What Causes Pet Food Variability?
When you open a can of your pet’s premium food, do you wonder why the product always appears the same in every can?
Does it bring up memories of Spam from back in the good old days?
Consumer demand drives the consistency of the product. The average consumer has an expectation when they open a can of food.
But, consistency in canned food comes with a price. To make a uniform product, manufacturers must add binders and food coloring agents.
Binders reduce pet food variability.
PET | TAO’s goal is to produce the highest quality pet food available for the optimal health of your dogs and cats.
We choose to omit ingredients that do not support our mission.
PET | TAO is natural pet food.
Variable moisture content and color result from our choice not to include artificial ingredients in our foods.
Our choice, however, leads to some consumer confusion and questioning.
Pet Food Variability: Raw Ingredients Are Variable
Production of pet food begins with raw ingredients.
These ingredients are different from day to day depending on factors such as the supply, time of year, etc.
For instance, turkey thigh trimmings may be available one day and turkey wings the next.
As you are aware, there is a distinct, notable difference in moisture content and color between these two ingredients. Both ingredients are turkey, yet are different in appearance and texture.
Another example is vegetables.
Have you ever noticed the difference in the tomatoes at your local farmer’s market?
During different times of the year, vegetables can vary depending on a variety of factors including season, growing method, and quality of the soil.
Food Coloring Adds Consistency
The only way to have consistent color from can to can and batch to batch is to add food coloring agents.
Food coloring additives, with caramel color being the most popular, are on almost every label of canned pet food sold in the U.S.
Food coloring assures each can or bag of food looks the same, regardless of the raw materials or cooking reactions that occur within the can.
Without food coloring agents, color inconsistency is inevitable.
PET | TAO does not use food coloring in any of our products.
How the Canning Process Affects Moisture
Canning involves a multi-step process. First, ingredients are ground and mixed in a large hopper.
Then, during the pre-heating process, the majority of water is released from the raw ingredients and drained out of the hopper.
The amount of water released is dependent on three factors:
- Preheat time
- Preheat temperature
- The moisture content of raw ingredients
These factors all vary from batch to batch and sometimes, within each batch.
It is impossible to make this process consistent 100% of the time.
Decreasing Moisture in Canned Pet Food
Binders enhance volume, firmness, and texture.
Binders are added during the pre-heating phase to absorb and distribute water released during cooking. The cans are then filled and cooked.
During cooking, the binder absorbs more water.
The most common binders in pet food are guar gum and carrageenan.
Binders make canned foods appear more homogeneous and less “soupy,” with a “potted meat appearance” after cooking.
When binders are not added to meat-based canned products, such as ours, water accumulates at the periphery of the can after cooking.
This is due to the shrinkage of the meat and vegetables during cooking.
The same process happens when you cook these ingredients on a stove. The meat and veggies shrink as the water evaporates.
The amount of water generated is variable and dependent on the moisture content of the raw ingredients, cooking time, and cooking temperature.
Remember, the water content can only be controlled by the inclusion of binders to absorb and distribute the moisture.
Carrageenan and Guar Gum
What is Carrageenan?
Carrageenans come from red edible seaweeds. Pet food manufacturers frequently use Carrageenans for product thickening and stabilizing.
Peer-reviewed journal articles, independent food safety agencies, and international review panels indicate carrageenan is safe in infant formula and food (including organic).
The small group of researchers who disagree often use data not accurately representing the way carrageenan is consumed.
In some early studies, the test material is unspecified. These studies used a test material called poligeenan, which is never used in food.
Studies in which food-grade carrageenan was fed to animals inappropriate (low) amounts confirm the safety of carrageenan.
However, on November 18, 2016, the National Organic Standards Board voted to remove carrageenan from the list of approved substances labeled “organic.”
Because extensive studies have proven its safety, some of our canned cat food products contained carrageenan.
What is Guar Gum?
Guar gum is the ground endosperm of guar beans. The guar seeds are dehusked, milled, and screened.
Scientists have extensively studied the physiological effects of guar gum on animals and humans.
In rats, the only significant effect of guar gum was reduced body weight and lower blood glucose, even in quantities over 100 times the FDA Acceptable Daily Intake.
Other studies show guar gum adds fiber to the diet and may help normalize blood glucose and cholesterol.
In addition, specific animal studies indicate guar gum is not carcinogenic or teratogenic.
Because extensive studies have proven its safety and health benefits, we are currently testing guar gum in small batches in some of our dog foods.
We choose to avoid food colorings, because of possible side effects.
Contact us and ask questions!