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The Most Important Things To Look For on Pet Food Packaging

written by Ellie Walker

The food we feed our pets plays a big role in their overall health, so you want to choose a brand that will support them in living their happiest, healthiest life. If you’re not sure whether a pet food brand is reputable or not, just take a look at the packaging. Just like the packaging on the food we eat, pet food packing provides detailed information on the ingredients and nutritional content.

To help ensure you’re choosing the best possible food for your pet, we’ve put together a list of the most important things to look for on pet food packaging.

It has a short best before date

The best-before date listed on pet food packaging is another great indicator of how fresh, natural, and healthy the food is. Dry kibble is made with preservatives and processed in a way that it can sit open for months on end without expiring. 

Fresh food, like Freshpet, on the other hand, has a much shorter shelf life – it must be used within seven days of opening. This is because, unlike kibble, fresh food is much closer to its natural state which makes it easier to digest, more nutritious, and more delicious!

On each Freshpet recipe, you’ll see a tailored use-by date which indicates how long after opening it needs to be used:

  • Rolls: 7 days

  • Patties: 5 days

  • Spring & Sprout and Homestyle Creations Bagged Meals: 5 days

  • Freshpet Select, Deli Fresh, and Vital Bagged Meals: 7 days

  • Single Serve: 2 days

Meat is the first ingredient

When looking at the nutrition label on pet food packaging, ingredients are listed in order of predominance. This means that the ingredient that is most used in the recipe should be listed first and the ingredient that is least used should be listed last.

When looking at the pet food packaging label, you’ll want to see meat listed as the first ingredient. Not meat powder, meat meal, or meat by-products but actual meat, such as:

  • Beef

  • Bison

  • Chicken

  • Lamb

  • Ocean Whitefish

  • Salmon

  • Turkey

If you see any of these meats listed first on the ingredients list, you know it’s a safe choice.

It has refrigeration requirements

High-quality pet food is made with fresh ingredients that are not shelf-stable, which means that they need to be refrigerated before and after opening. When looking at the pet food packaging, check to see if there are guidelines around refrigeration. For example, Freshpet recommends that recipes are handled the same as any freshly prepared food:

  • Keep refrigerated at all times

  • Don’t leave food sitting in your pet’s bowl for more than an hour

  • Any unused food can be returned to the fridge and served again later

The reason for these refrigeration requirements is that instead of being overly processed, all Freshpet recipes are gently steamed at low temperatures to protect the integrity of the ingredients. Each recipe is then vacuum sealed to lock in the natural goodness before being sent to the fridge where fresh food belongs.

The pet food packaging lists ingredients you can recognize

If you looked at the ingredients list on your own food and didn’t recognize a single one, you probably wouldn’t buy it, right? Your pet’s food should be treated the same. When looking at the ingredients list, you should be able to tell exactly what is in each recipe. For example, it should include things such as:

  • Whole proteins, such as meat, fish, or eggs

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Vitamins

  • Minerals

To remain shelf-stable for months on end, dry kibble needs to be packed full of hard-to-pronounce preservatives, such as BHA. It also swaps meat for meat powder, meat meal, or meat by-products and adds artificial flavors and coloring.

Doesn’t sound very tasty, does it? This is why seeing ingredients you can recognize is another sign of high-quality pet food.

The majority of ingredients should be locally sourced

The further away ingredients are sourced, the less fresh they’ll be when they’re used. In fact, depending on how far away they’re coming from, they may even require chemical preservatives to ensure that they make it to their destination without expiring. If ingredients aren’t fresh when they’re used, they won’t be able to provide all of the nutritional benefits your pet needs.

At Freshpet, we strongly support local farmers whose labor and environmental practices align with ours which is why we focus on sourcing our ingredients from farms close to our Freshpet Kitchens. Local sourcing also helps contribute to the well-being of the communities we work in – and requires less transportation!

We hope that you now have a good idea of what are the most important things to look for on pet food packaging. If you have further questions about what’s inside our Freshpet recipes, take a look at our FAQs, or don’t hesitate to contact us – we’re happy to help!

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