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Ultimate dog food/ treat PROTEIN guide – what Grain/ veg/ meat has the BEST Essential Amino acids for your dog!

We have analysed many categories of NATURAL Food nutrient in foods fed to dogs, and found that there is a large under-feeding of PROTEIN to them. And that reason is mostly because meat is being substituted for grain or vegetables (the cheap alternatives).

Until now, that was just anecdotal. This article directly compares the TEN ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS for main vegetables, grains and MEATS that your dog eats.  We compare each DIRECTLY with each other, adjusting values for each EEA to 10% water content for each food AND adjusted for each specific BIO AVAILABITY Percentage. 

This means for once, ALL IN ONE PLACE, you can compare these foods to how they are used specifically by DOGS in DRY format (such as kibble or dried dog treats) –  and how they rate compared to the minimum AAFCO levels that an average dog should consume to remain healthy.

This is a big deal.

What sets meat apart from Plant food, is that meat typically has 2 to 4 times the amount of essential amino acids (the main components of protein) compared to plant matter AND its essential amino acids (EAAA) are much more bio-available – ie the dog can actually make use of them!

MEAT is the main reason that commercial dog food can reach the minimum aafco 18% protein requirement to be called “dog food”.  Since Commercial dog foods typically have 60-70% plant material in them (both wet or dry) – and since most people in Australia feed their dog commercial dog food, its worth looking at what is healthier for your dog, grains or vegetables. Or if there is any real difference?

This is from the bible of “Canine and feline nutrition 3rd edition, (Case Et al) –  “The fact that dogs and cats do not require carbohydrates in their diet is usually immaterial because most commercial foods include at least a moderate level of this nutrient. ” 

What meats are about, nutritionally, is mostly protein and species appropriate fats.  But there are a whole number of special enzymes and a whole host of other benefits like shark cartilage and fish skins for joint support, and Roo and Fish for Omega 3 (animal version).  While Plant matter is high in carbs (sugar), most are relatively low in protein, but they do have some useful fibre in them. You will see that they are mostly useless for protein.

For this article we won’t delve into vitamins and minerals in grains or vegetables, because while they are often plentiful, as they often are in meats, cooking grains or vegetables in commercial dog food can denature vitamins somewhat.  AND, if plants were really that useful for their vitamin content in dog food, dog food manufacturers wouldn’t have to add the massive amount of minerals and vitamins just to reach the HIGH aafco minimum levels.  Just check your dog food labels.

THAT, is the reason why we are keeping this comparison to the amount and bio-availability of ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS (protein components) in grains versus plants  and meats !

This is what Google AI says: “Grains are a good source of carbohydrates, which provide dogs with energy. They are also a good source of fibre, which can help to keep dogs’ digestive systems healthy. Some common grains found in commercial dog food include rice, corn, wheat, and barley.“ (ref – Google).

Lets consider these statements one on one

1 “Grains are a good source of carbohydrates, which provide dogs with energy”.

Dogs do not need carbs to survive or thrive. Carbs are just sugar molecules. The energy they provide can just as easily be provided by protein or fats.

2 plants are a “good source of fibre, which can help to keep dogs’ digestive systems healthy.”

It is true that they can be a great source of fibre, as can the hair or other parts of animals that are not digestible.  The main value of plant-based fibre (some very specific types) – is that they can feed the good bacteria in the gut biome that assists with maintaining a healthy gut and strong intestinal wall.

We have an in-depth look at WHAT SPECIFIC fibre, used in commercial dog food, is actually good for dogs here:  The use of carbohydrates or fibre for dogs

in this article you will find that “THE PURPOSE of non-digestible fibre … is said to be for use by the microbes that live in the large intestine (colon) that are able to partially break down some types of fibre. This is called bacterial fermentation and creates short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s), “

And in fact the “best fibre sources for dogs and cats are those that are moderately fermentable and provide adequate levels of SCFA’s for intestinal mucosa.”  The recommended sources of moderate fermentability dietary fibre are: Beet pulp;  rice bran;  gum arabic.”

