Real Food for Cats and Dogs
The health benefits of real animal protein sources include a good supply of protein, essential vitamins, and minerals. Meat is meat, is meat, however, each one has a special amino acid though, and each has a special benefit in your, and your fur kids’, nutritional dietary requirements. Bet you didn’t know that! Meat and fish are complete sources of protein, containing the nine amino acids that the body requires but cannot make for itself. Protein serves several important functions in the body, including tissue growth and repair. Meat and fish also contain heme iron, which is more useful to the body than non-heme iron, the type of iron found in plant-based foods.
As chicken is the most common protein found in raw food for cats and dogs, we start with chicken. Chicken has been domesticated and consumed as food for thousands of years, and is the most common type of poultry in the world. There are many varieties of chicken, including free range, organic, and conventional chicken, the difference being on the basis of breeding. Of the three, organic chicken is the most expensive because it is bred freely and is allowed to eat only organically prepared food.
When it comes to things like protein synthesis, bio-availability, digestibility, muscle development, fat loss, and overall health impact: is beef or chicken the better choice? When comparing the amino acid profiles for chicken and beef sources, you’ll find that they are very similar. That is to say that they are all complete proteins and all have similar, adequate levels of essential amino acids. While there is some variation in composition, the difference is negligible and for all intents and purposes, meaningless.
However, when you or your fur kids consume a chicken breast or thigh, top sirloin, or organ meat, our bodies sees much more than just protein. When comparing vitamin levels, mineral content, and fatty acid profiles of the various sources, the differences become quite apparent. As it turns out, beef, even the leaner grass-fed variety, tends to contain more fat than chicken. And of this fat, about half tends to be saturated and half mono-unsaturated. Yep the same fat found in olive oil that everybody agrees is healthy for your heart.
Sticking to poultry, let’s look at cousin turkey. Both turkey and beef make an equally impressive roast, burger, meatball or meatloaf for moms and pops. While turkey is usually the centerpiece of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, beef can be a favourite for special or everyday occasions, including your fur kids dietary needs. However, comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges – although they are both good sources of protein, they are otherwise so different that there’s really no comparison. That said, they each have unique nutritional profiles, and fat content is the real difference between beef and turkey.
To compare chicken with turkey, we’ll use nutrition information provided for equal portion sizes of 100 grams. However, 100 grams does not necessarily represent a typical serving size. The average chicken leg weighs 130 grams, and the average turkey leg weighs 329 grams. One half chicken breast is around 118 grams, while one half turkey breast is about 390 grams. Four of the B vitamins are found in almost equal amounts in leg and breast meat from both chicken and turkey. They supply thiamin, vitamin B-12, folate and pantothenic acid. All the essential minerals can be found in the leg and breast meat from chicken and turkey. They’re a good source of phosphorus and the daily value of potassium, magnesium and iron. You’ll also receive 1 to 4 percent of the daily value of calcium, sodium and manganese.
Turkey provides slightly more copper than chicken. A significant difference is the amount of niacin. Chicken and turkey are both great sources of niacin, but chicken has more than turkey, and breast meat provides more than leg meat. Two minerals are supplied in different quantities — selenium and zinc. Turkey is significantly higher in selenium no matter which meat you prefer, providing 35 to 41 percent of the daily value compared with 19 to 25 percent in chicken for humans. Zinc differs depending on the type of meat. It’s roughly the same in both chicken and turkey, but the dark meat provides more than twice the zinc than what is available in white meat.
What about duck? Duck is rich in dietary protein, which helps boost satiety. Like with fish, you can purchase farmed or wild ducks, though wild ducks are harder to find unless you live in a hunting community (or you hunt for them yourself). Also, like fish, the way a duck is raised can play a big role in the breakdown of nutrients. Duck is abundant in a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. These include iron, zinc, B vitamins, potassium and phosphorous. Domesticated ducks have higher levels of protein, vitamin A (though still in low quantities), niacin, pantothenic acid, zinc, and selenium. They also contain some vitamin E and vitamin K, while wild ducks typically do not. Wild ducks are a better source of thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and copper. They also contain vitamin C, which you won’t find in a domesticated duck.
Pheasant, such as quail, is a game bird popular with hunters because of its low flying speed, which makes it an easy target. Once the pheasant is brought home and cooked for moms and dads, it will deliver a very healthy amount of protein, as well as significant levels of B vitamins and potassium. Another important mineral found in pheasant is iron, and game birds provides the best form of iron available to the whole family.
