Are You Storing your Pet Food Safely?
How concerned are you with pet food storage techniques? Do you have a designated container or spot in your house where all of the pet supplies “live”? Or do you just stick the bag anywhere it will fit and not really fuss with it? Generally speaking, pet owners don’t put nearly as much thought into how they store their critter food as they do what kind they buy or how much they’re feeding. The good news is that food storage is usually pretty straight-forward; the bad news is that there are some things to keep in mind to ensure that you’re doing it safely.
Pet Food Location, Location, Location
One of the advantages of dry pet food is that it’s relatively easy to store. It doesn’t need to be kept cold, and it has a relatively long shelf life.
However, kibble storage is not without its caveats. Always store the food in a cool, dry place, like the kitchen pantry or laundry room. Avoid leaving the food outside, where it can get “raided” by wild animals (like raccoons, opossums, and even coyotes) or contaminated by bugs. Keep the bag from getting wet, which can lead to the food getting moldy or “gross.” And instead of leaving the bag open, tightly roll up the open end and secure it with a chip clip or clothespin.
Some folks like to keep their pet food in a designated glass or plastic bin once they get it home. That’s fine; specially designed pet food containers or canisters often have features like locking lids, pouring spouts, or wheels to help keep the food fresh and easy to distribute. Just make sure that you wash the container with warm, soapy water between bags, and hold on to the original packaging that the food came in (more on that later!).
Keep the Packaging
While utilizing food storage containers isn’t a bad idea (and they probably do a better job of keeping the food fresh than a simple chip-clip would!), do not throw away the food’s original packaging until it’s all gone. The bag or box that the food came in will have important information, like the UPC code, lot number, expiration date, list of ingredients, etc.
Having this info on hand (along with your receipt) will make it much easier to return the food to the store and get a refund if you experience quality or contamination issues with it. If your pet starts showing symptoms of food allergies or an upset stomach after eating, perusing their food’s ingredient list can help pinpoint the offending substance. And if the manufacturer issues a product recall due to a health or safety hazard, you’ll probably need to know the food’s lot number to determine whether or not the bag you bought is part of a “bad batch.”
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Most savvy shoppers know that, pound-for-pound, buying items in bulk tends to be cheaper. Thus, it can be tempting to go ahead and buy one 40-pound bag of dog food instead of buying 4 10-pound bags over the course of several months. It can also seem like a great idea to stock up on your cat’s favorite food or treats when you notice that they’re on sale. But before you start throwing things in your shopping cart, check out the expiration dates, and ask yourself if your pet is really going to eat all of that food or all of those treats before they expire.
It’s not a good idea to feed your pet expired food. Once the “best by” date passes, the manufacturer can no longer guarantee the food’s quality. At best, it may have lost some of its nutritional value, and your pet might find the taste or texture unpleasant. At worst, though, the preservatives in the food may no longer be able to keep harmful bacteria at bay, and Snowball could be in for an upset stomach—or a trip to the vet. So keep an eye on those expiration dates, and discard any food that’s past its prime. If you can’t seem to find the “best by” date on a package of pet food, then give the manufacturer’s customer service hotline a call; a company representative will be able to help you.
One of the best things you can do for your pet’s health and safety is to inspect their food before you give it to them. No, you don’t need to examine every individual kibble with a magnifying glass, or dig through the pâté with tweezers. But do give it a quick once-over to make sure that the color, texture, and smell of the food is normal, and it’s not contaminated with bugs or foreign materials (like metal shards or flakes of plastic). Remember: our pets often can’t tell when something is amiss with their meal. For that reason, it’s critical for us to be careful for them!