Fermented chicken could serve as a functional ingredient in dog treats and snacks. Korean scientists drew on their own culinary culture to inspire their work developing a method to ferment mechanically deboned chicken meat (MDCM) for use in dog treats. The dog treat they developed resisted pathogenic bacterial growth and improved dogs’ digestion, although palatability may be a challenge.
“We are accustomed to fermented food such as kimchi, jeotgal, doenjang, soy sauce, cheonggukjang and gochujang,” Eunchae Lee, PhD, animal sciences researcher at Konkuk University, Seoul, said. “We know that fermented food is very beneficial to our health. It motivated our development of a snack for companion dogs.”
Much of the fermentation process used to make the dog treat mirrored that used for human foods, Lee said. Some of the ingredients appear in kimchi or jeotgal. Likewise, aspects of the mixing and storage reflected the fermentation of traditional Korean foods. However, while those foods can take days to months, Lee’s team developed a process for fermenting MDCM dog treat ingredients in 24 hours. The dog treat recipes included 52.8% MDCM, 35.2% chicken breast meat and 9.7% corn starch. Unlike traditional foods, the researchers fermented the dog treat mixture at 37 degrees Celsius, and they inoculated the mixture with lactic acid bacteria, Pediococcus acidilactici and P. pentosaceus. During fermentation, the mixture’s pH dropped rapidly and reached a point that would inhibit the growth of other organisms. Another batch of the recipe was not inoculated and fermented.
“The fermented snack must be sterilized in the manufacturing process for distribution and storage because of activity of lactic acid bacteria,” Lee said.
Effects of fermentation on dog treats, digestion and palatability
Following fermentation, the MDCM-based snack had in vitro pepsin nitrogen digestibility that was higher than the non-fermented recipe. After 14 days of storage at room temperature, bacteria grew slower on fermented dog treats than non-fermented snack samples.
However, dogs preferred non-fermented treats in a palatability trial that included seven Maltese. The dogs ate less of the fermented snacks, spent less time at them and were reluctant to eat. Strong odors or high acidity likely reduced palatability, but fermentation may have given digestive health benefits to the MDCM-based dog snack. The same dogs participated in a 12-day-long feeding trial. The ammonia content dropped in the dogs’ feces, although fecal lactic acid content increased.
“Due to the low pH, palatability for dogs may be somewhat decreased,” Lee said. “So, dog treat makers may need to use natural flavors, but not necessarily…Dogs and human may have diarrhea when they eat a lot of fermented food, but I think that is not a big barriers to its use as a snack.”
The Journal of Animal Science and Technology published the research.