The Bundled Benefits of Brewers Yeast in Pet Food

As consumers pay closer attention to pet food ingredient lists, they often equate shorter lists with higher overall quality and eco-friendliness. Formulators seeking to cater to these demands need ingredients that meet several needs at once.

Image courtesy of Emmert
Image courtesy of Emmert

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As consumers pay closer attention to pet food ingredient lists, they often equate shorter lists with higher overall quality and eco-friendliness. Formulators seeking to cater to these demands need ingredients that meet several needs at once.

Sustainably sourced for decades, The F. L. Emmert Company’s brewers yeast products have performed double duty as a palatant and protein source for all types of food and animal feed. In recent years, scientists have also discovered its incredible benefits for the gut microbiome and overall pet health.

Dr. Tom Asquith, Director of Research & Development for The F.L. Emmert Company, calls these impacts the “bundled benefits™” of brewers yeast. We recently sat down with Dr. Tom to learn more about the Swiss Army knife-like utility of brewers yeast in pet food.


What are the origins of brewers yeast in pet food? How long has it been in use, and why was it first incorporated into formulations?

Humans have trusted brewers yeast as a go-to nutritional supplement for centuries. Going back several decades, pet food companies started using brewers yeast to boost palatability. It turns out that savory flavor humans love is also appealing to dogs. Since then we’ve learned cats and other companion animals also prefer our yeast products because of the way Emmert Method™ technology preserves and enhances unique flavor notes.

Now yeast’s popularity has grown way beyond palatability. With the purchase of one ingredient, the formulator can move four different pedals at the same time—palatability, sustainability, protein content, and microbiome health.


What makes brewers yeast a sustainable ingredient?

First, it’s economically sustainable. Because liquid yeast is a co-product from well-known American brewers, made and sourced in the USA, the supply chain is very stable and consistent.

Brewers yeast is also an ecologically sustainable co-product of the food industry, so there’s no waste. You and I get a tasty beer, pets get a high-protein nutritional supplement, and nothing gets landfilled. 

For a humble ingredient, brewers yeast does a lot.


You mentioned yeast’s role as a sustainable, high quality protein. How can pet food companies take advantage of that in their formulations?

The two benchmarks for the ideal amino acid composition would be egg or milk proteins. That’s what Mother Nature makes eggs and milk for, right? The perfect nourishment. Yeast doesn't completely match eggs and milk, but it comes surprisingly close.

That makes yeast products a great solution for formulators who are crafting high-meat diets and want to deliver a high protein content. It also helps deliver protein in formulas with higher ash content. It’s very affordable among high-quality proteins. In some applications, Emmert products also increase yields and reduce shrink—another one of those bundled benefits™.

Some Emmert customers now use as much as five to seven percent yeast-based ingredients in their formula—for palatability, protein content, and the benefits yeast holds for the pet’s gut microbiome.  


Let’s talk more about the microbiome. Yeast’s impacts there were unknown until recently, but now researchers are finding that this may be where yeast does most of its work for animal health.

That’s right. For years palatability and protein were the bedrock reasons to use brewers yeast in pet foods. As the industry has learned more about gut health and its effect on overall well-being, we’ve found that brewers yeast is a heavy lifter there, too.

There are several reasons for this. The first is that yeast has compounds in its cell wall called beta glucans. The innate immune system of almost all animals, from insects to mammals, has receptor proteins that only recognize yeast beta-glucans. These receptors likely exist because some yeasts are pathogens, so the immune system learned to recognize beta-glucans to protect itself. But brewers yeast isn't a pathogen. Because of this, brewers yeast products can help keep the innate immune system alert without causing inflammation. It's sort of like a guard dog resting on the front porch. It's there and it's alert, but it only kicks into gear when needed.

Beyond beta-glucans, mannan oligosaccharide, or MOS, is a part of yeast that helps in two ways.  First, MOS can directly bind up certain pathogenic bacteria. Second, MOS is a prebiotic that encourages the growth of symbiotic bacteria. These bacteria produce compounds that down-regulate the inflammatory response.

Finally, yeast directly supports the health of the intestinal cells. These cells are actively dividing, so there's a tremendous demand for precursors of DNA and RNA, for free amino acids, and for B vitamins. Yeast has all these metabolites, and it gives the intestinal cells first dibs on them.


Do all yeasts have the same benefits?

Not all yeast is the same. The challenge with microbial applications is that yeast can vary depending on the source, how the yeast was grown, and so forth. So you need to know your yeast inside and out.

Proprietary Emmert Method™ technology takes an already nutritious ingredient to a whole new level, enhancing palatability and preserving nutrients like no other process in the world. Yeast is a very powerful ingredient, and what Emmert does with it is unique. I take tremendous pride in being able to work with brewers yeast and seeing the impact it has on animal health and well-being.

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