The Chemistry of Kibble

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Dry, cereal-based pet foods caught on during World War II, when tin rationing put a stop to canning. Owners were delighted. Dry pet food was less messy and stinky and more convenient. As a satisfied Spratt’s Patent Cat Food customer of yesteryear put it, the little biscuits were “both handy and cleanly.”

To meet nutritional requirements, pet food manufacturers blend animal fats and meals with soy and wheat grains and vitamins and minerals. This yields a cheap, nutritious pellet that no one wants to eat. Cats and dogs are not grain eaters by choice, Moeller is saying. “So our task is to find ways to entice them to eat enough for it to be nutritionally sufficient.”

This is where “palatants” enter the scene. AFB designs powdered flavor coatings for the edible extruded shapes. Moeller came to AFB from Frito-Lay, where his job was to design, well, powdered flavor coatings for edible extruded shapes. “There are,” he says, “a lot of parallels.” Cheetos without the powdered coating have almost no flavor. Likewise, the sauces in processed convenience meals are basically palatants for humans. The cooking process for the chicken in a microwaveable entrée imparts a mild to nonexistent flavor. The flavor comes almost entirely from the sauce—by design. Says Moeller, “You want a common base that you can put two or three or more different sauces on and have a full product line.”

Pet foods come in a variety of flavors because that’s what humans like, and we assume our pets like what we like. We’re wrong. “For cats especially,” Moeller says, “change is often more difficult than monotony.”

Continue reading at Popular Science.

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