Advances in processing of dried distillers grains (DDGs) have made them an attractive option for pet foods, especially cat foods, said Greg Aldrich, PhD, pet food program coordinator at Kansas State University, during Petfood R&D Workshop 2017.
Dried distillers grains and cat food palatability
Aldrich said. “Next generation DDGs are comparable to soybean meal and may actually have an advantage.”
DDGs are left-overs from the production of ethanol, the type of alcohol used as a human intoxicant or biofuel. Regardless of whether the alcohol is meant for fuel tanks or getting people tanked, grains are fermented by yeast before distillation.
In next-generation DDGs, the residues of that yeast may boost cat food palatability. In his previous research, Aldrich found that yeast products boost pet food palatability for cats.
"The cats actually like these DDGs," he said. "In essence, with all of the additional yeast based materials that are added back into this [DDGs], we may have something that's a palatability enhancer, or at least palate positive for the cat.”
In a more recent cat food palatability test, felines ate more food containing next generation DDGs when offered both that food and another made with either corn gluten meal or soybean meal.
Nutrients in dried distillers grains
Analysis by Kansas State grain scientists found that next generation DDGs contain 50.8 percent crude protein, compared with 47.8 percent in soybean meal or 67.1 percent in corn gluten meal.
Crude fat make up 3.9 percent of next generation DDGs, compared to 1.12 percent in soybean meal and 1.58 percent in corn gluten meal. These DDGs contain 4.13 percent crude fiber, compared to 3.18 percent in soybean meal.
Moisture was lowest in next generation DDGs at 6.71 percent. Soybean meal held 12.33 percent moisture, and corn gluten meal contained 10.17.
Sustainability of dried distillers grains
Since dried distillers grains are a byproduct of alcohol production and therefore require little additional processing, energy use or raw materials, they can be a sustainable option. Humans don’t eat DDGs so they don’t compete for scarce food supplies.
From a health standpoint, next generation DDGs give pet food formulators another option when trying to avoid ingredients that may cause allergies or have other unwanted characteristics.
“Whether the message is avoidance [of certain ingredients] or save the planet and promote sustainability and food security, I think we have an opportunity to play in that category,” Aldrich said.
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