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5 most used OFFAL dog treats and their nutritional value

happy healthy dogs

A recent survey on raw dog feeders (ie MEAT, the natural real dog food), they were asked how many of them feed OFFAL to their dogs, and out of 218  the survey got the following results:

  • Liver 187
  • Heart 178
  • Lung 65
  • Giblets 64
  • Kidney 60
  • Spleen 27
  • Other 10

We know that raw offal is different from dried offal dog treats, but it looks like this is probably the distribution of how offal dog treat buyers work too.

In raw feeder circles it is typically recommended that about 15% of a dog’s diet is OFFAL. YET, many dog owners don’t think of offal as a particularly useful treat. This article dispels much of that by showing you how nutrient rich most of the common offal treats are.  We also show BEEF jerky nutrition values for comparison.

The reason for raw feeders using 15% OFFAL is to mimic the percentage that a dog might get in a natural kill. The theory being that meat makes up the bulk of their diet, followed by offal then bone.  This would get them the right amount of nutrients in the right proportions.

For instance, it’s very important to get the calcium to Phosphorous ratio about 1, which happens to be what a dog gets when they eat BONE.

Why offal dog treats and what nutrition they provide.

Dogs eat offal in the wild because it’s part of the kill and its tasty. My dogs favourite offal is tripe.  However, tripe isn’t always available at a butcher shop nor is it necessarily the highest nutritional value.

Dogs eat food based on smell, texture and taste.  SMELL is the overriding strongest sense for almost all dogs (and of course is connected to taste). And it turns out that dogs evolved to like the thing that they spent the most time hunting (meat NOT VEGETABLES).

Vegetables are useful for providing fibre but little else to a dog’s diet. MEAT Protein supplies both amino acids that your dog easily digests AND energy for all body functions, they do not need SUGAR (carbs) for energy.

Also most grains are a tiny fraction of the percentage of the protein that you get in meats, meaning that even if you wanted to go meat free, you would have to use a very artificial vegetable concentrate to reach the very low aafco minimum protein levels required.

Why feed offal to dogs at all ? 

Well firstly it provides balance to your dog’s diet. Like in the wild they wouldn’t only eat grain and meat (the major components of most commercial dog food), but also things like meat cubes (LUNG) provide an extra special crunchy texture when dried, which many dogs love.

Offal also provides quite a different amino acid profile than the meats, as well as quite different mineral and vitamin amounts.

One of the ways that I have learned to assess all forms of ‘dog food’ is to compare and contrast with the aafco table, the USA nutrition table that every dog food in the world is judged by.

So we will look at a few of the main and important nutrient parts of each main offal and what it means to you and your dog.

Dog food: OFFAL Energy, carbs, Fat, omega 3 and protein requirements

Aafco recommend for dogs on an adult maintenance diet receive a minimum of 5.5% fat (not defined as saturated etc), Omega 6 should be 1.1% and protein 18% minimum.

The table below compare data from ‘nutrition self data’ tables (see reference at end of this article).  It breaks up most basic meats into their important nutrition components, I have just selected the braised (cooked) versions, and adjusted the nutrition values to a baseline of 10% water (i.e. what might be typically found in treats.

Beef Jerky is included at the end for comparison with the offal varieties.

AAFCO Dry % Beef Liver Beef Lung Beef Heart Beef Kidney Beef Spleen BEEF JERKY
Adult maintenance MIN
ENERGY KJ 800 502 691 662 607 858
CARBS 11 0 1 0 0 0
Fat 5.5 % Min 11 14 12 13 13 16
Saturated. % 4 5 4 3 4 6
Omega 3 mg 0 114 mg 31 mg 22 mg 0 38 mg
Omega 6 mg 1.1 % MIN 46 mg 953 mg 1978 mg 1335 mg 930 mg 447 mg
PROTEIN 18 g   MIN 63 g 78 g 75 g 74 g 75 g 73 g

Things you should note about the aafco values. This is a volunteer American organisation stacked with representatives or consultant form major dog food companies.  Those companies exist for PROFIT, nothing else.

