The Unique Benefits of Different Protein Sources
There are lots of different kinds of proteins that you can feed your pet carnivore. All of them will offer slightly different nutrient profiles. It can be helpful to know some of the main differences between proteins so that you can create the best diet for your carnivore. Of course, variety is always an important ingredient in any diet.
For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the meat itself and not so much the organs or bones. However, some of the options below are whole prey options.
Poultry and fowl are great options to feed your dog, with many of them being relatively inexpensive. For most poultry, a species-appropriate diet would include some grasses and bugs. Free-range or wild poultry are the best options because they are allowed to eat their natural diet. What your dog’s food eats will affect your dog.
Chicken is an inexpensive ingredient to add to your carnivore’s raw diet. But it isn’t always the best option. Conventionally raised chickens typically have a high number of omega-6 fatty acids. This is due to how they are raised and the diet that they are fed. Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory, which is why they need to be balanced with omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory.
However, if you purchase chicken that is pasture-raised it will likely have a more balanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Additionally, pasture-raised chicken is much more likely to contain vitamin D in the skin because they are raised outside in the sun. Dog’s cannot absorb much vitamin D from the sun so it is important for dogs to consume vitamin D.
Chicken is also a great source of selenium. Selenium is a necessary nutrient that is helpful for the immune system. It is also needed for proper thyroid and heart function. Chicken is also a rich source of potassium.
Turkey is naturally leaner than chicken. This means that even if it is conventionally raised it will have less fat and, thus, have a lesser effect on the overall omega-6 to omega-3 balance. Turkey is also an excellent source of selenium, B vitamins, and protein.
Quail (whole prey):
Quail is relatively high in fat so it might not be the right option for some carnivores. Quail is very high in phosphorus. Phosphorus is necessary for good bone health. However, it needs to be balanced with calcium. This shouldn’t be a problem, however, unless you feed exclusively quail.
Quail is also an excellent source of folate. Folate is used for DNA synthesis and red blood cell production. Quail is also a great source of vitamin A in your pet’s diet. Vitamin A is necessary for eye function, bone health, immune response, and reproduction.,
Conventionally raised duck is very, very high in fat. Like chicken, duck can have very high omega-6 fatty acids so the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 can be very off. If you can find wild or pasture-raised duck it is typically much lower in fat with a healthier balance of fats.
Duck is high in copper. Copper is a necessary nutrient for building collagen and connective tissue, hair pigment, maturation of red blood cells, and the absorption of iron.
Conventionally raised goose is incredibly high in fat, however wild goose has much less fat. This makes it a better option if you can find it.
Goose is relatively high in iron, phosphorus, copper, selenium, and folate. This makes it a great option for occasional eating. Goose offers lots of minerals and vitamins but also has a heavy fat load.
Of all the birds on this list emu offers the most protein per 100 grams. So, it is a great option if you can find it, offering a wide variety of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of all body tissue and most hormones in the body.
Emu is the highest in iron of all the birds on this list. Iron is involved in the creation of red blood cells and hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is responsible for moving oxygen throughout the body. Iron also plays a role in many of the enzyme functions of the body.
Emu is also an exceptional source of Vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 is involved in many different body functions like healthy digestion, blood cell growth, and brain and nervous system function. So, it is an important nutrient to have in your dog’s diet.
Ruminates and Hoofed Animals:
Ruminates are often touted and the best feeding option because they typically boast the most minerals when compared to poultry. These hooved animals are typically herbivores and are meant to eat a diet of grass. However, when they are conventionally raised they are often fed a diet high in grains that are not natural to their diet. Choose grass-fed, grass-finished, or wild options whenever possible.
Beef is high in protein and an assortment of amino acids that are necessary for overall health. You will want to keep an eye out for grass-fed and grass-finished beef if possible. This beef will offer the most nutritional benefit with the best omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.
Beef his high in iron and zinc. Zinc is necessary for enzyme and hormone production, as well as, protein synthesis. Zinc also plays a critical roll in immune and thyroid function.
Pork is generally higher in fat than beef. Conventionally raised pork, like chicken, often has a poor omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Because of this, you might not want to feed pork every day but rather as the occasional treat.
Pork is a good source of selenium. This nutrient is helpful for immune, thyroid, and heart health.
