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The Most Important Things To Look For on Pet Food Packaging


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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

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.

Different types of raw meat steaks Beef, salmon and chicken breast. Black background. Top view.

It has refrigeration

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

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

The dog in front of the empty bowl. Hungry labrador retriever waiting for feeding in the kitchen. - selective focus

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

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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