You need to know the “Fermentation Index of the specific fibre in your dog food to know“ to know if it lies in the goldilocks zone of fermentation index between 1.4 and 3.4 to be of good value to your dog.

Google says that the most common form of grains in dog food are :  common grains found in commercial dog food include rice, corn, wheat, and barley.“

So if carbs are not necessary for dogs, the other main nutrition value is their protein value.  Here we look at the four main grains Google highlights, and their TEN essential amino acids (EAA) (out of the 20 amino acids that make up protein), and their SPECIFIC bioavailability.   Multiply these two values together, and you get the EFFECTIVE essential amino acid amount for each grain EAA.

GRAINS used in dog food – Do they meet aafco Essential Amino Acid requirements (EAA)?

We know that MEAT is typically added to commercial dog food to reach the AAFCO minimum EAA, but by themselves we see that NONE of the EAA values for the FOUR grains shown below (RED FONT) reach the AAFCO minimum (BLUE FONT in the last column).

NOTE most of the plant matter EEA values are shown for ingredients that only have 10% water content – similar to what the end kibble product has. POOR BIO AVAILABLITY makes their contribution negligible !

The values below are calculated by modifying the EEA data for 10% water content, and reducing the value for bioavailability percentage. Noting that all Grains FAIL the minimum EAA without taking bio availability into account !  The full workings for each food are shown in the appendix.

ESSENTIAL Amino Acid RICE CORN Wheat Barley AFFCO Dog Minimum Levels
ARGININE 0.39 0.35 0.31 0.39 0.51
Histidine 0.09 0.16 0.13 0.13 0.8
Isoleucine 0.21 0.25 0.27 0.29 0.4
Leucine 0.42 0.86 0.53 0.53 0.6
Lysine 0.17 0.17 0.15 0.25 1.1
Methionine + Cystine 0.10 0.13 0.12 0.13 0.3
Phenylalanine + Tyrosine 0.26 0.35 0.39 0.44 0.6
Threonine 0.16 0.23 0.18 0.23 0.6
Tryptophan 0.06 0.04 0.08 0.11 0.2
Valine 0.30 0.36 0.31 0.39 0.8
TOTAL 2.15 2.90 2.47 2.90 5.91


All essential amino acid table references:  Essential amino acid amounts: USDA Food Composition Database.   AND    Dog bioavailability: Hand MS, Morris CL, Lefebvre SL, et al. Protein and amino acid metabolism during exercise and recovery in dogs. J Nutr. 2000;130(4s Suppl):912S-919S

DO THE MAIN VEGETABLES used in dog food – meet AAFCO Essential Amino Acid requirements?

Given the that grain-based dog food is still a ‘thing’ In Australia. or being, you might think that it was because Vegetables have better EAA values – ie they meet or far exceed the AAFCO minimum ESSENTIAL amino acid levels better than grains.

GOOGLE AI SAYS  “Vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are essential for dogs’ overall health. Some common vegetables found in commercial dog food include carrots, peas, green beans, and sweet potatoes.”

But from the table below for these four main vegetables used in dog food – you will also see that NONE of the vegetables (FAILED RED FONT) pass ANY of the AAFCO minimum levels (GREEN FONT)


Amino Acid

Carrot Peas Green Beans Sweet Potato AFFCO Dog Minimum Levels
ARGININE 0.20 1.30 0.45 0.15 0.51
Histidine 0.09 0.34 0.23 0.09 0.8
Isoleucine 0.22 0.64 0.46 0.17 0.4
Leucine 0.24 1.09 0.80 0.30 0.6
Lysine 0.22 1.00 0.61 0.20 1.1
Methionine + Cystine 0.03 0.22 0.12 0.07 0.3
Phenylalanine + Tyrosine 0.18 0.66 0.47 0.28 0.6
Threonine 0.20 0.65 0.54 0.25 0.6
Tryptophan 0.05 0.11 0.12 0.09 0.2
Valine 0.25 0.80 0.65 0.28 0.8
TOTAL 1.67 6.80 4.47 1.90 5.91

Google AI then imparts two very useful bits of information to explain the poor performance of vegetables.

