What’s in a Pet Food Flavor?
A great deal of research has been done to find the exact right flavorings for pet foods. But probably not for the reasons you’d think. To quote a recent Popular Science article titled The Chemistry of Kibble “The billion-dollar, cutting-edge science of convincing dogs and cats to eat what’s in front of them.” There’s nothing like using their own words to explain the truth about pet food.
It started with this (rather insulting) video…
“Kitty crack.” “These flavorings or coatings entice animals to eat food or treats that while nutritious aren’t part of their native diet.” “Scents like Cadavernine and Putrescence tend to grab a dogs attention.” Is this how the industry thinks about our pets?
This video led to an article on the Popular Science website titled “The Chemistry of Kibble”. The article, a close look at the pet food flavoring plant AFB International states “To meet nutritional requirements, pet food manufacturers blend animal fats and meals with soy and wheat grains and vitamins and minerals. This yields a cheap, nutritious pellet that no one wants to eat. Cats and dogs are not grain eaters by choice, Moeller is saying. “So our task is to find ways to entice them to eat enough for it to be nutritionally sufficient.”
So…to get dogs and cats to eat a “cheap pellet” which contains grains – of which dogs and cats are “not grain eaters by choice”, the challenge to pet food manufacturers is to add the right flavorings to “entice” the dog or cat to “eat enough (of the “cheap pet food that no one wants to eat”) for it to be nutritionally sufficient.”
One interesting point in the article was about cats. While most of us that have cats know they are often picky eaters, Nancy Rawson of AFB International says “outdoor cats tend to be either mousers or birders, but not both.” Which is why cats often prefer to stick to one type of food. But the article also tells pet food consumers not to worry…because “Most of the difference between Tuna Treat and Poultry Platter is the name and the picture on the label.” The author says that a tuna pet food and a poultry pet food might taste exactly the same to the cat (and appears to state there is very little difference in ingredients as well).
With cats, the flavor additive of choice is pyrophosphates. It is not completely understood why pyrophosphates entice cats to eat. A study published in PetFoodIndustry.com magazine (from another pet food flavorings company Monell Chemical Senses Center) states “the possibility that pyrophosphate could act as a modulator of the activity of the cat’s amino acid receptor.” Monell Chemical Senses Center has found that mixing pyrophosphates (phosphate salts) with meat hydrolysates is the most effective enticer of cats to a food.
In a very basic non-scientific explanation, meat or meat by-product ingredients are broken down by use of water. The amino acids (building blocks of protein – that cats are looking for) remain in the meat hydrolysate are basically magnified in taste (for the cat) by the phosphate salts (such as Sodium acid pyrophosphate). This magnified taste of protein – though chemically achieved – is what keeps cats addicted to a “cheap pet food that no one wants to eat”.
Tetrasodium pyrophosphate (another name for sodium pyrophosphate) is stated on Wikipedia (quoting Handbook of food toxicology) “toxicity is approximately twice that of table salt when ingested orally.”
InRFood.com states “Ingesting sodium acid pyrophosphate in large quantities can lead to diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, whereas its inhalation may cause nosebleeds, irritation in the respiratory tract, coughing or chest pain. Skin contact with the compound may cause severe to mild skin irritation or chapping the of skin. Those who are pregnant or have heart disease or diabetes should limit consumption of sodium acid pyrophosphate due to its sodium content.”
It makes one wonder – if toxicity studies have ever taken into consideration a pet that would be consuming the pyrophosphates day in and day out over their lifetime. (I doubt it.)
AFB International states for a dog the sense of smell is what pet food manufacturers are selling to. “The takeaway lesson is that if the palatant smells appealing, the dog will dive in with instant and obvious zeal, and the owner will assume the food is a hit. When in reality it might have only smelled like a hit.” In other words, the dog food need only smell like meat to the dog – that’s the concern of many pet food manufacturers.
What a shame there is such a thing as a billion dollar industry to just flavor pet foods…’cutting-edge science to convince dogs and cats to eat what’s in front of them.’ I believe the explanation for why there is this billion dollar industry (pet food flavors) was mentioned early in the Chemistry of Kibble article…”cheap“. Pet food manufacturers make more money (more profit) using cheap ingredients adding cutting edge science flavorings convincing the pet via taste receptors it’s real food. What a shame.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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