I’ve said often that researching and writing this blog have made me a more informed and smarter pet owner. Years of pet ownership can lull you into thinking you know all there is to know… or most everything anyhow. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s always good to keep up to date and educated about issues that keep your pets happy and healthy. And hopefully this blog helps you do that.
Food storage, which seems straight forward, is one thing I thought I had all the answers to. But some things I’ve learned in the last few days are causing me to question that. You may find, after reading this, you need to rethink your pet food storage too.
If you read this blog, you’re probably already putting a lot of effort into choosing the best quality food you can afford for your pets. But do you know the right way to store it so it maintains maximum nutritional value and freshness?
Whether you feed dry, canned or raw there are right and wrong ways to store your pet’s food.
First, always check the “Best by” or “Best before” date. All pet food has one on the packaging. Once the food is past the date, it’s time to throw it out.
When you buy your food, choose a “Best by” date that’s far enough out you’ll be able to finish it before it’s spoiled.
Food can go bad even before the “Best by” date if the packaging is compromised. So check before you buy to be sure bags aren’t torn or open, and cans aren’t bulging or leaking.
If the food doesn’t smell or look right when you open the bag, or if your pet won’t eat it, notify the manufacturer immediately. If they’re reputable, they’ll refund your money or replace the food. But more importantly, they need to know if there’s a problem in their manufacturing or packaging process.
Storing dry food
If you feed your pet kibble—which I do—air, light, hot temperatures and humidity can degrade your pet’s food. Exposure to any of these environmental factors at the least puts your pet at risk of not getting the nutritional benefits from their food. At worst, they can get very sick from mold, bacteria or rancidity.
High temperatures and moisture inside the bag of food can increase the risk of salmonella and other bacteria as well as mold growth. This contamination can make your pet sick. In fact, it can kill them.
I read a story on social media the other day about a family that lost two dogs who consumed moldy food. After the dogs died, the owners inspected the bag of food and found the food at the bottom was covered in mold. Somehow, moisture got in allowing the mold to grow.
This leads to another important storage consideration. Many food manufacturers recommend keeping your pet’s food in the bag it comes in instead of transferring it to a food bin. The bags are made to absorb any excess fat that accumulates and might turn rancid.
The bags also keep light out. And moisture, if you are careful about where you store the food… off the floor and in a dry location. You must also close the bag correctly by rolling the top down and securing it with a clip.
But if you leave the food in the bag, you won’t see all the food before your pet eats it. You won’t see if there’s mold in the bottom until you get to the bottom. That’s a huge risk. One I hadn’t considered before I heard of these poor dogs, and one I’m not willing to take.
But I was already using a food bin for reasons I’ll tell you in a minute.
My suggestion for you is to follow the manufacturers recommendation with regard to storing in the bag. You could empty the food, inspect it, and then put it back in the bag.
If you’re worried about fat turning rancid, this is a bigger problem for lower quality foods. They tend to spray the necessary fat in the recipe on the outside of the kibble. Premium foods, like Husse, use a vacuum process so the fat penetrates the kibble.
If you feed a premium food, the risk of mold is a bigger concern than rancid fat. So the argument for keeping the food in the fat-absorbing bag may not outweigh the risks of moisture getting in and mold growing.
This is especially the case if the manufacturer uses a micro perforated bag. These bags have miniscule holes to keep air from building up and inflating the bags in the warehouse. This can lead to puncture when the bags are stacked. The holes are small enough to keep pests out but moisture can still get in.
If you opt for the food storage bin, metal or glass are better than plastic. Plastic can leach chemicals and possibly retain residual fat.
But if you’re already using plastic like I am, that’s okay. Just be sure to thoroughly clean the container between each bag of food. This assures that you’ve gotten rid of any left over crumbs which will go bad, or fats that have adhered to the container and can turn.
And don’t mix old kibble with new kibble. Finish the old first. If it has been over 6 weeks since you opened the bag… throw it out, wash the bin, and fill with fresh food.
Regardless of the container you use to store the food, never store it in the garage. Summer temps can top 100 in there. And vitamins degrade at 104 degrees. Garages can be humid too, increasing the moisture risk.
Find a cool, dry location in your house. Possibly the pantry or another closet. But storing in the pantry can contaminate other food products if the pet food bag has meal moths.
And that’s why I store my dogs’ food in a food bin. Since my experience with these annoying critters—read “Worms In Your Pet Food… Disgusting But Not Uncommon” to hear more about that—I’ve emptied my dog food out of the bag to check for meal worms/moths. And after reading about that deadly mold, I will continue to do so.
I store my food bins in the coat closet. That moth infestation was not easy to get out of my pantry and I’d rather not go through it again.
Store the bin off the floor to avoid pests and moisture getting in.
If you empty the food from the bag, save the UPC code, lot number, brand, manufacturer, and “Best by” date in case you have a problem with the food or it’s recalled.
Storing canned food
If you feed your pet food from a can, those cans can stay fresh for years if unopened and stored in a cool, dry location. Again, below 100 degrees.
But don’t buy more than you’ll use before the “Best by” date.
Once the can is open, it can last for 4 hours at room temperature. Then you should throw it out.
Refrigerate any unused food for up to a week. Cover the can with a plastic pet food lid or plastic wrap to prevent moisture loss and odor transfer.
If you don’t think you’ll get through the can in a week, then you can freeze single serve portions. But freezing can change the texture and taste.
Storing refrigerated pet food
These types of foods have a short shelf life. Check the “Best by” dates. Once they’re open for 5 days, you need to throw them out. You may be able to freeze these foods, however. But check the packaging to be sure.
Commercially produced raw food diets have storage instructions on the package. If you make your own raw food diet for your pet, you may not be sure of the best way to store it.
Some meats spoils faster than others. And raw meat contains high levels of bacteria, making proper storage even more critical.
You can refrigerate ground meats—whether beef, poultry or fish—for up to 2 days. If you won’t get through it in that time, freeze it.
Large cuts of meat can be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days. You can freeze meat if it’s wrapped well for 4 to 6 months.
Whatever food you feed your pets, be sure you are storing it so they can get the most nutritional benefit, and you can avoid a serious and potentially fatal illness.
How do you store your pet food? Share your thoughts in the comment section at the top of the page.