“Despite their lower bioavailability, vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet for dogs. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Additionally, vegetables can help dogs to maintain a healthy weight and digestive system.”

Now as said before, it’s true that SOME vegetables CAN be a good anti-oxidant, and if the right non digestive fibre is used it can greatly assist a dog’s digestion. BUT NONE OF THE GRAINS or VEGETABLES analyzed above are known or used for their major ANTI OXIDANT powers.

Dog food only typically includes 2-4% fibre by weight in the pack, and not necessarily the ones that are best at promoting intestinal health.

Not only that, just like anti-oxidants, these two nutrition classes are OFTEN ADDED SEPERATEALY as an ingredient, as shown on the packets, meaning that the standard grains or vegetables are not necessarily of value for these two important health factors.  And the antioxidants are added in such small TRACE AMOUNTS, (once water is removed) – that its amazing that they can class this as a main benefit of buying the product (ie write it on the label).

ABOUT The claim that vegetables in dog food are a “good source of vitamins, minerals”

Again, if this was true, you wouldn’t have a LONG LIST of ADDED minerals and vitamins in the ingredients of dog food packs, but typically you do.  That is because aafco makes the minimum level of Vitamins and Minerals very high (to exclude people making their own food) – and yet the make the protein levels very low to ensure that plenty of cheap grain or vegetables can be used in dog food.

The next Google advice kind of goes the core of what this article is saying:

“If you are feeding your dog a diet that includes vegetables, it is important to supplement their diet with other sources of protein, such as meat or poultry. This will ensure that they are getting all of the essential amino acids they need.” (ref GOOGLE AI)


The healthy dog treats pack being fed beef liver! NOTE – In the Appendix of this report we see that most EEA values for meat, are provided for human edible cooked levels of meat (that can contain near 70%  Water content).  When the EEA values are adjusted for KIBBLE ready formulations (ie 10% water)  the EEA values  shown below for meat are typically increased by 2.5 to 4 times the raw data provided in most nutrition tables shown.  

This is the secret to comparing foods on a standard baseline.

That means that ALL MEATS massively exceed the minimum EEA aafco requirements. 

Essential Amino Acid Content of Kangaroo, Fish, Goat, Beef, Chicken, and Lamb. 

ESSENTIAL Amino Acid Kangaroo FISH – Ling Goat Beef Chicken Lamb AFFCO Dog Maintain. Minimum Levels
ARGININE 5.1 4.5 5.2 3.0 1.8 2.7 0.51
Histidine 2.5 2.2 1.5 1.5 2.8 1.4 0.8
Isoleucine 3.5 3.7 3.6 2.1 0.8 2.3 0.4
Leucine 6.1 6.6 6.1 3.8 1.8 3.8 0.6
Lysine 6.5 7.4 5.5 3.8 2.9 4.1 1.1
Methionine + Cystine 2.0 2.2 1.9 1.2 3.5 1.2 0.3
Phenylalanine + Tyrosine 3.0 3.0 2.5 1.8 1.0 1.9 0.6
Threonine 3.0 3.4 3.4 1.8 1.5 2.0 0.6
Tryptophan 0.4 0.8 1.0 0.2 1.2 0.5 0.2
Valine 3.8 4.1 3.9 2.3 0.5 2.6 0.8
TOTAL 35.9 38.0 34.5 21.5 17.7 22.4 5.91


In answer to the core question of this article – NEITHER the major Grains or  vegetables used in commercial dog food, in Australia, are anywhere near as effective for your dog as ANY meat for providing acceptable levels of protein (and its essential amino acids).

Grains and vegetable matter are mostly known for carbs (sugar), some fats (not always good), fibre (not always the right one), and mineral and vitamins, not always high enough that dog food makers HAVE to add these separately.

