Don’t Have a Cow: Plant-Based Proteins in Dog Food

May 19th 2021 Comments
Plant Based Products R

It is no secret that human food trends affect the food people buy for their pets. Following the trends away from preservatives and toward natural, whole ingredients in the food we eat, many consumers have become more conscious of the food that their pooches are eating as well. 

The Move Away from Meat

As more and more people have adopted vegetarian or vegan diets, interest in meat-free pet food options has increased as well. While it may track with environmental concerns to lower the amount of raw meat and other animal by-products grown for pet food, making proper plant-based dog food that is healthy for our furry friends is tricky business. 

One thing to note at the outset is that the push for meatless pet food is largely centered around dog food. Plant-based cat food, given the specialized dietary needs of cats’ digestive systems, is a harder nut to crack. As strict carnivores, cats are typically not able to get the nutrients they need unless they are fed a diet almost completely comprised of animal products. At least one Italian brand, Ami, has purportedly created an all-plant mixture that contains all the essential amino acids required for cats. Broadly, though, the industry is still shying away from plant-based kitty kibble. 

Vegan dog food, on the other hand, is very much a reality. Ensuring plant-based dog food still has the full spectrum of fatty acids and amino acids dogs need is certainly a primary concern. Thankfully dogs’ digestive systems, and general enthusiasm about nearly all food, have made it possible for brands such as Nestlé’s Lily’s Kitchen to bring a vegan dog food to market. Their Vegan Rainbow Stew, filled with ingredients like lentils, cucumber, carrots, and peas is a truly vegan product that has a nutrient mix that is very beneficial for dogs. 

Veggies and Dogs’ Nutritional Needs

Though some people maintain belief that dogs should only be eating meat, as omnivores, canines naturally consume a balanced diet with meat protein being only a portion of their complete nutrient intake. The market for high-quality pet food is diverse, and grain-free dog food has long been a go-to option for consumers whose primary concern is getting their pets the essential nutrients they need without extra ingredients. In many cases, this is about avoiding filler ingredients rather than avoiding vegetables all together.

Vegetables as staple ingredients in dog food is nothing new, of course. Brown rice and sweet potatoes have been making their way into canine diets for years as brands like Wild Earth and others have moved away from less nutritious filler ingredients. Chickpeas and quinoa are other superfoods sought out by health conscious humans that are turning up in vegetarian dog food. 

Making the jump from dog food that merely contains vegetables like flaxseed to a completely vegetarian dog food is a big step. Swapping whole meat or animal by-products for plant protein, such as pea protein, takes some careful planning. Removing animal products as a protein source means dog food brands need to do some careful work to ensure the full range of amino acids are present in large enough quantities to allow pups to have the healthy skin, shiny coats, and healthy immune systems high-protein diets provide. 

As is the case with people, dogs can suffer from food allergies as well. This is one more area where increasing the options available to customers by introducing vegan or vegetarian dog food is highly beneficial. Vegan dog food brands can give consumers options to meet their pets’ nutritional needs in ways that tradition meat-based foods might not. 

Even if a strict vegetarian diet is not in the cards for some adult dogs, the increase in plant-based dog treats can add a way for consumers to begin shifting their canine’s diet away from meat. Owners need to be careful to watch carbohydrate levels, especially from treats, in their pets’ diets, and buying products made with veggies can provide sources of clean protein without some of the less healthy fillers found in some dog treats. 

Quality Ingredients Are Essential

Whether you are setting out to create a completely vegan dry dog food or you simply want to create a dog treat with a clean protein source made from plants, the other ingredients that show up on your labels are just as important. What is more, with fewer fillers, preservatives, and colorings, it is extremely important that the ingredients you select are of the highest quality. 

Food coloring may not matter to Fido, since he can’t see the colors anyhow, but since humans are still the ones buying the food, making your product look as delectable as possible is important. This not only means making a short, all natural ingredient list look appealing, but it means finding vibrant, natural colors in the food itself a top priority for many purchasers. Thankfully spinach, carrots, beets, and purple sweet potato powders are just a few of the examples of high-quality, nutritionally dense vegetables Silva provides that can add color and nutrition to your products. 

One of the promises of healthy, plant-based products is the different manufacturing requirements needed to achieve a shelf-stable product. Without including animal by-products, some of the high-heat production methods are not necessary. This does, however, mean ingredient quality and food safety are paramount concerns as you may not be relying on extreme temperatures in your production process. This is one of the many reasons Silva takes steps like our steam sterilization and infrared capabilities to ensure the products that go through our extensive production process are safe for you to include in your products, no matter what manufacturing steps you take. 

Standing out in a market filled with great alternatives is not easy. Standing on whole-ingredient, meat-centric dog food may attract some customers, but as more and more people look for vegetarian options, more inventiveness and attention to detail is required to attract customers’ attention while ensuring your final product meets the nutritional needs of their pooches. Silva’s wide variety of products can be the answer you are looking for to create a unique, nutritious mix that will become a go-to option for health-conscious pet-food buyers. 

If you are looking to expand your product line to accommodate this new vegan pet food trend, or even if you are just looking to increase the health credentials of products you have been producing for years, Silva has the ingredients you need to succeed. Not only do we offer a wide variety of options to choose from, but our products are available in a range of cut sizes, and can even be custom cut to your specifications. No matter what your product line and manufacturing requirements demand, Silva can give you the options you need. 

If you are ready to start working on your next best seller, or if you are just starting to tinker with a new recipe, contact a member of our customer relationship team today. We can help you with everything from talking through potential ingredients to consider, to providing free samples of our products for you to start working on your next great offering.