Actually…it’s ‘what’ really formulates pet food?
Pet owners are given the impression the best pet foods are formulated by nutritionists. We’re led to believe some specially trained scientist working in a secret kitchen labors over each ingredient, carefully calculating the nutrients to make that ‘complete and balanced’ pet food. We’re led to believe if a manufacturer doesn’t have a nutritionist on staff, the pet food might be formulated poorly.
The truth is:
Pet food manufacturers use software to develop their recipes. While some might give you the impression a scientist labored in a special kitchen to get all the nutrients in a pet food just right…the truth is pet food recipes are developed by computer software programs.
Cats and dogs have specific nutritional needs. Not only does a pet food need to provide protein, they need to provide the pet specific levels of calcium and phosphorus – and make sure the calcium/phosphorus ratio is correct. Cats and dogs need specific levels of many other nutrients too, such as different vitamins and minerals.
Each food ingredient in a pet food provides different levels of different nutrients. The USDA provides a tremendous tool, FoodData Central where anyone can research the nutrient levels of a food ingredient. As example, ground beef.
From the USDA data, we see that 100 grams of raw ground beef contains (in part) 17.44 grams of protein and 17 milligrams of calcium.
If you were making a pet food, and needing to meet a long list of nutrient levels, you would add all the nutrient levels of each food ingredient of the pet food together…making sure that each minimum is met and that no maximum is exceeded. And then there is the consideration of how the food ingredient is prepared; ground beef raw is nutritionally different than ground beef cooked. Fresh cooked broccoli is nutritionally different than frozen cooked broccoli.
Needless to say, it can get complicated very quickly. And that’s where software programs come into the picture. Pet food formulation software programs use the data from the USDA (and other sources for feed grade ingredients), add them together and compare totals to the nutritional requirements of a cat or dog.
Dr. Barbara Royal/Royal Animal Health University offers pet owners (for home prepared pet food) and manufacturers (for commercial pet food) a software program that specializes in use of food ingredients (not feed ingredients).
Adifo provides pet food formulation software that assists manufacturers “in correctly analysing which raw materials you should buy when, where and at what price.”
AFOS markets their animal feed formulation software to nutritionists stating “powerful hybrid-cloud feed formulation software and dynamic cost optimization tool which helps you develop, manage, store, analyze, collaborate and exchange animal feed formulas.”
Opinion: there is nothing wrong with using a software program to formulate pet foods…in fact, software like these SHOULD be used as the task of balancing a pet food is not simple when considering all the potential nutrient variables (cooked, raw, frozen ingredients and human grade or feed ingredients). But, manufacturers should NOT mislead pet owners into believing anything other than a software program formulated the pet food. Just be transparent with pet owners…we CAN handle the truth.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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