A correct declaration and appropriate advertising statements (product description) also say something about the seriousness and expertise of the manufacturer. This can also be regarded as a quality feature of a feed.
The Feed Regulation (EG-VO 767/2009) regulates the general labelling obligation of dog food. It requires a whole range of minimum information. For the assessment of a feed, the type of feed, the analytical components and the ingredients and additives used are most important.
In the "type of feed", a distinction is made between complete feeds and supplementary feeds. Complete feeds are by definition composed in such a way that they alone cover the animal's complete daily nutrient requirements (i.e. supplementation with other feeds is not necessary).
In contrast to complete feeds, supplementary feedsdo not cover the complete nutrient requirements and must therefore be combined (= supplemented) with other feeds, e.g. with a mineral feed. If this is not done, deficiency symptoms can occur.
The "analytical components" indicate the percentage of the nutrient groups, i.e. protein (= crude protein), fat (= crude oils and fats), dietary fibre (= crude fibre) and minerals (= crude ash/inorganic substances). They are called "analytical" because there is a uniform analytical procedure for these nutrient groups, the so-called Weender analysis, with which all feeds are analysed. This guarantees comparable results. The designation "raw" refers to groups of substances, i.e. certain groups of nutrients with the same properties are grouped together. The proportion of carbohydrates is not declared, because these are not determined by analysis, but mathematically by subtracting all other raw nutrients from the dry matter.
The moisture content only has to be declared if it is above 14%. Only then is there a risk of spoilage if the feed is not preserved or preserved by drying or sterilisation. This is why canned food always has a moisture content declaration and dry food does not.
The "composition" is the list of ingredients, so to speak, and lists the individual feedstuffs used in descending order of weight. The ingredient with the highest content is listed first. An additional percentage must be indicated if the presence of a certain ingredient is particularly emphasised on the packaging, be it by means of an illustration, graphic or text. The percentage declaration includes the minimum content, i.e. it may also be more.
Each producer can choose whether to list all his ingredients individually (open declaration) or to group them in the legally defined categories (closed declaration). He must choose one variant, a mixture of both is not permitted. So if a feed contains, for example, meat and liver from cattle, this can be declared either as "muscle meat and bovine liver" or as "meat and animal by-products". The difference is only in the way it is named.
In addition to the individual ingredients, the "additives used" must also be declared. The manufacturer must indicate the name and/or E-number of the additive as well as the corresponding group designation and the added quantity. The groups relevant for dog food include the nutritional additives (vitamins, trace elements and amino acids - no minerals!), the technological additives (preservatives, antioxidants, binders, etc.) and the sensory additives (colourings and flavourings). The general legal regulations can be found in the Feed Additives Regulation (EC Regulation 1831/2003), a list with detailed information on all feed additives authorised in Europe can be found in the so-called Community Register, which is freely accessible.
What you should look out for in a food are the nutritional additives, because these ultimately make the difference between a complete and a supplementary food. Vitamins and trace elements are, of course, also contained in the raw materials, but a supplement (from the manufacturer) is still necessary for ready-made food, at least if it is a complete food. Losses that occur during production and storage must also be taken into account and compensated for accordingly.
As the general trend in dog food is moving more and more towards naturalness, new products - complete foods, mind you - appear on the market almost daily that are supposedly free of "artificial additives" and "all natural". Caution is advised here, because important nutrients are often missing (see Stiftung Warentest March 2015).
Other information that must be declared on the packaging is:
- the net mass
- the best-before date
- the identification number of the lot orbatch ('batch number')
- the intended use and an indication for the appropriate use (feed quantity recommendation)
- Name and address of the person responsible for the marking(including his approval number, if applicable) and, if applicable, the name and address or approval number of the manufacturer.
- a free telephone number or email for enquiries about the feed additives and feed materials contained in the feed