Feed This, Not That: Protein
In theory, every single ingredient in a dog food formulation has a purpose, a specific reason or benefit that made the food company include it in the recipe. It could be that the ingredient is to provide protein, or perhaps it acts as a preservative. Whatever specific role needs to be filled, there are usually a wide variety of ingredient choices to fill that need, some of which are healthier and safer than others. Indeed, the ingredients that a pet food company chooses to use (or not) define the suitability of that food for a species, as well as the overall quality of the food.
Today, I am starting a new food series called “feed this, not that”. This is a play on “Eat this, not that”, a series of articles and then books by Dave Zinczenko, the former editor of Men’s Health magazine. In the “eat this not that” series, the author would compare and contrast popular human foods and make recommendations for healthier choices. I plan on doing the same type of thing, focusing on specific pet food ingredients that serve similar purposes in a dog food recipe. You see, for any nutritional requirement, there are always good, healthy choices as well as worse, not-so-healthy choices. Each week, I will choose a food “function”, that is the reason that an ingredient is included in a dog food, and then compare at least two “forms” of that function, one form that is healthy and one that is not so healthy.
I hope that this series will not only shed some light on why an ingredient is included in the recipe, but also help pet parents identify ingredients to avoid or look for when they are evaluating their pet’s food.
Because dogs are descendants of the carnivore wolf, the first ingredient function that I choose if protein. Dogs require ample protein and can actually thrive on high protein and fat diets. The total amount of protein in a dog food is an important metric to look at when choosing a food. However, it is equally important to look at the specific ingredients that are used to supply the protein.
Feed This, Not That: Protein
When it comes to proteins, a simple rule of thumb is to choose real, named, whole food proteins over unnamed and processed forms. With that in mind, a pet parent should:
Feed “chicken” or “turkey”, not “poultry”.
Poultry as an ingredient is just too vague. Does it mean chicken? Turkey? Something else? All of the above? If a food manufacturer will not disclose the specific ingredient, then it is not worth the risk of serving it to your pet. If you want to feed your dog a form of poultry as a source of protein, then choose a food that lists the specific type of protein, not a vague generalization. When it comes to dog food ingredients, generalizations are a sign of low quality food.
Feed “beef”, not “meat”. Here again, we have a situation where a protein source is either specific or vague. Beef is a known ingredient. Meat is not. Meat could refer to a wide range of proteins. A pet food company that chooses to include generic “meat” in a food recipe is obviously doing so as a low cost way to add protein to the recipe. Why someone would actually choose a dog food that will not disclose which type of meat is used in the recipe is beyond me.