Science News Brief 2017-01: The added nutrition of oven-baked pet foods By Sophie Lavallée M.Sc., Agr.
The benefits of oven baking
Oven baking dog and cat foods is a simple and natural process that uses and maintains heat over a slow and controlled period so that the core temperature of their ingredients reaches a safe level. Indeed, the primary goal of oven baking is to ensure the health safety of the raw ingredients used so that the people who handle the product and the pets that consume it are protected from contamination hazards. In short, oven baking enables destroying virtually all pathogens, be they viruses, parasites, bacteria or yeasts that could be found in the ingredients.
What impacts does oven baking have on the content of a food product?
Oven baking facilitates the body’s assimilation of starches by promoting gelatinization, which is simply the breakdown and dissolution of starch granules. The presence of moisture and heat facilitates this process, which leads to a restructuring of molecular chains and, as these go from a crystalline structure to a more disorganized structure, they are more easily digested.
When a pet food is oven baked, its ingredients are dehydrated and lose some of their moisture so that the nutrients become more concentrated and fully available to the pet that consumes it. This process also modifies the colour and taste of the animal- or plant-based ingredients in the food. The proteins and pigments found in the meat coagulate and change colour, and the volatile flavours known to enhance taste are released.
The Maillard reaction explained
The secret behind the browning of foods and the distinctive flavours that result was first described as the Maillard reaction in 1912 and has been instrumental to the production of food flavours ever since. The Maillard reaction occurs when food sugars react with proteins to create a new chemical compound, glycosylamine, whose transformation creates a chain reaction that changes the color and texture of the surface of the cooked food. In fact, the Maillard reaction is what causes foods to caramelize when cooked at high temperatures.
Extrusion: a very different process than oven baking
Extrusion is an extremely fast and powerful cooking process where food components are subjected to very high temperatures and pressure levels. This leads to the destruction of far more nutrients, especially vitamins and natural antioxidants. Unfortunately, few studies on the nutritive, digestive and oxidative impacts of extrusion and oven baking have been documented.
Did you know that the vast majority of dog and cat foods are produced through extrusion? Experts in the field believe that food processes will increasingly become more minimalistic in the future. Given that oven baking is a natural process that promotes health and wellbeing, it will likely become one of the most noteworthy pet food trends and solutions out there!
We hope you enjoyed learning more about the added nutrition of oven-baked pet foods. Feel free to contact us should you have any questions on this subject.
Ratnayake, W.S., and D.S. Jackson. 2009. Starch gelatinization. Adv. Food Nutr. Res. 55:221-268. Pet food industry: pet food trends industry experts forecast for 2017