Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Nose is the Window to the Bowl

Eyes may be the window to the soul, but it's the nose that is the window to the bowl.

For that reason, there's actually science to the chemistry of kibble, same as there is science to  the chemistry of human food which is accented with fats, sugar and salts to make it addictive, and where it is colored and cut to make to look pretty, and to give it a satisfying crunch or texture when you bite into it.

Over at Popular Science they give a short profile of the folks at AFB International whose business niche is making flavored coatings for dry pet foods.

It turns out cats and dogs are quite different when it comes to diversity in foods.  Cats, for example like to stick to one kind of food, as research has shown that most outdoor cats are "either mousers or birders, but not both."  Giving a cat a rotating menu of food choices may actually cause the animal more concern than if one good food was chosen and stuck with.

Dogs, on the other hand, will eat almost anything with a little fat in it, and a little stink is a feature, not a liability. As the article notes:

The challenge is to find an aroma that drives dogs wild without making their owners, to use an Amy McCarthy verb, yak. “Cadaverine is a really exciting thing for dogs,” says Rawson. “Or putrescine.” But not for humans.... Some dog food designers go too far in the other direction, tailoring the smell to be pleasing to humans without taking the dog’s experience of it into account. The problem is that the average dog’s nose can be up to 10,000 times more sensitive than the average human’s. A flavor that to you or me is reminiscent of grilled steak may be overpowering and unappealing to a dog.

So how healthy is dog food?  Science shows that the average pet dog eating a bowl of bagged kibble is actually eating a more complete meal than its owner on the other end of the leash.

So what's the main ingredient that is sprayed on kibble to get dogs really interested in wolfing it down?

“Liver,” says Moeller. “Mixed with some other viscera. The first part that a wild animal usually eats in its kill is the liver and stomach, the GI tract.” Organs in general are among the most nutritionally rich foods on earth. Lamb spleen has almost as much vitamin C as a tangerine. Beef lung has 50 percent more. Stomachs are especially valuable because of what’s inside them: The predator benefits from the nutrients of the plants and grains in the stomach of its prey. “Animals have evolved to survive,” Rawson says. They like what’s best for them. People blanch to see “fish meal” or “meat meal” on a pet food ingredient panel, but meal — which variously includes flesh, organs, skin, and bones — most closely resembles the diet of dogs and cats in the wild.

Read the whole thing here.


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