Cat food nutrient test – snappy cat food claims and premium prices don’t always equal nutritional goodness

CHOICE cat food nutrient test

Beware of nutritional claims to convince you are buying a premium product! Photo: Tanchic/Shutterstock.com

CHOICE cat food nutrient test covered 35 “complete” wet cat foods for key nutrients.  The test results found popular offerings from Advance, Aldi Silvester’s, Snappy Tom, Gourmet Delight and Coles were among the worst performers.

“There was more than a whisker between the best and worst performers in our test with a number of products only just meeting the industry’s guidelines for fat and calcium,” says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.

“Safcol’s Gourmet Delight Whitemeat Tuna with Chicken Breast fails to deliver on nutritional levels for fat and calcium, despite most other samples comfortably meeting guidelines established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

“Cat owners reading nutrient claims on pack need to have confidence that manufacturers are delivering a nutritionally complete diet to maintain their pets’ overall health.”

CHOICE’s cat food nutrient test found Gourmet Delight Whitemeat Tuna with Chicken Breast  had 0.1% calcium content – dry matter, yet the AAFCO guidelines which the company claims compliance with on pack requires 0.6%. It was also light on crude fat content – dry matter, with only 7.3%, when the standard calls for 9%.[1]

“According to AAFCO, fat helps make cat food palatable, aids absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and is a source of essential fatty acids,” says Mr Godfrey.

CHOICE cat food nutrients test

CHOICE cat food nutrients test. CHOICE recommends 26 out of 35 brands. Image supplied.

“Adequate calcium helps maintain overall bone health but levels were below the guidelines. If similar results are found across multiple batches of this food, then over time a cat eating this food consistently may not be getting the optimum balance of nutrients it needs.

“We have referred the test results to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and asked them to investigate the issue.”

In Australia, the wet cat food market is valued at $399.6 million and is dominated by Mars Petcare (51%), Nestle Purina (32.3%) and Private Label (11.3%) with Safcol (3.2%) a distant fourth.[2]

“Cat food marketing is all about evoking an emotional response from pet owners to get them to pay a price premium for very similar products,” Mr Godfrey says.

“Whether it’s depicting cute cats and fish fillets on pack or making nutritional claims to convince you that you are buying a premium product, pet food manufacturers want you to believe purchasing their product is the best option for your pet’s health and wellbeing.

“But the fact is a premium price doesn’t always translate into a nutritionally superior meal with one of the most expensive products, Advance 1+ years – With Delicate Tuna ($2.21 per 100 grams), outperformed by Whiskas 1+ Years with Sardines and Tuna Loaf ($0.25/100 grams), which is $1.96 cheaper.”

When it comes to older cats that may have health problems, CHOICE found VIP Fussy Cat Beef and Kangaroo with Sweet Potato contained 10 times the minimum recommended amount of sodium.

“While increased sodium is not an issue for healthy cats, if the cat is elderly and has chronic renal disease it may suffer from water retention if it consumes too much salt,” says Mr Godfrey.

CHOICE is also calling for changes to the Australian Standard for the marketing of pet food, which is currently under review. The changes include:

  • Listing minimum percentages of characterising ingredients on pack. Currently, claims such as ‘with tuna’ can refer to a range of 5% to 25% of meat component.
  • A consistent, industry-wide approach when listing nutritional content, such as an information panel..
  • Clarifying terms such as “dinner”, “casserole”, “beefiest in the range” and “loaf” which currently are just generic terms for “meal” although they can imply more.
  • Stating the minimum % meat content for varieties described on the front of the label.

Cat food nutrient test results and recommended products

Based on the test results, CHOICE is recommending 26 of the 35 products.  Any sample on test scoring 80% or over provides a good balance of tested nutrients.  See the list of 26 brands recommended by CHOICE.

About CHOICE

Set up by consumers for consumers, CHOICE is the consumer advocate that provides Australians with information and advice, free from commercial bias. As vital today as when we were founded in 1959, CHOICE continues to fight for consumers and uncover the truth. By mobilising Australia’s largest and loudest consumer movement, CHOICE fights to hold industry and government accountable and achieve real change on the issues that matter most.

AAFCO guidelines

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a globally recognised reference body publishing nutritional requirements for cats, reflecting published science. AS 5812-2011 – the Australian Standard for the manufacture and marketing of pet food – adopts AAFCO as the nutritional standard.