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FAQs: Pet Nutrition and Pet Food Ingredients

Pet Food Nutrition FAQs
This section of frequently asked questions addresses pet food ingredients and pet nutrition issues for specific cat and dog breeds, as well as what to watch out for in the commercial pet food brand industry. We hope the insightful answers will help you learn more about pet health issues in general and the health advantages of choosing Flint River Ranch premium health foods for your pets.

If you have any questions that aren't listed below, please don't hesitate to send them to us. We welcome your feedback and would love to help with any pet-related questions you may have.
pawprint icon Do you know what your pet is eating? (How to read a pet food label)
You may be unknowingly making your beloved pet sick by feeding him or her food that is preserved with chemicals, contains animal by-products, or includes unhealthy fillers. As a nation, we spend more than $20 billion annually on pet foods and treats, yet we don't know how to read pet food labels.

Most people don't realize that most popular pet foods – from manufacturers like Science Diet, Iams, Eukanuba, Purina – contain chemical preservatives and by-products that are unfit for human consumption. These by-products can include decayed meat, animal digest, feet, beaks, hair and all internal organs. There is no governmental agency watching over what goes in pet foods. It is totally up to you, the pet owner, to watch out for the nutritional well-being of your pet.
Comparison Chart of Popular Pet Food Brands
This useful chart compares the ingredients label of Flint River Ranch Adult Dog Food formula with the labels of four other leading dog food brands.
The ingredients on pet food labels are listed in descending order by weight, so the ingredients listed higher tend to make up the majority of the pet food composition. The ingredients listing for pet foods can be useful, but it unfortunately tells the buyer absolutely nothing about either the quality of the ingredients or their nutritional value. The listing can also be misleading because although meat may be listed first, it may be the heaviest ingredient only because of its high moisture content.

Flint River Ranch uses only all-natural, human-grade ingredients in all of its pet foods and pet treats — there are no chemicals, no fillers, and no by-products in any FRR foods.

To learn more about what goes into your pet food and how to find out exactly what your dog or cat is eating, keep reading.
pawprint icon What are animal byproducts and rendered meats?
Animal by-products are ground, rendered, and cleaned slaughtered meat carcass parts such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, bones, heads, and intestines (and a small amount of feathers in the case of chicken) — yes, by-products are as gross and disgusting as they sound. The quality of animal by-products is very inconsistent between batches.

In many cases, by-product meals are derived from "4-D" meat sources — defined as food animals that have been rejected for human consumption because they were presented to the meat packing plant as "Dead, Dying, Diseased or Disabled."
AAFCO Definition for Meat By-Products
"Meat by-products is the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto."
Animal by-products are commonly found in the majority of lower-grade pet foods and even many of the larger name brands that market themselves as "premium pet food" manufacturers, including Science Diet (even their prescription diet product line), Purina (both Purina One and Purina Pro Plan), and Iams / Eukanuba. Ingredients listed as "beef, chicken, and/or poultry by-products" on pet food labels are not required to include actual meat, and "rendered meat" on labels can refer to ANY rendered mammal meat, including dogs and cats!

There are no bones, by-products, rendered meats, or indigestible parts in the meat sources used in Flint River Ranch pet foods and treats. As an example, the chicken meal used by Flint River Ranch is strictly human-quality chicken flesh with some edible skin — the same as you would cook for your family. The chicken is cooked at the supplier to maintain freshness and to reduce the possibility of contamination in handling and shipping uncooked product. It is processed into a "Ground Meal" form with most of the water removed for ease of handling and reduced shipping costs.

The lamb and fish meals in Flint River Ranch recipes adhere to the same high level of standards.
pawprint icon What are BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin?
In general, foods will spoil without some form of temperature control or preservatives. BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are chemical antioxidants designed to extend the shelf life and reduce fat spoilage (rancidity) of pet foods and pet treats. Chemical additives and artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin may cause dry skin, allergic reactions, dental disease, and poor health, as well as stimulate adverse effects on liver and kidney functions.

Specifically, BHA, short for Butylated Hydroxyanisole, and BHT, Butylated Hydroxytoluene, are both artificial preservatives added to oils to slow down deterioration. BHA and BHT (as well as ethoxyquin) are used in numerous pet food brands, including both "premium-grade" brands like Science Diet (even their prescription diet product line) and lower-grade brands like Alpo and Pedigree, to replace vitamin E, which is removed during oil processing. Studies have shown that BHA and BHT promote liver disease and other medical problems.

