The criteria set out in the Previous Blog gives a good overview of what constitutes a species-appropriate dog food. But how is dog food produced and is the criteria met during production?
There are many ways of producing dog food. The first thing we as dog parents need to do is find out what the differences are.
Many manufacturers add artificial vitamins and flavour enhancers to the products, others have the possibility to do without them through gentle processing methods.
In the following blog series, you will find out what production methods exist and to what extent they contribute to the fulfilment of the three criteria for the appropriate nutrition of your dog. (Ingredients, processing & variety.)
This week we take a closer look at extruded dog food, also called Kibble.
Extrusion is the most common manufacturing process for dog food.
95% of all products you can find in the shop or online are extruded - i.e. cooked at high temperatures and under high pressure. But what exactly is the process until the finished dog food is in the bag?
To answer this question, let us first look at the typical ingredients for extruded food. An exemplary declaration could look like this: Cereals, meat and animal by-products (including 4% dried beef), oils and fats (including 0.4%
sunflower oil), vegetable protein extracts, vegetable by-products (including 1% dried beet pulp), vegetables (4% carrots, 4% peas), minerals.
At first sight this looks like healthy ingredients. But what exactly is behind the terms?
Cereals come first and make up the largest share. It is a cheap source of carbohydrates and therefore energy. Dogs have no carbohydrate requirements at all, but can digest them to a certain extent - but only if the starch has been broken down by cooking before consumption.
Animal ingredients make up a smaller proportion.
Animal by-products include organs and offal of the animals, but also slaughterhouse waste. The animal ingredients are present in dried form, which means that they have been processed into meat meal before the actual extrusion process for dog food.
Water and fat have been removed and preservatives have been added to improve shelf life. With meat meal, however, it is no longer possible for the customer to trace which parts of the slaughtered animal were dried, ground and mixed.
Meat meals have nothing to do with meat. They consist mainly of offal, such as
feathers, claws, horns, fur and carcasses. Since dogs would not eat these waste products themselves, the "meat" meal often contains flavour enhancers.
Vegetable protein extracts are low quality vegetable proteins that are intended to increase the protein content of the feed. This is usually soya.
Vegetable by-products are nothing other than waste products from the processing of cereals.
These can include beet pulp, wheat bran, peanut shells, plant meal or straw. These serve as fillers, but are difficult for the dog to use and are more likely to strain the digestive tract.
If you take another look at the criteria for a species-appropriate food in our previous blog, you will see that these ingredients do not meet the requirements and therefore do not contribute to a species-appropriate diet.
You are probably wondering why these raw materials are used for extruded food! This is due to the following processing procedure:
For the extrusion process, the raw materials are required in dried and already pre-processed flour form. Production begins in the so-called pre-conditioner. Here, the "ingredients" are first pre-cooked for several minutes at high temperatures and mixed. During this process, steam is added to the flour-like ingredients and a liquid raw mass is produced. This raw mass then passes through a pipe system into the extruder. Here it is cooked at temperatures of over 130°and extremely high pressure.
This process has two important tasks: On one hand, the high temperatures and high pressure ensure that the low-viscosity raw mass becomes a tough dough and that all ingredients do not fall apart but stick together. On the other hand, the cooking process breaks down the vegetable starch so that the dog cis able to digest the cheap vegetable ingredients at all.
After cooking in an extruder, the sticky raw mass is pressed through a nozzle. A round knife cuts the strand into small pieces, which then make the dog food croquettes. These are then fed into a drying process. Here the moisture content, which was artificially increased in the extruder, is reduced again.
To save time and speed up the drying process, the food is subjected to sterilisation temperatures of over 100-c once again.
Because the extruded fodder obtained from this process must withstand very
high temperatures several times, most of the already few natural vitamins and nutrients are lost. After drying, these must be artificially sprayed onto the product. The artificial nutrients (vitamins and minerals) are not the same as natural, healthy nutrients.
They are poorly bioavailable to the dog and therefore less healthy. Artificial vitamins are also often the trigger for many allergies. In addition,
extruded food lacks flavour after the process, so fats and artificial flavour enhancers must also be sprayed onto the extrusion nuggets (Kibble).
Extruded feed is usually declared as complete feed. The term "complete feed" is a legal term from the EU feed regulation.
It describes a feed which, due to its composition, contains all the nutrients that an animal needs. This means that no additional feed must be fed. The problem with this type of complete feed, however, is that the nutrients must be artificially added to meet the minimum quantities required. Maximum levels are often not considered.
As a result, dogs that have been fed a single complete food over a long period of time often suffer from an over-supply of nutrients, which increases the risk of disease and allergies. Feeding only a complete food is therefore
not appropriate for the species, as there is no variety and the nutrients are not supplied naturally.
But even switching between different varieties would not provide a natural diet. No matter whether meat meal from beef, chicken or duck is used at the beginning: In the end, identical vitamins, additives and flavour enhancers are injected. This means that every variety tastes the same to the dog and he is always supplied with the same artificial nutrients.
The extruded dog food therefore does not meet any of the three criteria of a species-appropriate diet.