UC Davis recently released the results of a study evaluating the nutritional content of home prepared dog food recipes. Their study found that only nine recipes (of 200) met the minimum nutritional standards for adult dogs. But there is more to the story…
As a co-author of a pet food cookbook, a pet food safety advocate, and an advocate for real food for our pets (versus highly processed pet food containing synthetic supplements often sourced from China) the study performed by UC Davis veterinarians concerned me. The study ‘selected 200 recipes from 34 sources’ but found only 9 recipes provided “all essential nutrients in concentrations that met the minimum standards established for adult dogs by the Association of American Feed Control Officials” and only five recipes “provided essential nutrients in concentrations that met the National Research Council’s Minimum Requirements for adult dogs.”
Continuing quoting the UC Davis press release: “The results of this study, however, indicate that most available recipes for healthy dogs, even those published in books by veterinarians, do not provide essential nutrients in the quantities required by the dog,” Larsen said. “It is extremely difficult for the average pet owner — or even veterinarians — to come up with balanced recipes to create appropriate meals that are safe for long-term use,” she said.”
Clearly, the UC Davis study is not in favor of home prepared pet foods and encourages pet food consumers that choose homemade food to “consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.” But let’s look at why…
Why is it ‘extremely difficult for pet owners and veterinarians’ to come up with balanced home prepared diets for pets?
Quick question…how many grams of protein should a thirty pound adult dog consume daily as recommended by AAFCO or NRC? How many milligrams of Choline is recommended for a thirty pound adult dog? Do you know? Do you know how to find this information?
The reason it is so difficult for pet owners and veterinarians to properly provide pets with home-prepared foods that provide all the needed nutrition is the nutrient requirements of pets is not readily available to pet owners. It’s very difficult to learn exactly what nutrients our pets need and in what proportions.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) publishes a yearly update to pet food nutrient requirements (along with ingredient definitions and proposed pet food regulations)…but the book will cost you $90.00 (based on 2013 price) to read. And it is challenging for the average pet food consumer to interpret; example: mg/kg, ME/kg DM, energy density greater than 4000 kcal ME/kg DM, and so on.
With human foods, human diet – the U.S. government has offered (for decades) tons of free information to learn how to balance our diet. Remember the food pyramid? There are many government programs such as ChooseMyPlate.gov and FruitsandVeggiesMoreMatters.org that teach human food consumers to balance the diet through eating a variety of healthy food (not through supplements). Pet food consumers are not provided with similar information.
Human food labels provide detailed and actual nutrient information providing the human food consumer with a way to monitor all the nutrition they are consuming. Pet food labels provide very minimal nutrient information and it is not required to be actual (protein/fat listed as a minimum amount, fiber/moisture listed as a maximum amount), providing the pet food consumer with very little information to monitor any nutrients their pet is consuming.
How can a pet owner learn to properly feed their pet when there are so many obstacles in the way? (Feels almost like AAFCO and FDA doesn’t want us to know exactly what to feed our pets doesn’t it?)
It is wrong a consumer is forced to open their wallets to purchase the nutrient requirements and/or read the definitions of pet food ingredients. It is wrong the pet food consumer is not provided with complete and actual nutrient information on commercial pet food labels just the same as provided on any other food the consumer purchases. And one more, it is wrong that…any consumer can watch laws being developed (for no charge) in State government and in Washington, DC (Sessions of Congress) – but if a consumer wanted to watch pet food law being developed it would cost them $415.00 (AAFCO meeting).
If the UC Davis study proves anything – it’s that changes need to occur. I hope the veterinarians at UC Davis see the bigger picture and I hope to see them at the next AAFCO meeting advocating for that change.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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