For years, many dry animal food products incorporated fats such as poultry or beef tallow, or vegetable sources such as canola, soy and corn oil. However, as the human food industry turns to different lipid sources offering potential functional and health benefits, pet nutrition is following suit. Some of the popular choices include omega-3 fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
In the free SupplySide Animal Nutrition Insights Report, "Emerging Lipid Sources Offer Functional and Nutritional Benefits," Celeste Sepessy, managing editor of Natural Products INSIDER, discusses the perspective shift from fat as a calorie sourceto that of a strategic ingredient with functional benefits, whether aiding an animal's coat, brain or joints.
Key considerations for ingredients in formulation are palatability, stability and sustainability. Different types of fats influence the texture and palatability of pet food productsmaking or breaking consumer acceptance, particularly where issues such as oxidation and product shelf-life are concerned.
The role of nutritional science in formulating animal nutrition products is at an all-time high. Just as a human diet often provides a disproportionately high amount of omega-6 fatty acids as compared to omega-3s, pet foods can also be unbalanced. As such, fish oil has risen in popularity as an ingredient to boost omega-3 content.
MCTs, often made from a fractionated blend of coconut and palm oil, are quickly gaining traction in the animal nutrition industry as they are unique both nutritionally and functionally. Essentially, MCTs offer animals concentrated energy that is absorbed quickly and digested easily, making them suitable for use in at-risk populations such as newborn and geriatric animals. Additionally, studies in humans and animals have suggested MCTs support weight management. Functionally speaking, MCTs have two primary benefits: boosting stability and preventing rancidity for extended shelf-life compared to other fat sources.
Antioxidants and emulsifiers can also play important roles when balancing lipids in formulation.