Ethoxyquin is a chemical preservative – and possible carcinogenic – regulated by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) as a pesticide. While ethoxyquin cannot be used in human foods, it continues to be used in many pet food brands. Ethoxyquin has been found to promote kidney carcinogenesis and significantly increase the incidence of stomach tumors and enhanced bladder carcinogesis, according to several studies, including a recent one by The Department of Pathology, Nagoya City University Medical School, Japan.
Did You Know?
Under a typical pet food diet, the average dog (44 lbs) can consume 26 lbs of preservatives a year!
The FDA currently allows only a trace amount of ethoxyquin residue (.5 to 5 ppm) in human consumed foods, yet it allows high amounts (150 ppm) to be used in pet food and livestock feeds. Of note, in 1997, the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) made a request to manufacturers of ethoxyquin and the pet food industry to voluntarily lower ethoxyquin residue in pet foods to 75 parts per million (ppm). To date, there is still no mandatory requirement to meet the voluntary request.

Note: Rather than listing it as an ingredient on the packaging, some dog food manufacturers simply print "E" to represent ethoxyquin.
pawprint icon What are Tocopherols?
While many manufacturers in the commercial pet food industry still feel that less expensive but potentially carcinogenic chemical and artificial preservatives like BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin can be safely used to keep pet food from turning rancid, recent studies have shown otherwise.

Despite the evidence, many commercial pet food brands, including Science Diet, Iams, Eukanuba, Pedigree, and Nutro, continue to use BHA, BHT, and/or ethoxyquin to extend the shelf life and reduce fat spoilage (rancidity) of their pet foods and pet treats. Flint River Ranch pet foods and pet treats, on the other hand, are Guaranteed Free of BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin.

Flint River Ranch uses Tocopherols, a natural antioxidant and Vitamin E source, and human-quality ingredients to slow the oxidation process of fats and oils to ensure its premium pet food products remain fresh as in their initial state. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that retards the oxidation of other vitamins.

Vitamin E works as a natural preservative for a period of up to 12 months and as a peak preservative up to 6 months. Tocopherols used as preservatives in pet food do have a shorter lifespan than chemical preservatives, which can be a concern with some pet food brands that are warehoused or shipped to retail stores and left on store shelves for extended periods of time.

Unlike these retail pet foods, Flint River Ranch pet foods and treats are never "warehoused" or left for weeks (or months) to sit on a pet store shelf — they are delivered and prepped for shipping within two days of manufacture. Including manufacturing and shipping time, Flint River Ranch pet foods and treats are guaranteed to be in the hands of the pet owner within 1 month.

That means when stored out of direct heat, the pet owner has a guaranteed "fresh" product for a period of at least five months — with the ability to safely feed for 11 months. Of course, if your pet does not consume all of its Flint River food supply within that length of time, the food can be frozen to preserve freshness.
pawprint icon What are pet food fillers?
Many commercial pet foods contain fillers that have little or no nutritional value. Products like feathers, soy, cottonseed hulls, corncobs, peanut hulls, citrus pulp, screening, weeds, straw, and cereal by-products are often included as inexpensive fillers or low-grade fiber content.

Proper fiber acts as a calming base for forming the stool in the colon, and it should help develop good fecal consistency rather than potentially aggravate the intestinal walls as low-grade fiber fillers tend to do.

Flint River pet foods use beet pulp as their fiber source, the best available source for gently massaging intestinal walls, removing mucous and slime, and aiding in your pet's bowel movements. Only the beet pulp fiber left after all the sugar has been extracted is used in the Flint River pet food formulas.

Flint River Ranch premium dog foods are also guaranteed free of corn and soybean sources, which are much more difficult for dogs to digest than wheat grains. Flint River foods use a combination of high-quality ground wheat, wheat flour, wheat germ meal, and ground rice for their grain sources.

The grains are purchased directly from the highest-quality mills; even though it costs more, it guarantees the finest quality grain without the risk of mold or other harmful toxins.

Since some pets are allergic to wheat-based food, Flint River Ranch also offers several non-wheat-based formulas, including a Lamb, Millet, and Rice formula and a Trout and Sweet Potato ("Fish and Chips") formula.
pawprint icon What are artificial flavors in pet foods?
Most commercial pet food brands spray their pet foods with a combination of liver, fats and sugar to encourage the pet to eat the food. These artificial additives and flavor enhancers (which are produced by the enzymatic liquefaction or hydrolysis of animal tissue) add little more than a greasy feel and texture to the food and an artificial taste sensation for your pets that's generally lacking in terms of nutrients and efficient digestibility.

The Flint River Ranch oven-baking process, in contrast, involves "twice-baking" for uniformity of product before being broken into bite-size pieces. This process takes more time and is more expensive, but the good taste (palatability) and smell of the food and beneficial digestibility are baked-in, not sprayed on. The baking process also converts potentially harmful and hard-to-digest starches into easily digested dextrins that can be readily absorbed into your pet's body.

The secret to good pet food nutrition is not just in the quantity of nutrients present in a food, but also in how available they are and how efficiently they can be utilized when digested. The wholesome, healthy value of Flint River Ranch is baked-in to the food.

