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  • Hahnbee Choi, Cert. CN

What To Look For In A High-Quality Kibble

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Searching for pet food can be quite intimidating, especially when hundreds of brands to choose from it. It may feel like every brand is telling you their food is the best. But when purchasing a kibble, there are vital factors to ensure the highest-quality purchase. Here are the top key points to search for in quality dry food.

Check The Label

Pet food labels are loaded with information to provide insight into the food's quality, but they can also be a bit tricky to understand at first. The most important section will be the ingredients section to reveal what exactly is in the food.

Low-Quality Carbohydrates

Unfortunately, there is no way to entirely avoid carbohydrates as this ingredient binds kibble together. But avoiding the most low-quality and allergenic carbohydrates such as corn, soy, wheat, and rice are easy ways to purchase better food.

Animal By-Products

Animal by-products are the remainder of a slaughtered animal after removing all the parts intended for human consumption. Animal by-products are considered "inedible" for humans but can still be used in pet food. These parts include heads, back, feet, liver, lung, kidney, brain, etc. These are all parts commonly used in a raw diet. But animal-by products tend to be controversial since there are benefits as they include many organs. But the problem with the kibble industry is quality. The way animal by-products are handled tends to be improper and unsanitary. By-products used in pet food may not be refrigerated and stored for hours on a hot trailer. Even if the meat has spoiled, it will still be acceptable for the pet food industry.

Furthermore, 4D animals (dead, dying, diseased, and down), dead farm animals, and dead zoo animals can be rendered into meal ingredients. Rendering refers to cooking away the moisture to create a concentrated protein powder, often called a by-product meal.

Flavoring, Artificial Antioxidants & Synthetics


Reading the “official definition,” it can be difficult to conclude what natural flavors are truly made of as it covers such a broad range of foods. Natural flavors must come from a plant or animal versus an artificial flavor from a synthetic derivative. Natural flavors are complex mixes created by food chemists. And every flavor contains chemicals, natural or artificial. All substances in the universe are created by chemicals, even water (hydrogen and oxygen). But, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA), a group that evaluates the safety of flavor additives in the United States for humans, have been condemned by nutrition experts and public interest groups for not disclosing safety information on natural flavors. Taking a look at what is covered under the name “natural flavors” in the FEMA database, it can be shown just how many ingredients can be swept under one name.

In addition, according to current pet food labeling rules, flavors can be deemed proprietary, which means they are not forced to disclose where the ingredients are sourced or have the "natural" flavors created. Adverse reactions may occur due to the number of chemicals that may be mixed together.

Artificial Antioxidants

The most common artificial antioxidants include BHA (butylated hydroxytoluene), BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole), and ethoxyquin. Chemical preservatives are used to slow the oxidation and rancidity of fats. But these preservatives can have unwanted health effects.

Ethoxyquin: Originally registered as a pesticide in 1965. The United States Environmental Agency (EPA) discovered, "The primary target organs affected by ethoxyquin in experimental animals are the liver and the kidneys. Dogs are more susceptible to ethoxyquin toxicity than rats with elevated liver enzymes and microscopic findings in the liver occurring at doses as low as 4 mg/kg/day over a 90-day feeding period." Ethoxyquin is not often found on the label as it is added in the fish meal then the fish meal is added to the finished product -- thus the kibble manufacturer only required to write "fish meal" versus "fish meal with added ethoxyquin."

"The primary target organs affected by ethoxyquin in experimental animals are the liver and the kidneys." - Environmental Protection Agency

BHA/BHT: The National Toxicology Program warns that Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals." Dietary exposure caused benign and malignant tumors to form in rats and hamsters. Other studies have shown BHT to cause lung damage and offer further evidence of the carcinogenic effects of BHA. California also included BHA in the "Chemicals Known… to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity" report. The European Union classified BHA and BHT as "dirty" food additives. With pets eating the same foods daily, the exposure to chemical additives will only mass accumulate over time.

Synthetic Vitamins & Minerals

While synthetics have their place, replacing all nutrients with synthetics should be avoided. And when they are used, the most bioavailable version should be used. For example, Zinc Picolinate is the most bioavailable form following Zinc Chelate. But Zinc Oxide has significantly lower bioavailability levels at 49.9% (40.9-57.7) but is most frequently used. Thankfully, several brands on the market minimally use synthetic supplements.

Higher-Quality Brands

Here is a list of thoughtfully curated kibble brands that check all key points.

Nature's Logic: One of the only dry foods that utilize 100% whole foods and uses millet as its carb source. They have also completed AAFCO All Life Stage feeding trials, but as their food is relatively high in Calcium (Ca), it is not recommended for large breed puppies.


Carna4: Another food recipe with 100% whole foods. Has a higher amount of carbohydrate sources. This food is manufactured in Canada, and enlist Mortec Scientific Inc. to third-party test the food.

Farmina: Avoids most common carbohydrates but utilizes a large number of synthetics. The synthetic used are chelated, which are more easily absorbed. Based in Italy, Farmina sources from Italy, France, and Denmark.

In the end, the ''best'' food is the best you can provide and what works for your pet. Every animal is an individual and they should be treated as such. With a dry food diet, it is imperative to rotate the protein and brand of kibble to ensure an array of nutrient profiles and formulations and add moisture and kibble boosters. While feeding a fresh diet is optimal, these key factors can provide the highest quality dry food. As always, I hope you learned something new today & Always Keep Exploring!

Visual Learner? Video Version Here

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