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Dog Food. Meat Proteins or Grain protein, which ones meet AAFCO standards?

 dog food proteinThe typical three type of food protein you can feed your dog are meat, grain or vegetable.

Meat Proteins are the most natural (and easy to digest) for a dog (carnivore) to eat, however, they cost more for dog food manufacturers to use. Besides cost, ease of digestion and palatability are big things to consider.

However one of the biggest you may want to look at is what actual protein levels, vitamins, and minerals are in each of the main ingredients you buy in your dog food. The following is information from a major reference book on dog and cat nutrition, as well as nutrient tables included at the end of this article, give you insight into what goes into your dog food.

Dog Food Protein Technical Specs

Proteins are composed mainly of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Proteins are made of amino acids that link to together to make the protein. When proteins are digested by dogs they break down into amino acids and are then further broken down for various uses.

Proteins are vital for many of the dog's body functions. They are the major structural component in hair, skin, nails, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. They regulate muscle action and are the building blocks of hormones. 

The dog's body can synthesise new proteins for maintenance and growth of dog systems as long as enough of the right amino acids are present.

There are twenty-two (22) alpha-amino acids found in protein chains. Of the 22, if enough nitrogen is provided in the diet, dogs can synthesise twelve (12)  proteins for growth, maintenance and performance. The other TEN essential amino acids MUST be provided by the diet.

You will find that the AAFCO tables only provide minimum requirements for the ESSENTIAL amino acids.

Protein is also used as a major energy source. In fact protein is used for the body's energy source first, then the leftover amounts can be used by the body for maintenance etc.

The gross energy of Proteins is 5.65 kilo-calories per gram (kcal/g). When fecal and urinary losses are accounted for the metabolisable energy (ME) of proteins for dogs and cats falls to 3.5 kcal/g (the same as for carbohydrates).

This value of 3.5 kcal/g is used in calculating how much energy a given food component such as beef or offal will provide an animal so that the overall amount of energy and food can be calculated.  (ref 1 , p 21). These values will be used extensively in the article on raw feeding requirements. They are vital for calculating how much food you need to feed your dog.

"In general, high-quality animal source proteins provide superior amino acid balances for companion animals  when compared with the amino acid balances supplied by grain sources." (ref 1, p 148)

The most remarkable thing about this statement is that it is hidden away in the major dog nutritional reference book that is written by three Proctor and Gamble associates.

"All muscle meats are very low in calcium content and have calcium to phosphorus ratios of 1:15 and 1:26.  When bone is included with a meat ingredient, the calcium level of the product is increased. Inexpensive meat and bone meals often contain an excess of minerals (ie too much bone) When this occurs there is often "too much calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium." (ref 1 pg 149)

It is noted that AAFCO requirements suggest a very tight range for the calcium: Phosphorus ratio of 1:1 up to 1:2

Another " important factor in the type of protein provided is the degree of processing or cooking during the foods product" and the storage conditions.  (ref 1 pg 149)

That is often why people who feed their dog a raw (meat based) diet often consider that the combination of raw meats and offal are more likely to have the correct amino combination than manufactured dog food.

The major concern of raw feeders is that kibble and canned dog foods use crushed grain that is heat treated, bound together by more filler then stored in various facilities or in shop. They also need oil and several other tricks devised over decades to make grain edible for dogs at all. In the wild dogs dont naturally seek out and eat grain.

DOG FOOD, HOW MUCH PROTEIN IS NEEDED?

Much of the reference book is devoted to making the case for providing a lot of carbohydrates (grains mostly) to dogs. Dogs can get energy from Protein, Fat and carbohydrates, and in the wild the majority of food eaten is meat, with the components animal protein and fat. While carbohydrates can be substituted as a poorer ingredient, the preparation and storage of the food can also make a considerable difference to how much nutriion the dog can access.

That said it is useful to know what protein levels various organisations suggest should be in a dogs diet.  Too little protein, and a dog will not have all of the essential amino acids for optimum health. Too much and they will either shed these via faeces and urine, or they will turn the excess energy into body fat.

