Wow! You’re still here! How awesome is that!
In Part 1 I told you about where the design of The Barkista meals started: Ignoring AAFCO and going straight to the source, the NRC.
In Part 2 I told you how The Barkista meals were tested.
Welcome to Part 3: How the meals are designed and mixed. Blessedly, this section is much shorter and less head spinning.
Rather than work from a recipe, The Barkista meals are worked from the dog. In our home, we don’t have ‘a’ dog, we have an infestation of dogs ranging from 10 to 90 pounds. Preparing individual mixes would take every waking hour, and then some. So I had to find a happy medium. That happy medium, in our home, was 31 pounds, the absolute average of the weights of our dogs. Just to make the math easier, I rounded it to 30 pounds.
Next, a nutrient profile was calculated for the hypothetical 30 pound overlord, couch hogging, house dog was created. The calculations had to be tweaked to take into consideration that the end consumer was not specifically bred and confined to a laboratory, but living in a home. (I still have nightmares about exponents!)
Blood tests were taken, adjustments made, more blood tests done, and voila! eventually the General Mix Barkista meals were born. That I got it right the first time, using 30 pounds as the target, was just pure dumb luck.
So here it is in a more detailed nutshell:
Once the target nutrients, pursuant to the NRC Recommended Allowance were calculated, the next step was to create the meal. To do this, I use USDA, UN and WHO nutritional databases.
The first step is to meet the protein requirement, actually, it’s the amino acid requirement (more on amino acids later). Dogs need animal source proteins. Animal source proteins are the only source of all essential amino acids in a single bite. The amino acid target is reached using all meat/organs listed on The Barkista ingredient label. The egg is used solely to provide the gap between the essential amino acid requirement and the crude protein requirement (more on crude protein later).
Once the animal source contributions are measured, vitamin and mineral contributions are subtracted out. This gets tricky since many vitamins are denatured in the cooking process, so how the meats are prepared is crucial. The resulting totals, usually requiring more vitamin than mineral, are then matched with fruits and vegetables, properly prepared for digestibility.
Except in mixes with ground chicken bone, the meals are usually a little short on Calcium, which is why when you see “Whole Egg” on the ingredient label, you get whole egg, including the shell. An egg shell is at least 95% calcium, in a form more useable by dogs (and humans, incidentally) than laboratory created calcium used in supplements.
Fats are not measured because despite the vast nutritional content databases, there is too much variability. Dogs actually have a very large tolerance to fat (yup, more on that later too), so other than to remove most of the poultry skins or trim excess fat off other roasts (pork requiring the most), I don’t worry about it.
EFA’s are a different story altogether, but they, like the amino acids, are present in muscle as well as adipose (fat) tissue, so a fair +/- range is possible using weighed animal source proteins working from the nutritional databases. To feed a dog requiring consistently higher than required levels of additional EFA’s is as simple as sticking to the poultry and fish meals.
Believe it or not, by this point, the Recommended Allowance is pretty much already in range, but the actual food amount may not be enough to fill the stomach of the average dog. Enter rice or rolled oats. I’ll say what the giant pet food companies won’t: I add these to help satiate hunger. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to feed grain free, even if it involves more fruits and veggies, to nearly 500 pounds of dogs! That said, I still don’t add nearly as much grain as you find in your average kibble. Grain is not the enemy. Excessive amounts of grain is. Excessive amounts of a single grain is worse – which is why I switch mixes between white and brown rice and rolled oats.
Now here comes the fun part: The same ingredients may not be available to me on any given day, so each time a change is made, calculations start over. Also, the absolute content of the animal source/fruits/veggie ingredients will influence how much grain (rice or oats) is added. Too much grain and I’ve just reduced the essential amino acid content. Too little and.. well, there really isn’t a nutritional detriment when that happens.
In conclusion (yes, there really is an end coming), there is no recipe for The Barkista meals, be they General Mix or customized for a specific dog. There is only the currently available, provided by research, nutritional requirements, more specifically, the Recommended Allowance. Where ingredients may be negotiable depending on availability, i.e. a little more organ meats here, more muscle meats there, the calculations are written in stone – at least until research provides evidence that any value should be changed.
Do you remember the original misconception I was trying to disprove? It is the common belief that The Barkista meals, General Mix or custom, are treats. Hopefully we can all agree now that is not the case. Yes, the Run A Munchies are treats, but the meals are food.
If you want to feed dog food, go to the pet store. If you want to feed your dog, contact The Barkista today!