Pet food consumers increasingly make purchases based on the nutritional, environmental and ethical aspects of dog and cat food, wrote David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts, in Petfood Industry. Five protein sources in particular have grown in popularity for both pet and human meals, especially in the natural food channel.
1. Grass-fed meat
Although more expensive than conventional meat, 5 percent of dog owners and 6 percent of cat owners who buy red-meat-based pet foods say they purchase pet foods marketed as ranch-raised, grass-fed or similar varieties, according to the Packaged Facts’ Natural, Organic and Eco-friendly Pet Products report.
2. Bone broth
Bone broth contains minerals that support the immune system and collagen for joint health. The bone broth trend in human foodie culture can translate into wet pet food formulations or in a pet food topper, gravy or moistener for dry dog or cat foods.
3. Plant superfoods
Pet food ingredients from superfood plants, such as quinoa and chia seeds, can provide protein that is non-soy, non-GMO, gluten-free, allergen-free and sustainable. However, a meat-free diet may result in health problems for carnivorous pets, such as cats. Despite this, including plant-based proteins as a part of the protein mix can diversify nutrition and lessen concerns over digestive, skin and coat problems, along with other adverse responses sometimes associated with meat- or poultry-based pet foods.
Pulses, such as beans and peas, contain 23–26 percent protein along with complex carbohydrates and fiber. Beans can serve as a safe and digestible functional ingredient in weight-loss dog foods for overweight dogs, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Animal Nutrition. What’s more, pulse crops can fix nitrogen from the air, which means they require less fertilizer than other grains, and therefore may be more environmentally sustainable and economically efficient than corn and some other grains.
Despite being unconventional, some progressive human and pet nutritionists consider insects to be a healthy, sustainable protein source, since insects are more resource efficient to raise than other livestock. Feral and domestic cats and dogs can and do eat insects already. Insect protein also provides many of the macro- and micro-nutrients, including proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, suggested by cat and dog food guidelines.