The National Research Council (NRC) in America "recommends a minimum protein requirement of 80g of crude protein per kilogram diet in foods with an energy density of 4.0 kilocalories (kcal) ME/g. When proteins that are high quality (both bio-available and with the correct amounts of the essential amino acids) are fed". (ref 1 pg 92)

To account of non ideal sources, the equivalent value of 7% of the diets ME is increased to 8.75% of ME (metabolisable energy).

it is noted that "it is important to consider that when lower quality protein sources are fed, protein requirement estimates will increase significantly, typically as high as twenty (20%) of the ME calories."

This is probably why the AAFCO Nutrient profiles of dogs "recommends that adult maintenance dog foods contain at least eighteen (18%)  of ME calories of protein."

Notice that none of the grains come anywhere near this protein level. And while beef is right on 18%, this is for whole beef which has well over 50% water. That is why all of the dog pellet companies have to add meat to their mixtures, to reach the minimum protein level !

Puppies and pregnant dogs have a much higher protein requirement, as do older dogs.

dog food proteinDOG FOOD NUTRITION TABLES

The following table is constructed from one unbiased data source.

It compares the nutrient profiles of beef and corn flour, rice flour, sorghum and wheat flour with AAFCO standards.

These grain sources are shown as they are the main ones that were shown in the ingredient lists of the previous dog food analysis articles.

The reason I have done this is that the AAFCO tables provide the benchmark that Australian and American dog food manufacturers must meet to state that they are "balanced and complete" on the packs.

It should be noted that many people consider the creation of these tables and associated feeding trials to be irrelevant. Membership of AAFCO is voluntary and exactly how the tables are created is a well kept secret.

The AAFCO tables main show minimum requirements for proteins, minerals and then vitamins.

In the next article on creating an actual raw diet, I also compare nutrition values with the NCA requirements. These are what AAFCO used to be based on until they went their separate ways. You will find that meat often meats the NCA requirements outright, but NONE of the meats or grains meet the AAFCO minimum levels.

This means that a massive amount of synthetic vitamins and minerals are often added to reach the minimum standard, which many groups believe have a detrimental affect (ie not naturally sourced vitamins and minerals.

The main take away from this table is not how close each meat or grain is to the AAFCO standard, but how much higher the raw beef nutrient values are, at least in their protein requirements.

Note the Amino acids are in the right units (%'s).

The minerals that are shown as mg/kg are not in the right units (just compare between the samples not with the AAFCO standard).

Any cell that does not have a value does not mean that the meat or grain does not have that nutrition component, just that the data tables did not measure for it.

Notice that almost all of teh Beef Chuck steak amino acid values are higher than the AAFCO min standard (Shown in RED), while very few of the grains are above the minimum. And this is whole beef including water V grains that have relatively little water.

All of the Essential AMINO ACIDS that AAFCO provides minimum recommened % levels in dog food are shown in the first column in BLUE

Do not be concerned about the vitamin and mineral levels in this table. Very few of the AAFCO minimum levels are met by either meat or grains or any other whole foods they put in pellets. The only way that vitamin and minerals levels are met is by the addition of a mass of (typically) synthetic vitamins added to the dog food.

This will be explained more in the next article.

Nutrient

Units, DM Basis

Adult Maintenance Min.

Max.

Beef, chuck, 0" fat

Corn flour, whole-grain, yellow

Rice flour, brown

Sorghum

Wheat flour, whole-grain

Protein

%

18

 

19

6.9

7.2

11.3

13.7

Arginine

%

0.51

 

1.228

0.345

0.548

0.355

0.642

Histidine

%

0.18

 

0.606

0.211

0.184

0.246

0.317

Isoleucine

%

0.37

 

0.864

0.248

0.306

0.433

0.508

Leucine

%

0.59

 

1.511

0.85

0.598

1.491

0.926

Lysine

%

0.63

 

1.605

0.195

0.276

0.229

0.378

Methionine-cystine

%

0.43

 

0.495

0.145

0.163

0.169

0.212

Phenylalanine-tyrosine

%

0.73

 

0.75

0.34

0.373

0.546

0.646

Threonine

%

0.48

 

