Evaluation of the shelf life of ingredients in pet food

Cats and dogs account for approximately 184 million of the total number of pets owned by households in the United States. According to the American Pet Products Association, sales of pet foods and treats were $42.0 billion in 2020 and $44.1 billion in 2021 within the US market. Animal materials that are considered inedible for human consumption are processed for use as pet food and treated. Types of animal products served include offal, fat, blood, bone, trimmed meat, and offal. The fastest growing categories in the pet food industry are raw, frozen and dried products. Sales of raw pet food grew by 196% and frozen pet food grew by 235% between 2012 and 2016. Raw, frozen and dried products are assumed to have a long shelf life. The main ingredient in pet food is meat, with large amounts of water and high concentrations of fats and proteins. However, extended storage, freezing time, multiple freeze and thaw cycles during transportation and storage of frozen raw foods, and the high temperature applied to protein meals can affect meat quality, damage proteins and amino acids, make proteins less digestible, and increase the level of oxidation products. Therefore, it is necessary to evaluate the quality of the fat and protein content of pet food to ensure a nutritionally complete diet.

Fat oxidation in pet food

Cooked animal protein meals, which are used in extruded pet food products, provide higher quality protein than raw meat. The fat is separated from the cooked material during the serving process; However, some of the remaining fat can oxidize and spoil after storage for a long period of time if it is not protected. Therefore, it is essential to understand effective antioxidants to control oxidation. Oxidized pet food affects animals on this diet. For example, puppies fed an antioxidant diet have less weight gain, lower blood vitamin E, lower linoleic acid, and slower bone formation. Furthermore, raw frozen pet food may encounter multiple freeze-thaw cycles during transportation, purchase, and storage, resulting in potential product oxidation. In addition to the number of freeze-thaw cycles and length of storage, the type of antioxidant used will affect the degree of oxidation that occurs within the product.

Protein oxidation in pet food

Fresh meat and meat meal are two types of raw materials used as protein sources in dry pet food. Fresh meat is obtained from meat rejected as unfit for human consumption with no signs of disease transmitted to humans, while fresh meat is obtained from animal parts such as hooves, horns, bristles and feathers that are not consumed by humans. Meat meals undergo an extensive industrial process using high temperatures of 115 to 145 °C (240 to 290 °F) as a method to separate and melt the fat from the solids. High temperature may damage proteins and amino acids, making them less digestible, cause protein oxidation, partial deterioration of raw materials and change the sensory and nutritional properties of pet food products. In addition, improper storage conditions lead to an increased proliferation of microorganisms, the breakdown of organic components, and the development of harmful products, such as biogenic amines.

Meat, which is used as a source of protein in dry pet food, undergoes an intense industrial process including high temperatures, which may damage proteins and amino acids. Photo: Canva

Improved shelf life and product stability

Pet food manufacturers and manufacturers need to prevent microbial growth, control pH, and use conventional or natural additives to prevent oxidation to improve the shelf life and stability of pet food.

Microbial management

Effective maintenance of microbial shelf life is a critical factor in the long-term success of the pet food market. The risk of microbial growth (yeast, mold, and bacteria) is lower in dry products than in semi-moist products. Furthermore, reducing the pH is required to prevent microbial growth. Acidic ingredients or acidic salts can be used as feed additives to reach the target pH. However, the main problems with the use of additives include determining the most appropriate additive for a particular product, determining the appropriate dosage and finding the best place to add it to ensure good distribution. Antimicrobial agents include acids such as acetic acid, benzoic acid, and citric acid, as well as non-acids such as nitrites and sulfates. Factors to consider when choosing the best antimicrobial agent for pet food products include the acidity index, the presence of other inhibitors such as salt, smoke, sugar, moisture content, solubility, storage length and temperature conditions.

Oxidation control

Delaying the onset and rate of lipid oxidation by adding antioxidants is an effective, convenient and economical strategy that can be used to improve product stability and shelf life. Oxidation of fats can cause nutrition to deteriorate and produce undesirable flavours, color and toxic compounds that often make food less palatable to pets. Antioxidants work by scavenging fatty free radicals, controlling transition metals, quenching singlet oxygen, and neutralizing sensitivities. Hydrogen atoms are donated by antioxidants to free radicals and as a result are converted into more stable, non-radical products. Antioxidant activity depends on a variety of factors, such as temperature, pH, degree and amount of unsaturated fatty acids, and the presence of oxygen and metal ions.

concluding remarks

The goal of veterinarians, nutritionists, pet food manufacturers and pet owners is a long, healthy life for dogs and cats using healthy pet food. Extended storage and freezing time, multiple freezing cycles that occur during transportation and storage of raw frozen foods, application of high temperatures during food processing may affect the quality of pet food, increase the level of oxidation products, and damage proteins and amino acids. Less digestible. Safe and healthy pet food comes from safe ingredients sourced from well-controlled suppliers; Therefore, a better understanding of the ingredients and application of methods that can be used to improve the shelf life and stability of pet food is an important part of pet food production.

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