The tables have been constructed many years ago (2014 is the last core update) and occasional updated to massively favour Grain and vegetable diets that maximise company profits.

This can be seen even in this first table.  Note that these are OFFAL comparisons for braised BEEF offal, and don’t exactly represent any specific beef DRIED offal treat we have, but they are close enough for analysis purposes.

As you can see, Beef Liver has the highest Energy value for 100g samples, but then again, most people wouldn’t feed anywhere near 100g of any offal to their dog in a single day.

The curious value is the minimum 5.5% fat recommended for dogs be aware that it doesn’t recommend a SOURCE of the fat, and animal and vegetable fats have VERY different make up.  Also note that there is NO MAXIMUM value of recommended fat.  Fat has up to 2.5 times the energy of protein or carbs, so a slight increase in fat can easily increase the Energy value of a food enormously.

Many regular commercial dog foods can have around 15% fat content which is only a problem for dogs that have pancreatitis or are sedentary. A problem if it’s the MAIN food for the day.

NOTE offal is a supplementary food or treat, you would not feed a dog ONLY offal in a day.

Fat provides a great natural taste to dogs, and that is why the fat content of all of the offal’s between 10 – 15 % typically is well within expectations. And that is the NATURAL ANIMAL based level that would be consumed in the wild.

What should surprise you is the VERY LOW protein aafco requirement a MERE 18% of the dog food.

You will see that ALL of the offal, when adjusted down to 10% water content (to make it more like what a dried treat might have in it) gives the offal dog treats a protein value of over 60%.

This is a similar story to MEAT jerkies in general.  The reason that aafco has such a low level of protein (18% minimum) is that grains are very cheap and have typically very low levels of protein. The only reason that meat (much more expensive) is included in many dog foods is to enable them to just reach the minimum aafco minimum protein requirement for being called ‘dog food’.

But because grain and vegetable matter typically aren’t as bio available to dog’s digestive systems, having a bare minimum of protein, mainly made up with harder to digest vegetable matter is a problem for many dogs.  By adding just, a little amount of meat or offal every day to your dog’s regular dog food, you can make up for any potential protein deficient.

NOTE – many novice dog nutritionists might tell you that their dogs don’t do well on offal because it is too rich. By too rich they mean it has the appropriate level of protein, but because commercial dog food is so low in protein, their dog’s systems initially might struggle to cope with using it. 

Dog food: OFFAL MINERAL content

Note the affco values are either % or mg/g as shown to the right of their numbers.  ALL of the offal values are the specific mineral mg per 100g of dried offal (10% water)

AAFCO Dry % ………. Beef Liver Beef Lung Beef Heart Beef Kidney Beef Spleen BEEF JERKY
Adult maintenance MIN mg mg mg mg mg mg
Calcium mg 0.5 % 13.0 41.9 13.1 51.7 36.0 35.6
Iron mg 40 mg/Kg 14.1 20.6 16.8 15.8 118.2 6.2
Magnesium mg 0.06 % 45.5 38.1 55.1 32.6 57.0 48.9
Phosphorus mg 0.4  % 1077.8 678.8 666.5 826.6 915.0 455.6
Potassium 0.6 % 763.4 659.7 574.6 367.1 852.0 593.3
Sodium 0.08 % 171.3 385.2 154.8 255.6 171.0 120.0
Zinc mg 80 % 11.5 6.1 7.6 7.6 8.4 17.8
Copper mg 7.3 mg/Kg 31.0 0.8 1.6 1.6 2.7 0.2
Manganese mg 5 mg/Kg 0.9 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.3 0.0
Selenium mcg Of mg/Kg 78.3 191.8 102.1 456.8 274.2 75.6
Fluoride NA 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

 

The minimum aafco adult maintenance values are shown in the first column of this table.