0.759

0.261

0.265

0.346

0.395

Tryptophan

%

0.16

 

0.125

0.049

0.092

0.124

0.212

Valine

%

0.39

 

0.942

0.351

0.424

0.561

0.618

Fatb

%

5

 

10.5

3.9

2.8

3.3

1.9

Linoleic acid

%

1

OMEGA 6

0.327

1.7

0.954

1.305

0.738

ASH %

%

 

 

0.017

 

 

 

 

Hydroxyproline

%

 

 

1.28

 

 

 

 

Ca / N

 

 

 

0.101

 

 

 

 

Minerals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calcium

%

0.6

2.5

0.0184

0.007

0.011

0.028

0.034

Phosphorus

%

0.5

1.6

0.006

0.272

0.373

0.287

0.346

Ca:P ratio

 

1:01

2:01

0.184

0.026

0.029

0.098

0.098

Potassium

%

0.6

 

0.033

0.315

0.289

0.35

0.405

Sodium

%

0.06

 

0.309

0.005

0.008

0.006

0.005

Chloride

%

0.09

 

0.074

 

 

 

 

Magnesium

%

0.04

0.3

 

0.093

0.112

 

0.138

Ironc

mg/kg

80

3000

0.021

24

20

44

39

Copperd

mg/kg

7.3

250

24

2

2

 

4

Manganese

mg/kg

5

 

1

5

40

 

38

Zinc

mg/kg

120

1000

0

17

25

 

29

Iodine

mg/kg

1.5

50

69

 

 

 

 

Selenium

mg/kg

0.11

2

 

0.154

 

 

0.707

Vitamins

 

 

 

0.298

 

 

 

 

Vitamin A

IU/kg

5000

250000

 

2140

0

0

90

Vitamin D

IU/kg

500

5000

0

 

 

 

 

Vitamin E

IU/kg

50

1000

 

5.96

17.88

 

11.92

Thiaminee

mg/kg

1

 

3

2

4

2

4

Riboflavin

mg/kg

2.2

 

1

1

1

1

2

Pantothenic acid

mg/kg

10

 

2

7

16

 

10

Niacin

mg/kg

11.4

 

10

19

63

29

64

Pyridoxine

mg/kg

1

 

34

 

0

 

 

Folic Acid

mg/kg

0.18

 

 

0.25

0

 

0.44

Vitamin B12

mg/kg

0.022

 

0.03

0

0

0

0

Choline

mg/kg

1200

 

0.051

216

0

 

312

 

CONCLUSIONS

People who feed their dogs manufactured dog food, will continue to do so.

It is not expected that one article will change anyone's mind on their dog feeding habits.

From other articles I have written on specific dog food ingredients you will see that meat, meat meal or meat by-products are often the first ingredient of dog food pellets, then various kinds of grains.

This serves several functions. Firstly it means they can put the meat name in the product name. Second they can put a big chunk of meat on the package (even if meat makes up 20% or less of the total dry weight ingredients). AND from the above tables you will also see that since meat amino acids  are in much more abundance than grain amino acids, that meat is required for the dog food to reach the required minimum standard of amino acids.

That is, grains are used, because they are cheap, and the highly digestible meats (that dogs were evolved to eat) are added in just to top up the product to the desired minimum levels.

The main reason most people give for feeding their dogs pellets is convenience and cost. Go to the supermarket or super pet store and buy one big bag of dog food. Take home, cut top once, pour and feed. Done!

The reason raw feeders use raw meat, is that in uncooked form, human grade meat, that is frozen and then defrosted on the day of the feed is as safe if not safer  than many dog foods out there. Search the web for dog food recalls on your particular brand.

What this article is doing is demystify the claims that meat isn't as good as cheap grains are providing proteins to your dog. The tables not only show you in raw figures how much better beef (and most other meats are), but consider all of the other natural nutrients that are in meat, compared with farmed grains.

 

Article by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please refer to the article as a reference and provide a link tohttp://www.healthydogtreats.com.au

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Reference

Canine and Feline Nutrition 3rd edition  Case Et al

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