Guaranteed Analysis: What Does It All Mean?

44097455 - nutrition information facts on assorted food labels

The guaranteed analysis is the pet industry’s equivalent of the nutrition panel listed on human foods. However, the guaranteed analysis is one of the trickier things to understand. Here is a rundown on how to make sense of it.

What is the Guaranteed Analysis?

The guaranteed analysis is mandated by federal and state regulations. All pet food labels must state guarantees for the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, plus the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. The term “crude” refers to the specific method of testing the product, not to the quality of the nutrient itself.

Why Moisture Levels Cause Confusion

What causes confusion with the guaranteed analysis is that it’s done on an “as fed” basis. This refers to the food as it is, straight out of the bag or can.

This becomes confusing when comparing the guaranteed analysis between dry and moist (raw/gently cooked/canned) products. In these cases, one will notice that the levels of crude protein and most other nutrients are much lower for the moist product.

This is because moist foods typically have 65-78% moisture vs. dry foods that contain only 10-12% water. To make meaningful comparisons of nutrient levels between a moist and dry food, the two foods need to be expressed on the same moisture basis.

The most accurate way to do this is to convert the guarantees for both products to a dry matter basis.

How to Convert to a Dry Matter Basis

To convert a nutrient guarantee to a dry matter basis, the percent guarantee should be divided by the percentage of the dry matter then multiplied by 100.

Here’s an example: A moist food guarantees 12% crude protein and 75% moisture (or 25% dry matter), while a dry food contains 27% crude protein and 10% moisture (or 90% dry matter).

Calculating the dry matter protein of both, the moist food contains 48% crude protein on a dry matter basis (12/25 x 100=48), while the dry has only 30% on a dry matter basis (27/90×100=30). While it appeared initially that the dry food had the higher protein content, it’s actually the moist food that wins out.

Okay, but how can I do this without a calculator, you ask? An easier way is to remember that the amount of dry matter in the dry food is about four times the amount in a canned product. To compare guarantees between a dry and canned food, multiply the guarantees for the canned food times four first.

How to Use the Guaranteed Analysis to Determine the Carb Levels

The tricky thing about determining a food’s carbohydrate level is that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) does not require carbohydrate percentages to be listed on a pet food label. However, there is simple math you can do to determine how carb heavy a food is.

Here is the equation you can use to determine the amount of carbs in a food.

100 – % protein – % fat – % moisture – % ash (if not listed, assume 6 percent)

= % carbs

Unfortunately, when you do the math you’ll find that many dry formulas are loaded with carbs. Many conventional dry foods can exceed 40 to 50 percent in total carbohydrate content. Such a high amount of carbs can lead to blood sugar fluctuations, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes and other health problems in dogs. Aside from these health problems, studies have found that feeding dogs to maintain a lean body weight can increase life span by almost 2 years, that’s huge! 

At Grocery Pup, all of our recipes are 60% meat and contain less than 15% carbohydrates to deliver a delicious biologically appropriate diet for your pup. Bottom line, always do the math to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples when evaluating pet foods.

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