And our flightless birds? Ostrich is a delicious healthy red meat with all the texture and hearty flavour of beef. Extremely high in protein, low in fat, calories, and cholesterol but high in iron – Ostrich is even lower in fat grams than skinless white meat chicken or turkey! Ostrich is a good source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Iron, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Phosphorus, Zinc, Selenium and more. When it comes to the combination of great taste and healthy eating, ostrich is truly one of the most superior meats. Did you know that Ostrich is a Bird but not Poultry? What’s more, due to ostrich’s ideal pH balance, the meat does not attract harmful bacteria like E.coli or salmonella. Tasty and healthy!
Beef is a good source of creatine, which works as a backup energy source for the muscles. There is some evidence that creatine supplements may improve performance and muscle growth during resistance exercise, hence we label it as “heavy fuel“. On the other hand, Darren, turkey is famous for tryptophan, the amino acid that everyone blames for the post-dinner nap. Although tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin, which helps regulate sleep, researchers discovered that the amounts in turkey are not high enough to cause drowsiness.
Although beef is still a lot more commonly consumed around the world than venison, venison is increasing in popularity, in part because of its nutritional profile. Both venison and beef provide some of the essential vitamins you need each day. Venison provides the same amount of vitamin B-12, but more thiamine and riboflavin, with 14 percent and 25 percent of the daily value for moms and pops, respectively. It is slightly lower in niacin and vitamin B-6 than beef, with 36 percent of the daily value for niacin and 30 percent of the daily value for vitamin B-6. Overall, venison is more vitamin-rich than beef.
Goat meat is a healthy alternative to beef and chicken because of its lower calorie, fat and cholesterol, but higher in protein than beef. The low levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, combined with its high iron and protein content, make goat meat a good choice for anyone looking for a healthy alternative red meat to beef. It’s a leaner, healthier choice when compared to equal serving sizes of chicken, beef and pork.
Like all meats, lamb is rich in protein. While the lamb and chicken foods share this characteristic, other nutritional aspects of lamb and chicken differ. Neither lamb nor chicken is a robust source of vitamins, although the latter contains high levels of choline, a B vitamin, and vitamin A. Lamb provides folate, a B vitamin, but little else. While lamb and chicken aren’t rich in vitamins, they do provide some minerals. Both foods are good sources of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc. Lamb contains nearly five times the zinc chicken does.
When rabbit meat is on the menu, expect controversy to follow! It is socially acceptable to use farm animals, such as beef and chickens, as food; however, many people balk at the idea of eating or serving rabbit. Despite this resistance to consuming rabbits, this lean meat serves as a healthful and nutritious alternative to beef and pork.
Our bodies have the ability to store a few years’ worth of vitamin B-12, so eating rabbit supplies you and your pack with not just your daily requirements, but a little extra as well. Rabbit also serves as a rich source of vitamin B-3. This vitamin, commonly known as niacin, aid in converting carbohydrates to energy and manufacturing a variety of sex hormones. Rabbit meat contains quite a bit of selenium, a mineral our (humans and pets) uses to make antioxidants and stimulate sperm production.
Moving from land to ocean, both fish (herring, pilchards or sardines) and meat provide healthy nutrition for your fur kids. Perhaps the most interesting aspect about sardines is their low mercury content. Sardines contain energy, proteins, fats, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc. Vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. The fatty acids found in them include total saturated fats, mono-unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and cholesterol.
These small fish are at the bottom of the aquatic food chain, and since they feast solely on plankton, they do not harbour mercury and other contaminants unlike large fish, like tuna. In addition, sardines are one of the most sustainable types of seafood today, because of their high production rate and abundance. Sardines are also wild – they are not ideal for fish farming because of their short life cycle. Thus, eating sardines – as opposed to farmed fish – is good not just for you and your pack, but the environment as well.
What have we learned to date?
The bottom line is that the animal kingdom provides your fur kids with some of the best sources of nutrition, particularly in the way of preformed vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and digestible protein. Your dietary framework for your mutts, pups, nobles, masters and muggles should include protein variety, important for many reasons:
- it helps your pack obtain all essential and conditionally essential amino acids;
- it helps you balance out methionine intake with glycine;
- it increases the range of co-riding nutrients your pack obtain;
- it increases food variety and we believe makes our fur kids diet more enjoyable and sustainable;
- it allows you to follow the “eat like for like” rule for your fur kids when applicable;