You can pick up a handful of Flint River Ranch premium oven-baked pet food and breathe in the full, rich aroma. And when you run it between your fingers there's no greasy film left on your hands or undesirable smell.

While Flint River Ranch could significantly reduce costs by using the extrusion process typical of most pet food manufacturers, the sprayed-on artificial flavors and steam cooking in the extrusion process do not produce the premium quality standards Flint River has set for itself.

The Flint River baking process has been used for oven-baking pet food for more than 30 years. For each batch of pet food baked, the temperature is monitored and regulated every ten minutes with a computer printout for control and regulatory agency reporting. The food is always within optimal standards or it is destroyed.
pawprint icon What are artificial colors and dyes in pet foods?
Coloring agents are often added to pet foods to modify the appearance of highly processed foods, providing an artificial "rich and meaty" look in an attempt to make the food appear more appealing to pet owners. Even pet brands that market themselves as healthy and holistic are guilty of using artificial colors, including Purina Beneful.

Many of the artificial coloring agents used in dog foods have been associated with potential problems. FD&C Red No. 40 is a possible carcinogen but is still widely used to keep meat looking fresh. Blue No. 2 is thought to increase dogs' sensitivity to viruses. Another color that is commonly used but that has not been fully tested is Yellow No. 5.

Both Red No. 2 and Violet No. 1 were banned by the FDA in the mid-seventies as possible carcinogens but prior to that were widely used in pet foods.

It's important to remember that artificial food colors or dyes used in pet foods are not for the benefit of dogs or cats — they're simply added to satisfy the pet owner's ideals of how a pet food "should" look.

Flint River Ranch premium pet foods and treats for cats and dogs contain absolutely no artificial colors or dyes.
pawprint icon What are steroids in pet foods?
The long-term daily administration of steroids and/or antibiotics in pet foods may result in a compromised immune system and the destruction of the friendly bacteria living in the intestines that aid the digestion of food and assimilation of nutrients.

Flint River Ranch does not use ANY steroids, hormones or artificial antibiotics in its premium pet foods.
pawprint icon What are Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate supplements in pet foods? New to A+ Flint River Ranch
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are naturally occurring components that act as building blocks for the functioning of healthy cartilage and flexible joints. These organic supplements work by minimizing cartilage damage and swelling, increasing joint lubrication, helping to rebuild the cartilage that cushions and protects joints, and enhancing new cartilage production.

Numerous studies on the effects of glucosamine and chondroitin have found these components to be critical nutrients that assist in supporting flexibility, comfort, and range of motion — for pets as well as for humans.

Chondroprotectants (chondro - cartilage) such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are being prescribed increasingly by conventional as well as holistic veterinarians. The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate has been found helpful in relieving inflammation and may even reverse the degenerative process in some dogs.

These supplements work by nourishing the cartilage and increasing viscosity of the synovial fluid (the joint's lubricating system), thereby reducing friction and pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin attract fluid into the joint's cartilage system and help the body repair damaged joints while keeping the cartilage-destroying enzymes under control — all with equal or better results than anti-inflammatory drugs.
In short, chondroprotectants:
•  Help to lubricate joints
•  Provide a mechanism for nutrient absorption
•  Produce an anti-inflammatory effect on joints
•  Regulate activity on cartilage
•  Inhibit enzymes that break down cartilage
Flint River Ranch has developed two glucosamine and chondroitin-fortified products to assist in the possible prevention and holistic treatment of arthritis and joint-related pain: our Flint River Ranch PLUS premium pet food and our Jubilee Wafer dog biscuit treats.

There is no need to wait for the symptoms of arthritis to become pronounced to start using Jubilee Wafers or the PLUS pet food formula because the wafers and kibble work as great preventatives. A regular diet of Flint River Ranch Plus or a steady supplement of Jubilee Wafers can even be started in young dogs known to have a predisposition to osteoarthritis, joint dysplasia (hip, elbow, knee or shoulder), degenerative disc disease, patellar luxation, osteochondrodysplasia, or related health issues.

Chondroprotectants like Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate should be a part of a complete care program supervised by your veterinarian.
pawprint icon What are the benefits of whole grains in pet foods?

Whole grains are an easy-to-digest source of complex carbohydrates, fiber and energy. Next to protein sources, whole grains are one of the most important components of a pet's diet. A combination of grains, like a combination of meat, is better than just one source.

Whole wheat grains are frequently used in canine foods, as they are not only more digestible than corn but are also one of the most nutritionally balanced cereal grains. Rice is another nutritionally beneficial and highly digestible grain frequently used in pet foods. The rice used in Flint River Ranch formulas is a combination of brown rice and white rice — white rice for its digestibility and brown rice for its added nutritional value. (A diet that is 100% brown rice can be difficult for some animals to digest.)

After a high quality protein meat source, some form or combination of whole wheat or rice grains should be the next ingredient listed on a dog food label (as an indication of their importance).

