Are Pea Protein, Fiber, Flour or Starch on Your Dog’s Food Label?

Take a look at your dog’s food and treats.  Do you see pea protein, pea fiber, pea flour or pea starch listed as an ingredient?  Chances are very high that it’s listed near the top of the ingredient list especially if the food or treats are “grain-free”

What is Pea Protein?

First of all, we’re not talking about sweet green peas.  We’re referring to field peas similar to split peas.  Pea protein, starch and fiber are all concentrated derivatives of the whole peas.  Pea flour is a meal made from dried whole peas

Why is it Being Used in Dog Food and Treats?

A disappointing trend in the pet food industry is the use of pea flour, pea fiber and pea protein.  Consumers have become more savvy and informed about ingredients in pet food, and many are refusing to buy products with ingredients like meat meal, animal by-products and cheap fillers.  At the same time, grain-free pet food has grown significantly in popularity.

Pet food makers have been looking for less expensive protein sources to reduce the use of meat meal in their recipes because of consumer protests.  They have also been looking for ways to replace the cheap fillers that consumers have identified as undesirable.  They can take out the cheap grain fillers and replace it with pea protein/pea fiber.  So the manufacturer could be trying to boost the protein content in a cheap way to make up for a lack of meat-based protein. 

What is Ingredient Splitting?

In addition, many dog food manufacturers do what is called “ingredient splitting” which is breaking down one lower quality item into its various components, with each listed separately on the pet food label.  The result is that a smaller quantity of “meat” now appears higher on the list even though there is actually less of it in the dog food.  If you put all the smaller quantities of peas together, they would actually weigh more than the “meat”.  Sneaky, right?

The practice of “ingredient splitting” is supposed to keep consumers from noticing how much of the food, especially protein, comes from peas and not meat.  Don’t be fooled by this dirty little trick.

Are Pea Protein, Fiber, Flour and Starch Just a Filler?

But pea protein is a starchy filler.  It is high in insoluble fiber.  Pea fiber is a vegetable protein, not animal protein that your pet’s body requires.  Is it a filler to artificially “inflate” the protein count in grain-free foods?  That means that your dog won’t be able to use all of the protein within the peas.  Neither fillers or high fiber ingredients are part of a balanced, species appropriate diet for dogs.  Dogs have no biological requirement for grains.

What Does it Mean for Your Dog?

A few sweet green peas in a dog’s diet is not a concern.  But when manufacturers are replacing meat protein with concentrated high levels of peas or pea protein, that’s a definite concern.  High placement of pea protein on the ingredient list could indicate concentrated levels.

If pea protein is listed within the first 7 ingredients, avoid this food.  Dogs can survive eating these foods, but they do not thrive on diets that contain biologically inappropriate ingredients.  Symptoms can appear quickly for some animals while others endure damage silently until a severe condition is discovered.

“You won’t find pea fiber in high quality commercially available pet foods, nor will you find it in healthy recipes for homemade pet meals.  Where you will find it is in very affordable, highly processed, low-quality pet food,” said Dr. Karen Becker, DVM and contributor at

There are some very good dog foods on the market.  It does take some time to read the labels and keep informed about trends in the dog industry.  Often times the smaller, independently-owned pet stores carry the better dog foods and have employees who are very familiar with what you should be looking for when selecting a healthy product for your dog.

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Eli & Jojo’s dog treats are premium treats made with wholesome, real food..  We never use artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, wheat, corn, soy or salt or sugar.  Real Food.  Simple Ingredients.

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