Many of their values are shown in % or ‘mg/ Kg’  of dog weight form.

This can make it tricky to make estimates of your dog’s requirements, considering that the 100g offal samples in the tables are just for mg of the mineral content.

Suffice to say, that while aafco massively underestimate the protein requirements of dog food to allow very low quantity of meat dog food recipes to pass as dog food, they also enforce very HIGH levels of Minerals AND Vitamin requirements.

most common offal on raw diet

This makes ANY NAUTRAL food like any animal that a wild dog would kill and eat NOT PASS the aafco requirement for domestic dogs.

So while dogs evolved to catch and eat animals, why would the tables require such HIGH levels of minerals and vitamins?  If you look at any of your dog food labels you will soon find out that THEY DON’T MEET aafco requirements either UNTIL a mass of extra minerals and vitamins are added to them.  That is why the vitamins and minerals are listed separately on your dog food label – and these don’t even have to be from natural sources either !

These vitamins and minerals can be from very unnatural sources (and hence not bio available either), but aafco just requires the absolute amount to pass their bar, not the source it’s from.

For instance, you will see that aafco requires 40 mg per Kg of Iron for most dogs. A 20 Kg dog will require 800 mg of iron per day.   beef spleen 100g dried has the highest amount of iron, and its only 118 mg!

So it might appear that beef offal is very deficient in iron right?

Well according to the HUMAN nutrition tables ‘beef jerky’ with 10% water included has 2.8 mg of Iron, that they say is 16% of the DAILY VALUE that an adult human requires.   That means that only 17.5 mg of iron is required by an adult human who is likely to be at least twice the weight of most dogs right?  Yet affco requires 40 mg / Kg of iron for adult dogs. A 20 Kg dog needing 800 mg would require about FORTY FIVE TIMES as much IRON as their owner !

Noting that for a “Growth & Reproduction” dog the value is 88 mg Iron / Kg !

THIS and many other similar examples are why many raw feeders disagree with aafco tables. And why OFFAL not reaching all of the vitamin and Mineral minimum levels appears to be irrelevant.

Here is an interesting part of the table that escapes many people’s view.  aafco only requires 0.35 mg / Kg. A 20 Kg dog would thus need about 7 mg of Selenium. This rare earth mineral is typically a lot more expensive to find and refine, and coincidently the mount required by aafco happens to be very low.

YET, if you look at the tables Beef Liver has 78 mg Selenium per 100g, and Beef Kidney have a whopping 456 mg. Does this mean that your dog will be poisoned by eating NATURAL offal like beef kidney or liver?  Not in the least.  Its just commercial business designing the tables and what your dog is allowed to eat.

Dog food: OFFAL VITAMINS requirements

Note the affco values are either IU/Kg or % as shown  to the right of their numbers.  ALL of the offal values are the specific mineral mg per 100g of dried offal (10% water) except Vitamin A that is also shown as IU.

AAFCO Dry % Beef Liver Beef Lung Beef Heart Beef Kidney Beef Spleen BEEF JERKY
Adult maintenance MIN ……….
Vitamin A  IU 5000  IU/KG 68,786  IU 148.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Vit C NA 4.1 124.7 0.0 0.0 150.9 0.0
Vit D 500  IU/KG 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Vit  E mg 50  IU/KG 1.1 0.0 0.8 0.3 0.0 0.9
Vit K Phytonadione  mcg NA 7.2 0.0 1.3 0.0 0.0 3.3
Thiamin mg 2.25 mg/Kg 0.4 0.0 0.3 0.5 0.3 0.2
Riboflavin mg 5.2 mg/Kg 7.4 0.4 3.1 8.2 0.9 0.4
Niacin mg 13.6 mg/Kg 38.0 9.5 17.6 10.6 16.8 10.7
Vit B6 pyridoxine mg 1.5 mg/Kg 2.2 0.0 0.5 1.1 0.0 0.7
Folate mcg 0.216 mg/Kg 548.7 30.5 13.1 225.7 12.0 24.4
Vit B12 mcg 0.028 mg/Kg 153.1 9.9 28.3 67.7 15.0 5.3
Pantothenic Acid mg 12 mg/Kg 15.4 2.3 4.2 4.4 2.7 1.6
Choline mg 1360 mg/Kg 923.9 0.0 600.9 1394.9 0.0 282.2
Betaine mg NA 12.1 0.0 10.8 0.0 0.0 36.9

