The quality of the protein in a food is everything. For my own dogs, I want human quality proteins. These will typically be listed on the ingredient panel as a meat, such as chicken, or beef. However, if the food is not listed as human quality on the package, you may have to call the company and ask if the food is human quality or made from ingredients that are “USDA inspected and passed.”
You may also see foods made with a meat meal, such as chicken meal. Meat meals are never human quality. They can be made from diseased animals, animals which died by means other than slaughter, and worse. They are cooked at high temperatures, sometimes multiple times, damaging proteins and fats. Their nutritional value is not the equal of human quality meats.
Beyond the quality of the proteins in a dog food, I like to see variety. Different meats contain a differing array of amino acids. By varying the meats, we are more likely to meet the biological needs of all dogs. My preference is for a minimum of four different proteins. This could be as simple as beef, turkey, chicken, and fish. I will sometimes mix proteins in a meal, or just vary them from day to day.
Choosing a dog food is a challenge, and there is much conflicting information, from all kinds of sources. But if you remember to start with the meat, it gets a lot easier. Choose only human quality. Avoid meat meals. And feed variety. These three simple guidelines will simplify your dog food decisions, and let you know you’re are doing your best for your best friend.