Fillers in Pet Food: Bold Claim or Just Fluff

Pet food packages often tout their recipes as “containing no fillers,” emphasizing perceived nutritional superiority. Inserting a “filler ingredient” devoid of nutritional value to a meticulously balanced diet is not only counterproductive, but also a financial misstep. Pet owners, keen on providing the best for their companions, often gravitate towards these claims, expecting superior dietary benefits. The use of the term ‘fillers’ has unfairly damaged the reputation of high-quality ingredients. While the intention is to underscore the nutritional excellence of these products, the term ‘fillers’ itself lacks a standardized definition and often overlooks the intricate balance of ingredients required for a truly complete and balanced diet. As discerning pet owners, it is essential to move beyond the rhetoric surrounding “fillers” and delve into a more informed understanding of each ingredient’s nutritional contribution.

What is a Filler?
What gets classified as a filler? Well, that’s really up to you because it is not a defined ingredient term by any nutrition text or regulatory body.

This is not just a bold claim; it’s grounded in the fact that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) refrains from defining the term “fillers.”

The term “filler” in pet food is a colloquial and often misleading way of referring to certain ingredients. Fillers are generally thought to be ingredients with low to no nutritional value that are included to add bulk or volume to pet food. However, it’s important to note that the pet food industry and regulatory bodies, such as the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), do not officially define the term “fillers.” This is because every ingredient in pet food is intended to serve a specific purpose and contribute to the overall nutritional profile of the food.

The term "filler" was common slang used to describe an entire category of secondary products from grain milling typically fed back through livestock diets. The list would include things like hulls, husks, chaff, cleanings, weeds, dust and stalks. Interestingly, these items are specifically defined ingredient parts that one could actually claim their food does or does not possess. With a few exceptions, these items haven't been used in mainstream petfoods for decades.

The Usual Suspects
Ingredients that are sometimes labeled as “fillers” include ingredients like rice, corn, wheat, and soy. However, these ingredients provide essential nutrients and contribute to the overall balance of the pet’s diet. The use of the term ‘fillers’ has unfairly damaged the reputation of high-quality ingredients.

Complete & Balanced Diet

Every ingredient in a pet food has a nutritional purpose and is a source of essential nutrients.

A complete diet consists of recommended essential nutrients at the adequate levels for the animal’s requirements.

A balanced diet has all the required nutrients in the appropriate proportions and ratios.

These nutrients operate in a complex interplay, acting both synergistically and antagonistically, giving and taking from each other. The formulation of a complete and balanced diet for pets involves a meticulous combination of ingredients to ensure that all nutritional needs are met.

Ingredients in pet food act as the carriers, or vehicles, that deliver essential nutrients to meet the dietary needs of pets. Each ingredient, including “fillers”, plays a distinct role in contributing specific nutrients, forming a well-rounded nutritional profile.

If you’re ever confused about an ingredient that is sourced in your dog’s diet, companies like Purina transparently break down their ingredients and their nutritional contributions on their website.

Purina's website provides details of eachingredient's nutritional purpose.

Understanding ingredients as carriers of nutrients emphasizes the importance of a balanced and well-formulated diet. By carefully selecting and combining ingredients, pet food manufacturers aim to provide a comprehensive array of nutrients that cater to the specific nutritional requirements of different pets, contributing to their overall health and longevity.

This is why reading the ingredient name on the back of a dog food label does not detail its nutritional quality, its digestibility, or the bioavailability of its nutrients. Ingredients alone do not convey the intricacies of nutrient content or the dynamic interactions between nutrients. Read, Stop reading your pet food ingredient list!

While the term may carry a negative connotation, it’s essential to recognize that some of these ingredients are more than just marketing strategies—they contribute vital nutrients to your pet’s diet. The term “fillers” can be more of a marketing buzzword than an accurate representation of nutritional value. Pet owners are encouraged to scrutinize beyond the label, appreciating the diverse nutritional contributions various ingredients can offer to ensure a well-rounded and balanced diet.

By dispelling the stigma associated with the term, “fillers”, we aim to empower pet owners to make decisions grounded in a deeper appreciation of the complexities of pet nutrition, ensuring the well-deserved recognition of high-quality ingredients in their pets’ diets.

Relying on reputable sources in the veterinary industry provides a foundation of credibility and ensures accurate and trustworthy information for pet owners. For more information:

AAFCO Understanding Pet Food
Source: Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
Link: AAFCO Understanding Pet Food

Fillers in pet food – and why they arent a thing!
Author: Jessica BanVetBioSci, RVN, AVN, VTS (Nutrition)
Link: Fillers in pet food – and why they arent a thing!

Fillers: Are they incorrectly vilified?
Source: Petfood Industry
Link: Fillers: Are they incorrectly vilified?

What Are the Benefits of Dog Food Without Corn, Wheat or Soy?
Source: Purina
Link: What Are the Benefits of Dog Food Without Corn, Wheat or Soy?

WSAVA Frequently Asked Questions & Myths
Source: World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)
Link: WSAVA Frequently Asked Questions & Myths

Synergistically Yours

Danielle & Sheepdog Riggs

forever in our hearts

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