Pulling Apart an Ingredient Label
This is a demonstration of misleading pet food labeling. Here is the list of ingredients for a weight management dry dog food labeled as "With Real Chicken and accented with apples, carrots and green beans":
Chicken, chicken by-product meal, whole grain corn, soybean hulls*, barley, whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, rice, poultry by-product meal, glycerin, egg and chicken flavor, beef fat naturally preserved with mixed-tocopherols, poultry and pork digest, oat meal, calcium carbonate, salt, dried apples, dried carrots, dried green beans, mono and dicalcium phosphate, potassium chloride, choline chloride, iron oxide (color), MINERALS [zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite], VITAMINS [Vitamin E supplement, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin D-3 supplement, riboflavin supplement (Vitamin B-2), menadione sodium bisulfite (Vitamin K), biotin, folic acid], L-Lysine monohydrochloride.
*12% - a source of fiber
By knowing that soybean hulls are 12%, that gives us a starting point to determine level of the other ingredients in the diet. We also know that salt is generally added at 0.5% of the ingredients, meaning each item listed below salt makes up less than one-half percent of the total ingredients.
Because the label pronounces "With real chicken" (is there fake chicken??), we know that there is a minimum of 3% chicken in the diet. Remember that water weight counts, so by listing whole chicken as the first ingredient, part of the minimum % chicken is actually water. Corn is present in a greater quantity than soybean hulls, so at least 12.1%, but most likely quite a bit more than that, but mostly because of ingredient splitting.Notice also that there is corn gluten meal listed lower down on the label, so there are two forms of corn. Digest is generally included at 1% for flavoring, and fat generally doesn't go above 5 or 6%, and may be lower, due to problems with rancidity. The maximum chicken content in this food is most likely no more than 12 to 15%, even with chicken and chicken by-product meal as the first two ingredients.
For the most part, the consumer is purchasing a long list of grains - corn two ways, soybeans two ways (hull part is indigestible fiber for weight management, so pretty useless nutritionally), wheat, and rice. While this is considered a "complete and balanced meal" for dogs, it would never be my choice for keeping my dogs healthy.
Be an informed consumer. Don't fall for "meat is the first ingredient" in advertising. It doesn't really mean a lot when it comes to dry kibble. They cannot put more than 15 to 20% meat into a kibble formulation - it won't go through the manufacturing process.
It's all about perception; some might call it deceit.