The digestibility of pet food is the quantity of nutrients available for absorption from the intestine into the bloodstream. Nutrient bioavailability is the proportion of the absorbed nutrients that are carried to tissues and available for use by the body. Because a highly digestible food provides a higher proportion of absorbed nutrients than a less digestible food, digestibility provides one measure of a food’s nutritional value and quality. In general, as the quality of ingredients in the food increases, so will the food’s digestibility and nutrient bioavailability. Therefore, digestibility is essential for the overall health of pets (Cline, 2016).
Figure 1- Perceptions of selected pet food concepts (Mintel,2018)
The figure above indicates that the biggest reason for pet owners to purchase Grain Free pet food products is because they are perceived as being good for digestion. This reasoning is perhaps why Grain Free pet food diets have risen in popularity. This shows that pet owners are becoming more aware and understanding upon the importance of digestibility for their pets.
Figure 2- New Product launches claiming digestion benefits 2013- 2017 (Mintel, 2018)
Figure 2 displays the increasing pet food products with digestion claims launched onto the market. A quarter of all pet food launches featured a digestibility claim in 2017, charting a 10 percentage point increase since 2014.
The spotlight within the media upon digestive health has been heavily portrayed within the human food industry. In fact, almost a quarter of UK adults (23%) include food with ‘good’ bacteria in their diets, rising to 29% among those who try to eat healthily most or all of the time. It is well established that the humanisation trend is deeply entrenched within all aspects of pet ownership. Therefore the current interest in looking after digestive health has been transferred from pet owners to their pets, underpinned by the desire to give pets a diet which contributes towards their optimum health and wellbeing (Mintel, 2018).
Pet Food Characteristics
Various pet food characteristics influence nutrient and overall product digestibility. These include:
- Recipe – The recipe is the type and quantity of different ingredients that are included in the product. Because pet food ingredients vary significantly in digestibility, the overall product digestibility is influenced by the digestibility and nutrient bioavailability of its various ingredients.
- Ingredient Quality – Overall pet food digestibility is increased by the inclusion of high quality ingredients and decreased when poor quality ingredients are included.
- Processing – Correct processing techniques, cooking temperatures, and storage procedures support optimal nutrient digestibility and bioavailability. For example, excessive heat damages protein, resulting in decreased digestibility of the protein and reduced bioavailability of certain amino acids. This means that a smaller proportion of the protein is digested and absorbed (Cline, 2016).
Here at Regal Dog
At Regal Dog we use a special process which makes our freshly prepared meats highly digestible. The technology we use operates by cooking the meat at a gentle 90⁰C temperature which maintains the freshness and protects the proteins within the meat. The traditional rendering process cooks meat at extremely high temperatures which therefore decreases the overall bio-availability to the pet.