Looking at the four main grains and main vegetable matter used in Commercial Dog Food, we see that they mostly fail the minimum levels of Essential amino acids required by aafco to be called dog food.  And after bio availability is taking into consideration, they ALL FAIL ALL of the aafco requirements.

So essentially if plant matter isn’t used for its protein value, (because it has excess sugar they don’t need) – and usually lacks the RIGHT FORM of fibre (which is added separately) – there is little reason why there should be any Major amount of plant matter in your commercial dog food.

Raw dog feeders will still show you recipes for massive amounts of pumpkin, and sweet potato, and sunflower seeds etc in their recipes – but all of that is pointless fiddling around the edges of what a dog’s basic needs are – species appropriate protein – from meat, in much higher quantities than typically found in most kibble packs.

And the problem is compounded by the maximum amount of energy that a dog should consume per day. If you use large amounts of high calorie (carb) vegetables or grains, there is little room left over to add quality meat for protein into their diet. And protein is basically the same energy content as carbs (sugars) – so unless you are feeing lettuce or celary, high levels of raw vegetables often limit how much meat protein you can feed.

The end of this report, just above the conclusions section kind of proves that point.

We used Essential amino acid values found by google AI in the first few tables in this report.  It showed that plant matter mostly failed the bare minimum ESSENTIAL amino acid levels required in dog food, and that Meat always exceeded the affco minimum amino acid (protein) levels.

GRAIN (rice, wheat etc) typically comes to a manufacturer in dried grain, or dry flour form, and is already close to 10% water content.  And even in this very low water state, typically has close to or less protein (and essential amino acids) than meat has in its 67% water form !

It seems that many people are paying for the picture on the pack, before all of that water is extracted.  And that first ingredient (succulent roast chicken or roast beef) becomes a very secondary dried meat form at 30%-40% content.  The 30% dried meat content is very necessary if the total kibble pack is to reach the 18% total protein level (from any source) required by affco.

This begs the question why you get 70% plant matter in your commercial dog food when in fact dogs would be far more healthy having 70% meat – plus offal and bones.  THE TRUE raw diet.

Some people cite safety concerns with feeding dogs meat.  But oven dried meat kills ALL bacteria, and you can actually see the whole pieces of meat (grain). Kibble often uses meat offcuts that would be illegal to sell for human consumption.

We don’t expect any owner to change their dog food buying habits based on this article alone, but would hope that it at least gives some support to feeding your dog more meat, in whatever form you can.



1  most raw nutrition data:  Essential amino acid amounts: USDA Food Composition Database.   AND    Dog bioavailability: Hand MS, Morris CL, Lefebvre SL, et al. Protein and amino acid metabolism during exercise and recovery in dogs. J Nutr. 2000;130(4s Suppl):912S-919S

2  bio availability sources (as used in the previous article)






How label ingredient splitting fakes the actual content of meat

Besides ingredient splitting, to make dog food seem more meat laden, the ingredients list sometimes can compare DRIED plant matter, with WET meat.

If you use WET meat in an ingredient list, it can appear as the first or major ingredient but it can have up to 70% water in it, so seem like there is a lot more actual DRIED MEAT in it than there is.

It can also make you think you are getting a lot more MEAT PROTEIN than you are.

So this is where we show you how we test the above table values are correct.

Lets check ROAST CHICKEN for instance

Chicken, roasted, cooked, meat only, roasting

100g of roast chicken has

  • 167 calories
  • 6g fat
  • 75 mg cholesterol
  • 0 Carbs
  • 25g protein

Of course chicken also has a vast array of minerals and vitamins.  But we are analysing Essential amino acids (EAA) in this report.

And 25% protein in chicken seems an exceptionally LOW amount of protein (FOR A MEAT), considering that aafco requires a minimum level, for a standard dog, at 18% from ANY source, and most dog food contains a lot of plant matter, with lower protein levels.

