We're updating our Breeder's Club Terms & Conditions from 24th June 2024 - Read More

Pet food secrets: What is ingredient splitting?

Whether you sit on the side of it being a little deceptive, or downright dishonest, ingredient splitting is a sometimes controversial, yet common practice tactic used in a surprising number of pet foods. Yes, even some of the pet foods at your local Vet or pet store. 

Ingredient splitting is a well known 'secret' in the pet food industry, yet most pet owners have no idea about this game some pet food companies play with ingredients lists, or why they do it. 

We take a look at what's going on and why, as well as what to watch out for to find out if your pet food is being completely transparent... 

cat hiding looking back around corner

What comes first?

Reading ingredients labels is nothing new. We've been doing that for years. For ourselves, our kids and our pets. 

Most of us have the basic understanding that there's the most of the first ingredient, at the start of the list, and the least of the last ingredient, at the end of the list. 

Pet food ingredients are listed in order of how much each ingredient weighs, before the food was cooked and turned into kibble. 

So when we look at ingredients in our pet's food, most of us look for meat to be the first ingredient. Some of us look a little further, maybe at the first 3 to 5 ingredients. 

Job done. Right?

Not quite. 

All may not be what it seems...

What is ingredient splitting? 

Ingredient splitting takes advantage of that basic understanding most of us have. The hope is that pet owner's won't look too far down the ingredients list, or even if you do, that you won't know what to look out for. 

Ingredient splitting is when a company takes the same, lower-quality, less appealing ingredient, and divides it in to two or more smaller amounts. That means they can break it up and list it twice, instead of once. Now that one ingredient is split into smaller amount and listed multiple times, instead of all lumped together, each portion weighs less. And if it weighs less, it shifts down the ingredients list.

But why would they do that?

Because ingredient splitting makes more appealing ingredients - like meat - appear to be higher up on the ingredients list. When really, those less appealing ingredients are the true first ingredients, not meat at all! 

You be the judge...

Let's take a look at two foods. Which one would you choose for your pet?

Food A... 

pet food label example

...or Food B?

pet food ingredient splitting

Try again with these two...

Would you choose Food C...

pet food

...or Food D?

pet food label

In fact, food A and B are the same. Food C and D? You got it. Identical too. Food A and D are both examples of ingredient splitting

But listed honestly? Without any sneaky tactics? It doesn't look so good when you know peas, lentils, corn and rice are the real first ingredients, not meat!

What to watch out for

The first thing to look for is which ingredients are actually different, and which are the same...  

For example, chicken is obviously different from turkey, but what about all those different coloured peas and lentils? And those different forms of rice and corn?

Here are four examples of common ingredients used for ingredient splitting...


Green lentils is the name for the whole lentil. Red lentils is the name when the lentil has been split in half. Add them together and lentils now appear much further up the real ingredients list.


Green peas are not nutritionally different from yellow peas. But pea fibre is different (pea fibre is only the fibre portion of a pea). But those green and yellow peas? Right again. Add them together and suddenly peas become the real first ingredient (but pea fibre doesn't change position). 

Corn and rice

How about all that corn and rice? Whole corn is just what it says - the whole corn kernel - and corn meal is just finely ground corn. Nutritionally the same. Rice flour is finely ground rice. Rice bran is also ground rice (just not as fine as flour). 


So what happens when you add the 'green peas' to the 'yellow peas'? And the 'green lentils' to the 'yellow lentils'? And all that corn and rice together?

You got it. Added together they become heavier. And that moves them up the ingredients list. Food A and D aren't looking so good after all. 

Real ingredients list

Nutrience is different. Every Nutrience formula shows you the real ingredients list. No tricks. No ingredient splitting.  

If you're not feeding Nutrience yet, grab a bag of your pet's food now, and take a closer look at what's really in their food.

You might be surprised what you find.

Keep learning...

What does Grain Free really mean in pet food?

9 reasons your pet's a fussy eater & how to fix it