Corn is another whole grain that is frequently found in cat food formulas. The feline digestive system can better utilize corn, and corn also delivers important dietary benefits to cats and kittens, which is why it is one of the primary ingredients in Flint River Ranch cat food formulas.

Corn is, however, more difficult to digest by dogs (as well as humans) and can cause allergic reactions in some dogs. In dog foods, corn (or corn meal) simply serves as a low-cost filler, albeit one that many manufacturers continue to use in order to save money. Corn passes right through a dog, providing little to no nutritional value. If a dog food lists corn as the first or second ingredient on its label, the customer can expect to pay for up to 25% filler in that food. Flint River Ranch does not use corn or corn byproducts as ingredients in its dog food formulas.
pawprint icon Why are some Flint River formulas free of corn, soy, and/or wheat?
Flint River Ranch premium dog foods are free of corn and soybean sources, which are much more difficult for dogs to digest than whole wheat grains and which may cause allergies in some dogs. Processed soy has also been verified as a cause of bloating in dogs.

Flint River foods use a combination of high quality ground wheat, wheat flour, wheat germ meal, and ground rice for their grain sources. The grains are purchased directly from the highest-quality mills; even though it costs more, it guarantees the finest quality grain without the risk of mold or other harmful toxins.

Since some pets are allergic to wheat-based food, Flint River Ranch also offers several non-wheat-based formulas, including a Lamb, Millet, and Rice formula and a Trout and Sweet Potato ("Fish and Chips") formula.
pawprint icon Why are lab animals sometimes used for testing purposes of pet foods?
For anyone who has ever lived with a dog or a cat, it's hard to imagine that some pet food companies would conduct invasive tests on animals in labs. But the pet industry is big business, and in their ongoing efforts to maximize earnings and deliver "new and improved" formulas, some leading pet food manufacturers conduct cruel experiments on dogs and cats.

Flint River Ranch is proud to be included on PETA's "Companies That Don't Test on Animals" list as a pet food manufacturer that "makes top-quality food for dogs and cats without harming animals in laboratories." PETA encourages consumers to drive animal abusers out of business by buying only from companies like Flint River Ranch.

Flint River Ranch does not test any of its pet foods or pet products on laboratory animals. No animals are destroyed or are involved in any type of medical surgery or physical invasion during the palatability testing and evaluation procedures. All testing is done voluntarily on pets of all ages, including staff pets and selected pet owners and breeders, in exchange for free food.

Various aspects of the animals' overall health are monitored, including weight, activity level, stool and urine, allergy sensitivities, and hair and skin conditions. The results are reviewed by certified nutritionists and veterinarians.

For additional information on animal lab testing in pet foods and some eye-opening real-world examples, please consult our full Lowdown on Lab Animal Testing page.
pawprint icon Why is feeding everyday groceries to pets considered 'animal cruelty'?
Veterinarians and nutrition experts alike know very well that if you feed your pet leftovers of human food or cheap pet foods loaded with unnecessary fillers, you will probably end up giving your pet chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Read this excerpt from an article on pet food nutrition by nutrition expert Mike Adams to learn more about how it's much cheaper to prevent disease in your dog or cat through good nutrition than it is to treat resulting issues with drugs or surgery down the road.
pawprint icon The Diamond Dog Food recall and its impact on pet health and nutrition New to A+ Flint River Ranch
A consumer alert has been released for contaminated Diamond pet foods for dogs and cats. At least a dozen canine deaths have already been linked to Diamond pet foods contaminated by the potentially deadly toxin Aflatoxin.

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring toxic chemical byproduct that results from the growth of the fungus Aspergillus flavus on corn and other crops. The fungus typically develops on crops during severe high temperature stress and drought conditions followed by high levels of humidity.

Dogs could experience liver trouble, liver failure and even death due to the contaminated food. While there have not been any reports of cat health issues or fatalities due to the recall, five Diamond cat food formulas have been recalled due to the presence of aflatoxin.

If your dog or cat is eating a bad batch of Diamond, Country Value or Professional brand pet food, stop using that food and take your animal to a vet immediately.

For additional information on the Diamond dog food recall, aflatoxin, and how the recall impacts pet health and nutrition, please consult our full Diamond Dog Food Recall page.
If you're looking for additional information on Flint River Ranch pet foods and products, we'd like to recommend:

pawprint icon Flint River Ranch Top 10 - The Top 10 reasons you should make the switch to Flint River Ranch Premium Pet Foods
pawprint icon Feed The Best for Less - Why Flint River Ranch is cheaper to use than competing pet foods
pawprint icon Pet Food Brand Comparison - Learn how Flint River Ranch foods stack up against competing pet food brands
pawprint icon Shop A+ Flint River Ranch - Purchase Flint River Ranch premium pet foods, treats, and products online at the best prices
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