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Pet Food

 

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Overview
They're cute, most of them are smart, and they make great friends. No, not the kids in your class. Pets! An estimated 36 million homes in the United States have at least one canine. About 31.4 million U.S. homes have at least one feline. That's a lot of hungry pets to feed. And many pets (except for those finicky kitties) will eat pretty much anything we put in front of them. So how do the pet food companies determine what goes into their products to make sure your pet can and will eat it? There are three basic ways to provide food for your pet: improvise food at home from table scraps, prepare pet food from regular food, or purchase commercial pet food. But different pets have different dietary needs-their food must provide the same nutrients found in foods their wild ancestors ate. Commercial pet foods deliver the nutrients and are convenient. From a scientific perspective, pet food must contain the correct balance of ingredients for the pet's breed, age, size, physical condition, and lifestyle. It must be digestible to ensure that all the nutrition from the food is absorbed by the body rather than passed out as waste. Last but not least, it must be appealing and palatable enough to entice the pet to eat it. To devise the perfect pet food, a great deal of scientific research takes place at facilities such as the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition (WCPN) in England. Over a thousand scientists in the Waltham network around the world conduct pet-friendly research in the areas of feeding behavior, dietary management, palatability, raw materials, product performances, and owner/animal expectations. The WCPN-home to 250 dogs, 450 cats, and 400 birds-generates more than 15,000 pieces of research daily. Many findings are shared with veterinarians and animal nutritionists worldwide. In the United States, minimum standards for animals' nutritional requirements are established by the National Research Council, a federal agency. Based on research from organizations like the WCPN, the agency mandates, for example, that dog food include a balance of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Even after 5,000 years as domestic pets, cats are still carnivores, so cat food must contain certain amounts of amino acids, taurine, arachidonic acids from animal fats, arginine, vitamin A, and niacin. Next time you shop for food for Fluffy or Fido, compare the contents listed on the labels, and think about the research that went into putting together your pet's perfect meal. Bon appetit!

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