Human-Grade Fresh Dog Food - Math?
More dog owners are looking to feed their dogs’ human-grade foods for better nutrition and several companies are now in the market to serve these customers. Is there really a quality difference between foods made with pet-food grade meals, and fresh human-grade foods? Linda Case summarizes a study on the protein quality of “different forms of chicken commonly included in pet foods.” in her blog “Tastes Like Chicken”. The results of this study showed that steamed chicken (cooked to 200 degrees F for 10 minutes) had the highest digestibility and had the highest “digestibility values for all of the essential and non-essential amino acids” – greater than 90 percent for all but two amino acids. These are rock star values”
With this in mind I thought it would be interesting to compare the chicken foods of several companies that make fresh foods for dogs.
Just Food For Dogs
Just Food For Dogs (JFFD) chicken recipe is the only food listed as completing a AAFCO feeding trial for adult maintenance. JFFD states the recipe is “formulated to to meet 2006 NRC standards” for growth so the food is formulated for healthy dogs and growing puppies. The other three companies foods are formulated for “All Life Stages” which includes adults and puppies.
None of these foods derived all their vitamins and minerals from the food, but rather they all had added vitamins and minerals.
“Human-quality foods are generally more digestible than pet quality foods” so calories (kcal) for human foods are calculated: (4, 9, 4)
Protein 4 calories (kcal) per gram (g)
Fat 9 calories (kcal) per gram (g)
Carbs 4 calories (kcal) per gram (g)
Pet foods are considered less digestible than human-quality foods so calories (kcal) for pet foods are calculated: (3.5, 8.5, 3.5)
Protein 3.5 calories (kcal) per gram (g)
Fat 8.5 calories (kcal) per gram (g)
Carbs 3.5 calories (kcal) per gram (g)
Since all of these foods are marketed as human quality ingredients I started with human calorie calculations for the foods. (4, 9, 4)
Nomnomnow, Pet Plate, and Ollie are all subscription based foods so on each of the websites I used a 4-yr old, 50lb dog (Rover) of ideal weight, and less active when asked. It is interesting to note the wide range of calories per day the 3 subscription plans provided for Rover the 4-yr old 50lb dog. The companies provided between 681 – 843 calories per day. Just Food For Dogs has a calorie calculator at their website and it recommended feeding a 50lb, 4-yr old, normal activity dog, 25oz of their food each day which totals 925 calories which seems reasonable for most pet dogs.
How many calories a day does a dog need? Two dogs of the same breed and size living in the same environment can have completely different calorie requirements. The generally accepted starting point for determining calorie needs is the Resting Energy Requirement (RER) calculation. The RER represents the calorie requirement for a normal but fed animal at rest. (Resting with no other activity) A 50lb dog RER is 729 calories a day. The calorie needs of a moderately active adult dog are calculated based on the RER. This is referred to as the Maintenance Energy Requirement (MER). The MER for a minimally active pet dog ranges from 874 – 1020 calories per day. The MER is only an estimate and should only be used as a general guideline. (See the CANINE – DAILY CALORIE ESTIMATOR cheat sheet) The Canine - Daily Calorie Estimator is a free download here.
The foods were compared using price, guaranteed analysis and calorie content. All the information was entered into the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet to calculate the values. Just like the wide swing in calories the foods total grams of protein ranged from 59 - 115 grams per 1000 calories.
Note that the guaranteed analysis (GA) on pet foods is not meant to provide exact values, but rather minimums and maximums. The actual amounts of protein and fat can be higher so the amount of calories (kcal) per gram will be slightly less then reported for kcal/kg. Using the GA will generally slightly underestimate some of the values which are reflected in the g/1000 kcal on the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet. For each of the foods a second cheat sheet was completed by adjusting the guaranteed analysis numbers to match the total calories listed for each food. (kcal/kg = calories/2.2 lbs) Get your copy of The Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet here.
Just Food For Dogs - Chicken & White Rice
The chicken & white rice recipe cost is $9.27 per 1000 calories (kcal). The guaranteed analysis numbers accounts for 91% of the calories. Based on the guaranteed analysis the food would provide a minimum of 60.70 grams of protein per 1000 calories. Just Food For Dogs provides a “Typical Nutritional Analysis” at their website so the ash content and other nutrients totals were used and compared. Factoring in the Typical Analysis numbers (below) we can account for the remaining calories to reach 1000.
Using their “Typical Analysis” the cheat sheet was adjusted to match the grams of protein, fat, fiber, and ash. With these totals the recipe provides approximately 66 grams of protein per 1000 calories.
The calorie calculator at their website recommended 911 calories a day for a 4-year old, 50 lb ideal weight, normal activity dog. This daily calorie total seems reasonable for most pet dogs. Based on this they recommended 25oz of this recipe per day. At the reported 37 calories per oz this works out to 925 calories. The 4.5 lb package has 72oz total so it would last just under 3-days.
Nomnomnow - Chicken Chow-Wow
The Chicken Chow Wow recipe cost is $9.68 per 1000 calories (kcal). The guaranteed analysis numbers accounts for 86% of the calories. Based on the guaranteed analysis this food provides a minimum of 71 grams of protein per 1000 calories. Nomnomnow’s website also provides the grams per 1000 calories (g/kcal) of protein, fat, and carbs and the % of calories from protein, fat, and carbs. Adjusting the numbers to match what was listed on the website results in 60% more protein then listed in the GA and provides 115 grams of protein per 1000 kcal. Using these numbers required using pet food calories calculations (3.5, 8.5, 3.5) to get the numbers to match the kcal/kg.
4 weeks of food is 56 meals totaling 37 lbs of food for 28 days. Total calories on this plan for a 50lb dog is 714 calories a day which seems quite low. This low amount of calories would seem more appropriate for a weight loss plan and not maintenance. Feeding 925 calories a day this plan would provide for just over 21 days of food, not 28.
Pet Plate - Chicken Chow-Wow
The Chicken Chow Wow recipe cost is $11.73 per 1000 calories (kcal). The guaranteed analysis numbers only accounts for 73% of the calories. Based on the guaranteed analysis this food provides a minimum of 59 grams of protein per 1000 calories.
Adjusting the numbers to match the kcal/kg listed requires the % of fat to be almost double the GA. (3.2 - 6%)
2 weeks of food is 28 meals totaling 17.5 lbs of food for 14 days. Total calories on this plan for a 50lb dog is 681 calories a day which is quite low. This low amount of calories would seem more appropriate for a weight loss plan and not maintenance. Feeding 925 calories a day this plan would provide for just over 10 days of food, not 14.
Ollie - Chicken Goodness
The Chicken Chow Wow recipe cost is $8.93 per 1000 calories (kcal). The guaranteed analysis numbers accounts for 95% of the calories. Based on the guaranteed analysis this food provides a minimum of 77 grams of protein per 1000 calories.
2 weeks of food is 28 meals totaling 20 lbs of food for 14 days. Total calories on this plan for a 50lb dog is 843 calories a day which is lower than the formulas for a minimally active pet dog. Feeding 925 calories a day this plan would provide almost 13 days of food, not 14.
What’s in your dog’s food bowl?
The information contained here is provided for general reference and informational purposes only. Any information provided should not be construed to be formal professional advice or professional veterinary advice. Homeskooling 4 Dogs LLC does not warrant that the information is in every respect accurate. You are encouraged to conduct your own research and due diligence.