What’s Really in That Kibble? Unraveling the Mysteries of Pet Food

Bev Saunders
March 12, 2024

What’s Really in That Kibble? Unraveling the Mysteries of Pet Food

Hydrolyzed Chicken Liver Powder Versus Poultry By-Product in Your Pet’s Kibble as the Source of Protein

As devoted pet parents, we all want the best for our furry friends. But amidst the overwhelming array of pet food options, it’s crucial to understand what goes into those convenient bags of kibble.

A recent study from Brazil has sparked discussions about the use of hydrolyzed chicken liver powder versus poultry byproduct meal in pet foods. Hydrolyzed proteins, which are broken down into smaller pieces to aid digestion, are favored by some pet food producers. However, their primary appeal may lie in cost-saving measures rather than nutritional benefits.

Hydrolyzed Proteins

The hydrolyzation process was invented and patented nearly 25 years ago. According to a filing at FreePatentsOnline.com, preparing hydrolyzed food product (in this case chicken) for animal consumption involves the following process:

How they make your pet’s kibble:

First, a food product for animals is made from parts of an animal, typically a whole bird carcass. A heated hydrolyzing agent is sprayed or dipped onto the outside of the carcass. Then, the carcass is ground up and mixed with additives. After that, it’s heated with steam to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit to kickstart the breakdown process called hydrolysis.

The process starts by feeding the heated by-product in either a liquid form or as dry particles into a twin-screw extruder. As it moves through different sections of the extruder, the by-product is mixed well and exposed to high pressures and temperatures. Any excess moisture is released, and a neutralizing agent is added to balance the pH. Finally, the mixture is blended under high heat and pressure until it becomes a uniform mass, completely sterilized.

This mass is then pushed out of the extruder and cut into small pellets. These pellets are then dried until they contain no more than 10 percent moisture.

In a nutshell, hydrolyzed proteins are intact proteins that have been chemically pulverized into smaller pieces to theoretically avoid stimulating the immune system of pets with “sensitive stomachs.

Poultry Byproduct Meal

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) definition of poultry byproduct meal:

This refers to a substance made from the processed remains of slaughtered poultry. It includes ground and cleaned parts like necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines. Feathers are excluded, except for minimal amounts that might unavoidably end up in the product during processing.

Keep in mind byproducts are the parts of animals that are NOT meat. Poultry by-products include parts of the fowl that have little or no nutritional value, from a digestibility standpoint — and there’s no way to tell which parts have been mixed into your pet’s food.

The Brazilian study compared diets containing these two ingredients in healthy adult dogs. Interestingly, diets with higher levels of hydrolyzed chicken liver powder showed improved protein digestibility but also had negative effects on fat and carbohydrate digestion and metabolizable energy.

This raises questions about the long-term health implications of feeding pets diets that prioritize convenience over quality ingredients. Many pet parents are now turning to biologically appropriate diets, which consist of minimally processed whole foods that mimic an ancestral diet. These diets provide essential nutrients in a natural and digestible form, promoting better overall health for our pets.

As awareness grows about the importance of nutrition in pet health, the pet food market is evolving to offer more options. However, choosing the right diet for your pet requires careful consideration and research. By questioning the status quo and prioritizing quality ingredients, we can ensure that our beloved pets thrive on diets that truly nourish them.