As mentioned above aafco enforce very HIGH levels of Minerals AND Vitamin requirements to ensure that NO NATURAL meat or vegetable combination can pass as commercial dog food.

We are marketed to all of the time telling us to buy commercial dog food to get all of the needed nutrition. “balanced and complete” is that they call it.

The table below shows that Aafco Vitamin A levels of 5000 IU/ Kg can only be satisfied in the offal category by Beef liver, none of the other offal’s have any significant amount of Vitamin A.

Likewise, vitamin D and Vitamin A aafco requirements can’t be met by offal. But Offal is never meant to be a whole source of food for your dog.

Aafco don’t actually have any minimum level for vitamin K, of which most offal has a reasonable amount of.

At the bottom of the table, you will see all of the vitamin B requirements of dog food.  The aafco levels of vitamin B are very small, it might be no coincidence that most offal’s have HIGH levels of Vitamin B.  That means that meat is not required in dog food to reach any aafco Vitamin B requirement.

Vitamin B is also water soluble, so dogs can flush it out of their system if they have excess, just like their owners do.

Again, beef liver offal (dried) tends to have one of the best overall profiles of the various Vitamin B’s that you can provide your dog.

CONCLUSION

Offal dog treats (dried), can provide an excellent PROTEIN boost for your dogs.  The meat offal is highly bio-available and at Three times the minimum aafco requirement for adult maintenance diets, offal even in relatively small amounts can act as a significant protein supplement for your dogs.

Many offal’s also provide a good boost in Omega 3 and Omega 6 for your dog.

Offal vitamins or minerals typically don’t reach a dog’s daily requirements according to aafco tables. But if you believe in these tables, that is fine, because you are going to keep feeding your dog a commercial dog food diet, and only supplement them with meat dog treats and offal right?

Some people consider offal ‘too rich’ for their dogs. Yet dogs and wolves in the wild live a happy life having evolved to eat prey and get all of the nutrition they need from doing so.

We also note that NO combination of natural animal food or vegetable food can meet aafco table nutrition requirements, so you shouldn’t feel bad that offal doesn’t either, its just slanted and ridiculously high to ensure people HAVE to buy commercial dog food.

These tables are not 100% representative of every offal treat we stock, because they are made for braised beef, from cows from the other side of the world (of unknown breed).

The tables however do show a good comparison between the different types of beef offal, so that if you were thinking of boosting a specific mineral or vitamin you could choose a specific offal to do so.

ANY offal provides a MAJOR BOOST in protein, and that is BIO available protein for your dog !

 

REFERENCE

AAFCO METHODS FOR SUBSTANTIATING NUTRITIONAL ADEQUACY OF DOG AND CAT FOODS

Proposed Revisions Edited per Comments for 2014 Official Publication

+++

OFFAL NUTRITION scanned from   nutritiondata .self .com

Tables are adjusted for 100g portions baselining WATER at 10% of the offal.

Beef, variety meats and by-products, liver, cooked, braised Nutrition Facts & Calories

Beef, variety meats and by-products, lungs, cooked, braised Nutrition Facts & Calories

Beef, variety meats and by-products, heart, cooked, simmered Nutrition Facts & Calories

Beef, variety meats and by-products, kidneys, cooked, simmered Nutrition Facts & Calories

Beef, variety meats and by-products, spleen, cooked, braised Nutrition Facts & Calories

Beef, brisket, flat half, separable lean only, trimmed to 0″ fat, all grades, cooked, braised

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