brown rice
  • 12% rice bran
  • 5% rice hulls
  • 3% rice germ

Notice how rice is broken up into three separate ingredients? This way, chicken is boosted to the top of the list, while the more undesirable rice is depicted to be less. Without ingredient splitting, this example would have a 35% composition of rice, making chicken notreallythe top ingredient.

How many times have you seen a bag of kibble labeled with “Our number 1 ingredient is real meat?” If you’ve been to a pet store before, chances are a majority of the bags of kibble boast about a ‘number one ingredient.’ Through ingredient splitting, big pet food brands are able to make it seem like the top ingredient is the majority of your dog’s nutritional intake.

Another aspect to note is the fact that “chicken meal” is written instead of “chicken.” Meat products labeled with the word “meal” or “byproduct” are made from a process calledrendering,where the meats are highly processed so that their proteins and fats are concentrated into kibble and dried. The source of these proteins and fats is never outright specified- which means they can come from undesirable parts of an animal like their nails, feathers, hair, or beaks.

Even worse, in an article written by the Truth About Pet Food, many of these animals could have died of disease or chemical euthanization- which, through meat meals, can find their way into our furry friend’s bodies.

How Ingredient Splitting Harms Consumers & Pets

As you can see, ingredient splitting is an easy way for pet food brands to sneak malicious ingredients under pet parents’ noses. When we buy things for our beloved pets, we put trust into the company we purchase from that it will be of overall benefit to our pups. When a company practices ingredient splitting, they break that trust for their own benefit.

While ingredient splitting isn’t necessarily lying about the ingredients (which is illegal), it creates an illusion that many pet parents fall for. This completely legal yet ethically questionable process has severe consequences on dogs with nutritional needs. 

For example, an overweight dog may be unable to lose weight, a dog with a sensitive stomach may have intestinal issues after every meal, or a puppy may not have as much energy as it should have. Even worse, owners will notice their struggling dogs and question why they aren’t getting better since their food is supposedly perfectly healthy.

dog upset about kibble

Avoiding Ingredient Splitting

While this tactic is devious, it is easily avoidable if you know what you’re looking for. The key is analyzing the label and ingredients. Here are a few tips for if you end up in the pet food aisle:

  • Rather than the first ingredient, analyze the first 5-10 ingredients in the ingredients list. This way, you can get a better look at the composition of your dog’s food. If starches and grains make up the majority of the top ingredients, meat may not truly be the number one ingredient.
  • Know what ingredients to avoid. While being able to catch ingredient splitting is important, it’s equally important to know how certain ingredients are harming your pet. Learning how grains, food dyes, meat byproducts, and artificial flavorings damage your dog’s body makes it easier to understand the importance of finding the right food for your dog
  • Before you buy, find what food you want to be feeding your dog. Many pet parents make the mistake of going to the store and buying the cheapest or best-looking brand of dog food. With the health of your dog in mind, it's best to find out what food brand you’ll want to bring to your dog before you set out to buy it.
  • Avoid processed foods altogether. Ingredient splitting is a practice used most commonly in kibble and canned food brands. Since these foods are produced cheaply and with a wide array of chemicals, processed food brands will stray to ingredient splitting more often to cover their unhealthy tracks. Fresh food is an entirely better option for the health of your pet.

    Read More:What Ingredients To Avoid In Dog Food


    A Better & Healthier Alternative

    As stated above, ingredient splitting is a practice most commonly used in processed food and kibble brands. Aside from practicing ingredient splitting, these pet food brands do much more to harm the overall health of your dog. We could go on forever about how kibble is harmful to your dog. Here are a few articles about the other ways kibble is tricking pet parents:

    To summarize these articles, kibble is a monopoly’s dream: It takes ingredients that the consumers find appealing, like chicken and beef, and turns it into a barely edible but cheap nutrition source. Kibble brands do not have your dog's best interest in mind- harsh chemicals, inexpensive fillers, and toxic preservatives are used in nearly every bag of processed dog food.

    A healthier nutritional source for your dog would be fresh foods. In nature, dogs naturally ate raw meats, fruits, bones, and vegetables- a diet most commonly known as theBARF diet. A raw diet is biologically appropriate and optimal for a dog’s health. For example, a few of these benefits are commonly seen in dogs eating a natural diet:

    • Weight Management
    • Improved Digestion
    • Fewer Vet Visits
    • Smaller, less smelly stool
    • Increased Energy
    • Lower Risk Of Disease
    • Skin & Coat Improvement
    • Allergy Relief and Treatment
    • Improved Oral Health
    • Reduced Inflammation
    • Increased lifespan

    Ingredient splitting is sneaky and malicious- but, as pet parents, we can choose the best for our dogs by feeding them what nature intended. Cali Raw offers100% natural and healthy ingredients with every meal- no lying involved. By giving your dog the diet they deserve, you’ll both be able to fully enjoy the long and healthy life to come.

    healthy and happy dog