Lamb can be very fatty meat. However, it is rarer meat and much more likely to be raised outside in the sunshine. This means that the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is likely much better than conventionally raised beef or pork.
Lamb is a good source of magnesium and folate. Magnesium is used for a large array of functions in the body including heart health, hormone function, balancing electronic function across membranes, and moves calcium throughout the body. Folate is essential for a healthy pregnancy and is also used for DNA synthesis and the production of red blood cells.
Goat is typically quite low in fat. Like lamb, goat is typically raised outside in the sunshine which means it lives a better life than conventionally raised meats. Because of this, goat is typically a healthier option than those conventionally raised meats.
Goat is a relatively good source of sodium and tryptophan. Sodium is necessary for maintaining the balance of moisture around all the cells in your carnivore’s body. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is helpful for creating hormones that reduce stress and promote better sleep.
Venison is also very low in fat and high in protein. It’s a great option if you are trying to watch your carnivore’s fat intake. Venison is often wild-caught which means that the deer was likely eating a species-appropriate diet and living the lifestyle that a deer should live. This gives your carnivore the best nutrients possible.
Venison is particularly high in iron, thiamine, and niacin. Thiamine is helpful in brain and organ health. The body uses niacin to break down carbohydrates and fatty acids in the diet.
Elk is incredibly low in fat and an excellent source of protein! Like venison, elk is typically wild and eats a species-appropriate diet and lives the way nature intended. This makes elk an excellent choice to feed your carnivore if you can find it.
Elk is a great source of iron, potassium, and glutamic acid. Potassium is essential for the proper functioning of cells in the muscles. Glutamic acid is used by the body to maintain healthy digestion, repair the digestive tract, and reduce digestive inflammation.
Some would argue that feeding smaller prey like guinea pigs, rabbits, and rats is a much more species-appropriate diet for most dogs and cats. This is because a small dog or cat might be able to kill and eat one of these creatures in the wild without the help of a pack. The thinking is that these animals would be the diet that nature would provide if your pet carnivore was out in the wild.
Rabbit is another lower fat option, with wild rabbit being the best option. Rabbit is a great source of niacin. Again, the body uses niacin to break down carbohydrates and fatty acids.
Guinea Pig (whole prey):
Guinea pigs can be a bit higher in fat than rabbit. Guinea pig is not significantly high in a particular nutrient. Further, guinea pig that you might find to feed your dog will typically not have been fed the best diet and are rarely raised outside. However, guinea pig can be a fun addition to your dog’s diet for a bit of variety.
Beaver is a wild meat option which means that the animal lived free in the sun and ate a species-appropriate diet. Beaver has slightly more fat and more protein when compared to rabbit.
Beaver is a great source of iron, selenium, and lysine. Lysine is an amino acid that is essential to a healthy immune system, muscle development, and heart health.
Muskrat is even higher in fat than beaver, but it is still low fat when compared to chicken or pork. Like beaver, muskrat is wild living and eating in a species-appropriate way. Again providing your carnivore with the best meat possible.
Muskrat is a good source of calcium and sodium. The body uses calcium to build strong bones and teeth, as well as, blood clotting and muscle function.
Mice (whole prey):
Mice are a little bit higher in fat than rats. However, mice are a better source of vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc! Mice can be a great addition to your dog’s diet. However, if you find a dead mouse I don’t recommend that you feed it to your dog. You never know what the cause of death was for that mouse, it might have been poisoned. So, be sure to get mice from a trusted source.
Rats (whole prey):
Rats are relatively low in fat and a great source of protein. Rat is also a good source of copper. Remember copper helps the body build red blood cells, helps the immune system, helps bone health, and aids in iron absorption.
Sardines (whole prey):
Sardines are a great little fish to add to your dog’s diet. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids which can help to balance your carnivore’s overall omega-6 to omega-3 balance. Sardines are also a great source of selenium. You don’t want to feed them every day, however. Sardines come from the ocean and can contain mercury and other contaminants.
There is a wide variety of proteins that you can feed your carnivore. All of them will have a slightly different nutrient profile. This makes feeding variety a great option to reduce the potential of excess or inadequate amounts of vitamins and minerals.