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Crude ash: understand the analytical components of a pet food label

Years ago – when pet food production was in its infancy – crude ash was synonymous with poor quality. But today, this is no longer true. In today’s article, we explain what crude ash is and discuss what elements to consider when assessing the quality of a pet food. 


Crude ash: what is it?

Crude ash contained in dry food represents the percentage of inorganic substances present; i.e. the minerals.

The name, crude ash, is derived from the fact that its analytical determination is the result of total incineration of the organic substance.

That’s right: ash is what remains after incineration of the product. By incinerating the kibble (dry food), the main nutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) become ash, which consists of the minerals contained in the ingredients used to prepare the dry food.


A lot of ash = lower quality? This is not true any more

Years ago, the pet food industry mostly used scraps (bone, cartilage, feathers etc.) to produce food for dogs and cats: these scraps, although low quality, were, indeed, very rich in minerals and the final level of crude ash was therefore high, signifying a poor quality.

But today, the pet food industry has evolved a lot and to prepare the dog food you can also use fresh meat: excellence, in this case, is represented by Alternative, which contains only 100% HFC fresh meat*.


Fresh meat (the muscle cuts we choose for our table) is very rich in minerals iron, zinc, selenium, sodium, potassium, etc. That is why today a high percentage of ash can be a sign of high quality.


Labels comparison: a look at the market

We analysed eight of the most well-known brands looking at their full range of dry foods: the crude ash values ranged from 5.7% to 11%. Those that listed very low levels of ash did not use fresh meat in their recipe, only hydrolysed proteins, which are already “processed”, and the quality is very different from that of HFC* fresh meat.


How to understand the actual quality of a dry food?

The answer is always the same: read the composition – the list of ingredients (in descending order) used in the recipe: meat, rice, vegetables, etc.


The list of ingredients is critical to understanding the real quality of the raw materials used in the kibble (dry food) that we are putting into our dog’s or cat’s bowl.

The analytical components are the result of quantitative analysis (not qualitative) therefore are not a quality indication of quality.


*HFC fresh meat: originally fit for human consumption
According to Article 10 paragraph a) of European Regulation (EC) 1069/2009: parts of slaughtered animals “(…) which are fit for human consumption in accordance with Community legislation (…)”

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