Biologically Appropriate Food – What Does It Really Mean?
Pet foods marketed as “Biologically Appropriate” are definitely on the increase and have proved popular with pet owners. It certainly sounds important to ensure that your pet’s food is biologically appropriate, but have you ever asked yourself what this really means? Why is the food biologically appropriate? Or, is the label “Biologically Appropriate Food” simply another example of the marketing being ahead of the science?
What Does “Biologically Appropriate Food” Mean?
Biologically appropriate, or, species-appropriate pet food is food appropriate for your dog or cats digestive tract. You would expect any quality dog food to meet this requirement. The definition has, however, been used to market particular types of diets including the BARF diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet), and a number of the high quality dry cat and dog foods, in an attempt to convince consumers that their foods are closer to your pet’s ancestors natural diet, and more beneficial for your pet than other pets foods.
Why Is The Food “Biologically Appropriate”?
As stated above these foods claim to replicate the diet of your pet’s ancestors, sometimes in a convenient pre-prepared form. All dogs share a common ancestor with the wolf and all cats with wild cats. The marketing tells us that although domestication and selective breeding have altered the physical appearance of dogs and cats, our pets’ digestive tracts have essentially remained the same as that of their ancestors. In reality that is true of the cat, who is an obligate carnivore, but true to a lesser extent with the dog, a scavenger carnivore, whose dietary requirements have to a degree been influenced by domestication1.
Pet foods with the label “Biologically Appropriate Food” tend to contain higher levels of meats and fats, and lower levels of carbohydrates. The protein and fats in these foods will usually be sourced from animal meats, as opposed to plant ingredients that are lower in digestibility and nutrition for carnivores. The carbohydrates included in these foods will usually be those with a low glycaemic index that are easier for a carnivore’s digestive tract to break down. Sweet potato and pea protein are both commonly included in these diets. Whilst a meat and carbohydrate diet of this nature contains appropriate ingredients for your pet’s food, you still need to check that the protein is a good quality protein. If the protein is made up of meat meal and meat and animal derivatives, then it will potentially be harder on your pet’s digestion than food that has a lower protein content but is made-up of fresh meat and dried meat from identified proteins.
Further, if you are feeding a pet food that claims to be “Biologically Appropriate” it is still important to ensure that the food is a complete diet. This is something to be particularly careful to ensure when feeding some raw food diets. It must be remembered that a pure meat diet is not necessarily a complete diet, and it is essential your pet has a complete diet for its long-term health. Although meat is high in essential amino acids and protein, it does not meet all your pet’s nutritional requirements and will require supplements, unless you feed a complete raw food. Manufacturers such as Natures Menu and Nutriment provide complete raw foods.
Is “Biologically Appropriate Food” Simply Another Example Of The Marketing Being Ahead Of The Science?
Whilst many pet foods labelled “Biologically Appropriate” are excellent pet foods (we stock a number of them at Thoughtful Pets), the term is certainly being used as a marketing tool in the pet food industry. All food fed to your pet should be appropriate for your pet’s digestive tract, and indeed all pet foods stocked by Thoughtful Pets are suitable for a cat or dog’s digestive tract, whether or not they are labelled “Biologically Appropriate”.
Let’s be honest, the link with the ancestral diet is being stretched a little in this marketing, whilst there are some compelling points made about this type of diet, when was the last time you noticed a wolf opening a bag of kibble, or, pre-packed food? The link with the ancestral diet can be little more than in terms of the broad composition of the food.
As explained above, in general terms foods that claim to be Biologically Appropriate tend to be a high protein low carbohydrate diet, these are great for young and active dogs, and low carbohydrate diets for cats are essential for long-term health. These diets are not, however, always ideal for senior dogs, or, dogs that receive little exercise. The simple fact is that excessive protein, regardless of its quality, is still waste protein that must be dealt with by the kidneys, and can overtime put stress on the kidneys if the protein is not required. Of course the better the quality of the protein the less this becomes a factor.
Accordingly, whilst a food labelled Biologically Appropriate might be a good food, and might be the right food for your pet, once again it comes down to ignoring the marketing claims and looking at the ingredients label to ensure that the food is:
2. Contains high quality ingredients; and
3. Is the right food for your pet, remembering that each pet is different and that what is suitable for some pets, will not be suitable for others.
If you need help with deciding what ingredients you should be looking for in your pet’s food, you can take a look at our Pet Food Checklist, which can be found on our blog at www.thoughtfulpets.co.uk/blog/news/pet-food-checklist.Back