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  • Writer's pictureDr Becca Leung

What's in your meat? Protein deficiency in raw diets for cats



Fat. It’s the thing that makes food tasty. And together with protein, it makes up the main sources of energy in a raw diet. Besides being tasty, having fat in our diets is important for many other reasons: it is a source of essential fatty acids (that we must get from food), it helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, it makes up a key part of our cell membranes, and an impressively large part of our brains. Also, fat is energy dense. For every gram of fat you eat, it provides more than 2x’s the energy you get from either a gram of protein or carbohydrates. That makes fat really useful because it reduces the amount of food you need to eat to meet energy requirements. But that also means you have to get enough protein, vitamins and minerals from a relatively smaller volume of food. When feeding a raw or fresh cooked diet, getting the ratio of protein to fat right is really important. Because if you’re not careful, your cat’s meat-based diet could surprisingly be deficient in protein.

 

The best way to illustrate this is by breaking down the amount of calories provided by fat or protein in different types of meats. For example is boneless, skinless chicken breast, a common staple to any raw diet. It has about 2.5% fat, which is very lean. If I were to feed my cat 100 grams of chicken breast, from a caloric perspective, I’m feeding her about 80% calories from protein and 20% calories from fat. That’s nearly three times the AAFCO minimum protein requirements for

an adult cat, so plenty of protein.

 

Let’s compare this to lamb mince with approximately 15% fat. This fat % is very common in the cuts of meat found in stores. For example, mince for a juicy burger has somewhere between 17 – 25% fat. So, what happens if I feed my cat 100 grams of this lamb? Well, then I’m feeding only about 32% calories from protein and a whooping 68% of calories from fat! My cat is only getting about 24% over their minimum protein requirements, which is a big difference from the chicken breast! If I had chosen an even fattier cut of meat, such as lamb shoulder or pork chops, then I would have definitely been feeding a protein deficient diet.

 

You can find this in commercial products too. Feline Natural Lamb Feast freeze dried contains a variety of lamb ingredients which sound like a nice combination of meats for a cat. But when you look at the macronutrients of the diet, you start to realize that the fat content is very high - the fat comes out to nearly 70% of the calories, which leaves about 30% calories from protein. So there’s not as much protein in this diet as one might think based just on the ingredients list.


This is why we can’t just say feed any cut of meat because the amount of fat matters. In our raw recipes and gently cooked recipes, we carefully take into account the amount of protein and fat in the cuts of meat we recommend. Sure, it’s not as easy as saying add this amount of meal completer to any muscle meat you want, but we think this point is too important to overlook.

 

It can be surprisingly hard sometimes to find out how much fat is in the meat you want to buy. A lot of raw meats sold specifically for pets are pretty fatty, and companies rarely state how much fat is in them. If you don’t see it listed, ask the butcher or company if they can provide that information. If they don’t know, or don't get back to you, then that’s not a great sign. If they really can’t help you and you have no other options, then at the very least, if you’re seeing a lot of fat in the mince, or there are big fatty sections amongst the dices, you can probably bet it’s actually too fatty for your cat. You'll be better off triming the fat if you can, or choosing a leaner cut of meat. Your cat will surely thank you for it 😻



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