You can read hundreds of online dog food reviews, pour over nutritional research and analysis, and still be at a loss on which is the best dog food for your breed. Luckily there is a simple system developed by the American Kennel Club that can help, the AKC food grading system. The AKC food grading system is a great way to assess the ingredients of a dog food without having to do all the in depth research. So combined with online dog food reviews and recommendations from your veterinarian, it can help ensure you pick the best food for your dog.
What Is The AKC Food Grading System?
The AKC food grading system is a point system that consumers can use to determine the quality of the food. The system incorporates the value of nutrition and the quality of ingredients and processing. Foods earn points when they contain high quality beneficial ingredients and lose points when they contain chemicals, fillers, and are over processed. The total sum of points then determines the rating of the food.
When Should You Use The AKC Food Grading System?
The AKC Food Grading system is great when you’ve narrowed dog your dog food choices to just a few brands after reading dog food reviews and learning what are the best brands on the market. The rating can help make the final choice between a few great brands so that you are getting the best food possible. The AKC Food Grading is also a quick way you can assess a new food at the store that’s piqued your interested.
How Does The AKC Food Grading System Work?
First you will start every food with a point value of 100. Then you will begin by deducting points for damaging ingredients. The point values you deduct are:
- 10 points if the ingredients contain any “by-product”
- 10 points if the ingredients contain any non-specific animal source like “meat” or “poultry”
- 3 points if there are less than two meats in the first 3 ingredients
- 3 points if the protein sources are not meat
- 2 points if lamb is the only protein source
- 1 point if the food contains beef
- 2 points if the food contains animal fat other than fish oil
- 5 points if the ingredients contain “mill run” or non-specific grains
- 5 points if a grain ingredient is used twice in the first five ingredients
- 3 points if the ingredients include corn
- 2 points if corn is listed in the first five ingredients
- 2 points if the food contains wheat
- 2 points if soy or soybeans are an ingredient
- 10 points if there are chemicals preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin
- 3 points if there are any artificial colors
- 1 point if the food contains salt
Once you have this number tallied, you will then begin to add points for good ingredients. The point values to add are:
- 5 points if any of the meat is organic
- 2 points if any of the meat is hormone or antibiotic free
- 1 point for every animal protein source
- 3 points if ingredients include probiotics
- 3 points if the ingredients include fruit
- 3 points if the ingredients contains vegetables
- 1 point if the vegetables and fruits are pesticide-free
- 2 points if the ingredients include barley
- 2 points if the ingredients include flaxseed oil
- 1 point if the ingredients oats or oatmeal
- 1 point if the ingredients contain sunflower oil
- 1 point if the food is fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin
- 5 points if the food is baked or freeze dried
- 5 points if the food is endorsed by any veterinarian nutrition organization or veterinarian nutritionist
The final total will be used to grade your pet food. The grading system is:
- A = 94 points or higher
- B = 86-93 points
- C = 78-85 points
- D = 70 – 77 points
- F = 69 points or lower
3 Foods With High AKC Grades
Merrick Wilderness Blend has an AKC food grade of 127 points and is an excellent example of a highly rated dog food. With organic, whole food ingredients, and no fillers, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, Merrick Wilderness is an ideal food to consider for your dog.
Castor & Pollux Organix has an AKC food grade of 125 points. It is a relatively limited ingredient dog food, otherwise it might rank higher than Merrick Wilderness. With whole foods and high quality protein sources, it still ranks very high on the chart.
Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Ultra Premium
Natural Balance Ultra Premium has an AKC food grade of 122 points and is another great example of a high quality food. Though not rated as high as Merrick Wilderness or Castor & Pollux because it uses animal meals, it is still a great choice for your dog.
Some Considerations When Grading Food
The AKC food grading guide is a great list to follow, however it is not gospel. First of all, dog food manufacturers are changing their recipes all the time, so it’s important that you stay current on the ingredients in the food. A food that may have once had a high rating could change their ingredients and end up with a lower rating and vice versa. There is also constant changes to dog food science. Foods that were once thought acceptable or even healthy, may actually be damaging to the health of your dog. Finally, this rating is for general purposes it does not address the special needs of dogs with health issues and allergies. So once you use this rating system to guide you to a great choice, check with your veterinarian before transitioning your dog to the new food.
The AKC Food Grading system is a great way to quickly evaluate the contents of dog food so you can find the healthiest food available. So use this simple method the next time you are picking out a new food for your pup and you should be able to find the healthiest dog food possible.