The ingredients (composition) on pet food packaging are listed in descending order. This means that the first ingredient is the greatest. A good quality pet food should have meat or fish as the first ingredient, this is especially true for cats who are obligate carnivores. Some pet foods may appear to have meat or fish at the start of the ingredients list but it is listed as ‘fresh’, this is unlikely to be an accurate representation of the quantity as the cooking process will remove most of the water in fresh meat/fish and the true ingredient volume could be much less.
Quality – animal or vegetable?
Vegetable sources of protein (which are cheaper than meat or fish) are often used as the main ingredient in pet foods. Occasionally, vegetable sources can be useful for pets with health conditions but generally they are less digestible than meat/fish and contain lower levels of important nutrients such as amino acids.
Quality – fresh versus dry meat meal
There is a lot of conflicting advice and controversy around the type of meat or fish that goes in to diets. There are two common forms used in most dry food diets, freshly prepared meat or fish or a ‘fish or meat meal’ which can sometimes be referred to as ‘dried’ meat or fish. Freshly prepared fish or protein sources are added to the ‘mixing bowl’ of the diet as fresh chilled meat or fish. This means it still contains a high level of moisture when it goes into the ingredients blend and therefore it is a heavy ingredient, so even though there may appear to be a large amount of it being added to the diet, over 70% of its weight will be water. The ‘meal’ form of meat or fish based protein has recently been receiving some negative press and some owners have been shying away from the diets that use meat meal, however meat and fish meals are just fresh meat that has been dried, de-fatted and ground down before being mixed with the other ingredients. This can make them a highly concentrated source of protein.
What matters with both ingredient types is the quality of the meat or fish before it was processed. This comes down to the type of cuts of meat and fish (i.e. how much meat vs bone vs connective tissue) is used and how the ingredients are stored. Raw meat is prone to bacterial spoilage is if it is not stored correctly, the longer it is in a raw form and the more it is transported the greater the risk will be of bacterial colonisation. The temperature and pressure of making dry kibble will always remove the risk of bacterial contamination in the food, nonetheless they still leave behind a myriad of chemicals which can have a detrimental effect on palatability and the health of the end consumer – your dog or cat. Hence, just because the meat or fish is fresh doesn’t necessarily mean it is better quality, in fact the chances of bacterial contamination are potentially greater. So, it all could be down to manufactures monitoring and being fastidious about quality as well as quantity. Monitoring for bacterial spoilage in ingredients is something easily achieved and is key to ensuring high quality and this can be done on both dried and fresh proteins. There are some great high quality meat and fish meals as well as fresh sources available but there are also some really poor quality examples of both.
Digestibility of animal protein is also important. In order to digest, absorb and use the nutrients in the meat or fish the quality of it needs to be high. By-products and derivatives are unlikely to cause any harm to your pet but they are not likely to be as easily digested as fresh meat or a high quality meat meal. Both fresh meat and dry meat meals can come with a high bone content. This will create a diet high in ash (minerals) and this will not be as digestible as a lower ash meat. Diets with a high percentage of meat or fish may use poorly digestible animal protein, so you could be paying more for the food but your pet may not be benefiting.
How much protein does my pet need?
Proteins are needed by every cell in the body. Apart from being used as an energy source, they have many other functions, including use as enzymes, hormones and being used in the structure of tissues, muscles, organs, skin and fur. Dogs and cats even more so, require diets high in good quality protein, for good blood sugar control and energy levels, maintaining or building strong and lean muscles and for great skin and coat.
What matters with both ingredient types is the quality of the meat or fish before it was processed.
The European Pet Food Industry (FEDIAF) sets out recommended levels for nutrients for pet food manufacturers to follow. For adult pets FEDIAF recommends a minimum level of 18% protein for dogs and 25% protein for cats. These are the minimum amounts the pet needs requires, the optimal amount of protein to promote long-term health will be higher and we recommend at least 22% protein for an adult dog and 28% for cats.
However the exact amount your pet needs is also highly dependent on species, lifestage and health of your pet. Overweight pets may need a diet higher in fibre and lower in fatty meat or fish types, elderly or senior pets or those with issues such as kidney problems may need less animal protein. Puppies and Kittens will need a diet with higher levels of high quality animal protein for growth.
Protein in Vet’s Kitchen
Vet’s Kitchen products contain high levels of high quality, easily digestible protein, meaning that your pet can maintain optimum health by properly digesting and absorbing the nutrients they get from eating our diets.