What accounts for this seeming discrepancy?

The secret is in the WATER CONTENT.   Grains, and indeed commercial dog food (kibble) typically has around 10% water in it.

Yet these raw nutrition tables provide data for 100g chicken, with a relatively HIGH water content level. In the case of chicken that value on this site is 67.41 %  water content!!!

If you mathematically reduce water content to 10% (what you might find in regular kibble) THEN  you need to adjust all nutrient levels up to account for the increase in nutrient density.

Let’s see what that does for the EAA’s in this secondary data source

Protein is given to be 25% (for 67% water content)

if water goes from 67% to 10%.  Solids go from 33% to 90%.  That means that each solid gram amount in the table is multiplied by 90/33

So the protein 25% is actually equivalent of 25 x 90/33  =  68% Protein (in dried, 10% water form).

Below we compare the previous CHICKEN ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS values, with this secondary source,  AND to the minimum EEA AFFCO values


Amino Acid Chicken (g/100g protein) ADJ 10% WATER CHICKEN  BIOAVAIL CHICKEN EFFECTIVE avail AFFCO Dog Minimum Levels
ARGININE 1.51 4.12 0.85 3.5 0.51
Histidine 0.776 2.12 0.85 1.8 0.8
Isoleucine 1.31 3.57 0.93 3.3 0.4
Leucine 1.87 5.10 0.96 4.9 0.6
Lysine 2.125 5.80 0.96 5.6 1.1
Methionine + Cystine 0.693 1.89 0.91 1.7 0.3
Phenylalanine + Tyrosine 0.993 2.71 0.9 2.4 0.6
Threonine 1.05 2.86 0.92 2.6 0.6
Tryptophan 0.292 0.80 0.86 0.7 0.2
Valine 1.24 3.38 0.94 3.2 0.8
TOTAL 11.859 32.34   29.7 5.91

 Explanation of table.

Col 1 =  nutritonvalue table (67% water)

This column shows the grams (or percentage for 100g sample) of each EEA when we look at a sample that contains 67% water.

You will see that the total amount of ESSENTIAL amino acids in roast chicken (67% water) are 11.9  grams,  which even with all that water, is still above the AAFCO minimum needed of 5.9 g

COL 2 = ADJ for 10% water

This column shows what happens when we adjust the roast chicken for 10% water content (ie multiply Col 1 values by 90/33.  The total ESSENTIAL amino acid value goes up to 32 grams- or about FIVE times the MINIUMUM aafco requirement of 5.9 grams.


This looks at how the Original tables we got from Google (ie the main previous tables above) compare to the   Col 1 data  (nutrition value table with 67% water)  AND the nutrition value table, (adjusted for 10% water).

Adjusting down for bio availalbityi For a DOG –  the EEA values drop to 29%

FAR RIGHT COLUMN   =   EEA’s using 30% meat in commercial dog food

This pretty much proves the point of this report.  The meat content DRY used in kibble, we have read is speculated to be around 30% of whats in the packet.  If you multiplied the EEA values of nutrition data table ( ADJ for 10% water)

By 30% ie  30% dried roast chicken in the packet  EACH individual essential amino acid value is GREATER than the AAFCO minimum values required.  And the total EAA value of 9.7g  is also well above the total EAA value that Affco requires (5.9g).

This means that plant matter that can make up 70% of the dry matter in your commercial kibble doesn’t really need to have any great essential amino acid values to reach the ridiculously low 18%  TOTAL PROTEIN affco requirement  (or  5.9g EEA requirement –  BECAUSE a meat like chicken, at only 30% dry weight, virtually provides all of the quality protein alone, to reach that low value.

And that is precisely why dog food makers get away with such low quality protein included, and can maximise profits.

Note the 30% meat is justified also by a non essential amino acid issue that has aafco print this warning.  “Because processing may destroy up to 90% of the thiamine in the diet, allowances in formulation should be made to ensure the minimum nutrient concentration for thiamine is met after processing.”  (aafco)

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