Home Nutrition & Formulation Animal Proteins Animal protein in petfood: pros and cons

Animal protein in petfood: pros and cons

Animal protein in petfood: pros and cons

The petfood industry market is constantly evolving and growing. Consumers’ demands are becoming more and more specific. As the demand for vegan petfood expands, so does the demand for food with a higher content of animal protein.

Petfood is considered to be high in meat or animal protein content when its formula contains 30 percent or more fresh meat.

This expanded trend for consumers to opt for increasingly premium petfood puts the responsibility on manufacturers and veterinary nutritionists, in seeking continuous improvements in ingredients, nutritional quality, and palatability in order to stay within a competitive market and be chosen for the quality of their product, besides packaging or price.

Driven by this responsibility, some large producers are already testing innovative formulae are based on the needs for:

  • Higher quality, incorporating more mechanically boned skeletal muscle and primary organs
  • The development of non-traditional formulas, such as grain-free or with a limited quantity
  • New shapes for dry food, such as a crouton or bone
  • An increase in the percentage of fresh meat (frozen, not frozen or dehydrated), of up to 75 percent

Challenges in the production of petfood high in meat protein?

Logically, when innovating, new problems arise to be overcome or solved, and the increase in meat content presents a unique challenge from a manufacturing point of view: extrusion.

“High-meat dry food can be produced with a single-screw, mid-cut extruder, as long as the ingredients used are dry,” said Dave Albin of Insta-Pro International.

However, the challenge arises when working with raw and wet ingredients, because according to Dave, “the moisture and fat in raw ingredients from animals reduce friction in the extruder barrel, making it difficult (and almost impossible) to reach the necessary cooking temperature.”

As well as producers seeking to innovate in their formulae, manufacturers of the machinery necessary for that production must accompany and allow for the market to update their offer. To increase the meat content in petfood, a twin screw extruder has a processing advantage (over single screw ones) thanks to its better mixing and kneading ability.

The keys to safe innovation and transformation, according to industry experts, include considering new requirements in formulas, the development of appropriate hardware, effective process control, and concrete and detailed specifications of the final product.

Benefits of high animal protein petfood

Protein is essential for healthy growth; and it is the main source of energy for an animal.

Food high in meat protein is beneficial because:

  • A grain-free and protein-based food is the closest thing for a pet, today, to the diet of a carnivore. In fact, many veterinary nutritionists say that the ideal is to imitate, as much as possible, how they would have fed themselves (as their previous generations did), since their digestive systems have changed very little. According to this line, professionals maintain that dogs and cats should eat food with 60 percent meat
  • Overweight pets can achieve healthy weight loss through a high protein (and calorie restricted) diet. Also, in addition to promoting the loss of body fat, it helps maintain lean body mass. On the other hand, a food high in meat protein generates a higher caloric expenditure and a greater feeling of fullness and satisfaction. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition certifies that dogs fed by a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates perceive a greater loss of body fat and a better maintenance of lean body mass
  • Dogs need 22 amino acids, 12 of which they can produce on their own. There are 10 essential amino acids that are necessary to obtain through food, and they are: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. All of these are found in the protein of meat
  • As pets get older, they need to consume more and more protein to maintain healthy body condition. This will prevent the loss of muscle mass, since they will obtain the adequate amino acids for good maintenance
  • A puppy dog, for example, needs more protein during its first stage of growth and development. Accordingly, the diet of a pregnant dog should be high in protein, as well as rich in nutrients, fat and calories
  • When an animal exercises or has periods of high activity, its muscles work at a higher speed, meaning they build and break down muscle protein more quickly. The amino acids present in proteins promote muscle growth and recovery; a high protein content provides what is necessary for the reconstruction and replacement of muscle tissues

As the demand for pet food high in meat protein grows steadily, the industry must work to be prepared for new challenges. As Dave Albin states, “High-meat petFOOD and treats will continue to expand into both dry and wet products.’

Therefore, the best way to continue within the competitive circle of supply and demand is to make the best effort to adapt and provide the final consumer with what they want and need.


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