Pet Foods Best Buy Dates


It’s Important! ‘Best By’ Dates on Pet Foods
By: Susan Thixton

A recent article posted on The Consumerist website provides a very good lesson that every pet owner should take notice of. The article explains the story of a pet owner who unknowingly purchased expired pet food from PetCo (3 years expired!) and her dog became very ill.

What happened to this pet owner can easily happen to anyone. How often do you check the expiration date on the pet foods and treats that you purchase?

With pet foods and treats, you will find a ‘Best by’ date typically on the side or back of the bag or can. Most pet food manufacturers have told me that this date does NOT mean the food has expired, it means that the food is not as optimal as before the best by date.

The shelf life of a pet food and treat is one of the questions I ask manufacturers for Petsumer Report. It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Dry pet foods can have a shelf life from 4 months to 3 years. Canned or pouched pet foods can have a shelf life from 1 to 5 years. Treats typically have the same shelf life as dry food. The ‘Best by’ date stamped on the pet food label does not tell you how old the food is. The ‘Best by’ date does not tell you when the food was made. It only tells you the date that this particular pet food manufacturer determined the food no longer provides optional nutrition.

Optimal for your pet would be a pet food that is naturally preserved. However, the drawback of naturally preserved pet foods – the only drawback – is that they lose their nutritional value quickly. The challenge to pet owners is to find a food and treat that is very fresh.

Here’s how you can make sure your pet is only eating fresh food – providing the best that product offers. Make a phone call to the pet food manufacturer and ask them what the shelf life is for the dry food or the canned/pouched food. As an example – ABC Pet Food Company tells you the shelf life of Premium ABC Dry food is 18 months and the shelf life of Premium ABC Canned/Pouch food is 2 years. With that information, check the ‘Best by’ date on the pet food. Let’s say the ‘Best by’ date on the dry dog food you are considering says June 2008. Knowing that ABC Pet Food Company told you 18 months was the shelf life, you would know the food was made in January 2007 (Shelf life 18 months minus from June 2008 equals Jan. 2007). If ‘today’ is October 20, 2007 – you would know this pet food is now 10 months old.

With a canned pet food, ABC Pet Food ‘Best by’ date is also June 2008. This tells you that this can of pet food was made in June 2006 (Shelf life 2 years minus from June 2008 equals June 2006). Thus the canned product would be 14 months old in October 2007.

Using the above example, I would not purchase a dry pet food that is already ten months old. Ideally, a dry dog food or cat food should be less than four months old, and you should use it within a couple of months. Again, with naturally preserved pet foods, the nutritional value begins to drop quickly. Purchasing the freshest pet food provides your pet the best nutrition. Try to purchase and feed a dry pet food within six months of manufacturing. Store the food in a air tight container in a dark, cool closet. With a canned pet food, the quality of nutrition is protected by the canning process. Any unused portion of the food must be covered and stored in the refrigerator – use the remaining food within a couple of days.

Call the manufacturer of your pet’s food and ask the shelf life of dry and canned foods. It is a small chore, but it’s very important. You want what you pay for and your pet deserves the best nutrition. Get yourself into the habit of looking at the ‘Best by’ date BEFORE you purchase the food or treat. This little effort will not only provide your pet with better nutrition, but it could also save you from an experience of a sick pet.

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