Soybean meal, wheat or wheat middlings, corn gluten meal, corn meal, whole/crushed corn, and maize are often used for their protein. They cost a lot less to include in a treat than the superior quality carbs or real-meat protein like chicken. Soybean meal, ground corn and wheat are also common pet allergens, so be careful with them.
Food coloring can also be a major problem with pet food and treats: it is not at all rare for biscuits to be dyed in an attempt to make them look like fresh meat or fresh vegetables. This would not be all that terrible if it were still the 50’s when food dyes were still based on plant based compounds. But in order for pet food manufacturers to save money and increase longevity, they started to make food colorings primarily from chemicals. There are plenty of studies which show that chemical food coloring makes hyperactive children more hyperactive, and numerous dog trainers believe that the same applies to hyperactive dogs or those that just will not be trained no matter what.
This artificial food coloring is still widely used to this day even though they are completely unnecessary and have been linked to various medical issues. It is believed by large number in the medical field that if an ingredient is foreign to the body (such as chemical coloring), the body reacts to it and can create a lot of health issues. Pets care about taste, not color, so food dyes are more for people than for them.
By-products are a superb way for firms to keep costs of food and treats down. Instead of simply using whole meats, they use by-products as protein. Needless to say, these are the less than desirable portions of animals such like the necks, heads, undeveloped eggs, feet, intestines, lungs and ligaments. Another cheap method of adding protein to a food is by using meat and bone meal. It is exactly what it sounds like: meat + bones.
Essentially, by-products are all of the items you would never knowingly feed your pet.
Scientific studies conclude that these chemicals may be harmful to the liver and other parts of the body. The FDA has decreased the quantity of ethoxyquin allowed in pet food. Natural preservatives such as tochopherols and/or rosemary are certainly preferred.
There are a lot of other things that labels do not reveal. For example, condemned parts of animals unsuited for human consumption are often rerouted straight into commercial treats. These can be the parts of animals who are dead, dying, diseased or even decayed. This is also known the 4 D’s. Some meats, grains and other ingredients can’t be sold for human use. They are damaged or the meat doesn’t have the look USDA officials want. Sadly, we cannot decipher this from the label.
Also, some food and treat manufacturers have lower standards concerning the freshness of the ingredients they use. Though there should be a “use by” date or code on most packages, that doesn’t mean that all of the ingredients were fresh when they were used to make the pet food or treat in the first place. We would not eat stale cookies so why would we want to give anything but fresh ingredients to our pets?
Ultimately, it is important to not only learn to read the labels but also to purchase dog food, cat food and treats from a manufacturer whom you trust.