AAFCO: The Assn. of American Feed Control Officials, an organization that designs policy guidelines, such as feed-related terminology, ingredient definitions and approved ingredients, for states regarding animals and pet feed, in compliance with United States Department of Agriculture parameters.
Antioxidants: Certain substances in foods, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, with the ability to neutralize free radicals in the body, which have been implicated as a cause of cancer.
B.A.R.F.: An acronym for bones and raw food, a diet based on raw meat, uncooked bones and other natural, uncooked foods like vegetables and fruits.
BHA, BHT: Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene, chemical preservatives.
Chondroitin Sulfate: A nutraceutical thought to support joint health.
Ethoxyquin: A chemical preservative.
Extrusion, Low-temperature extrusion: A process of cooking pet food in which the food is subjected to high heat and pressure, then forced through small openings and sliced to create a kibble shape.  Low-temperature extraction uses lower temperatures, a process which some pet food manufacturers claim retains more nutrients in the food.
Glucosamine: A nutraceutical thought to support joint function.
Holistic: An unregulated term generally meaning a naturally preserved food made with wholesome ingredients that supports the overall health of an animal.
Homemade diet: A diet for pets prepared from human food, which may consist of raw or cooked meat, vegetables, fruits and grains, as well as certain vitamin and mineral supplements.
Human-grade:An unregulated term used to describe pet-food ingredients that the USDA would deem suitable for human consumption.
Meat Meal: Muscle meat with all the water and fat removed, resulting in a highly concentrated dry protein source.
Natural: Foods manufactured and preserved without any use of synthetic chemicals such as ethoxyquin, BHA or BHT.
Naturally preserved: Preserved without chemical preservatives; typically preserved with antioxidants, such as vitamin E and vitamin C.
Nutraceutical: A substance, such as an herb or food component, thought to have medical benefits but not officially considered a drug.  These include glucosamine and chondroitin, natural substances which many veterinarians believe support joint health.
Omega 3: A type of fatty acid found in fish and flaxseed, thought to benefit skin and coat.
Organic: This term, when applied to pet food, is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture as of October 2002.  Any food labeled "organic" must be produced, handled and labeled in accordance with the USDA National Organic Standards by groups certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents, just as is required for human food labeled organic.  These standards prohibit the use of chemicals in the production and handling of organic foods.
Oven-baked: A food that is baked instead of processed by extrusion.
Phytochemicals: Non-nutritive substances in plant foods thought to have health benefits, such as anti-cancer effects.
Prebiotics: Oligosaccharides, a kind of carbohydrate that bypasses the stomach and small intestine and ferments in the large intestine, providing food for beneficial intestinal flora.
Probiotics: Beneficial bacteria that help balance intestinal flora.  They are thought to aid in digestion and improve immune function.
Raw diet: A diet based on raw meat and other natural, uncooked vegetables and fruits.
USDA-approved: A food that complies with the standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Ingredients in foods approved for animals can be confusing.  The list below defines some of the pet food terminology used by manufacturers when listing the ingredients in their products.  Avoid buying pet foods that contain the items shown in red.  Quality pet foods have eliminated these chemical preservatives and are using natural ingredients as preservatives.
Terminology associated with pet food
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