Advancing Pet Food: BIOTECHNOLOGY’S role in enhancing quality and sustainability

The word “biotechnology” can be divided into two parts where “bio” refers to living organisms such as cells, bacteria, yeast, and plants, and “technology” refers to the practical application of scientific knowledge. Biotechnology is a multidisciplinary field that utilizes living organisms, biological systems, and processes to develop products and technologies that benefit society.

The process involved in obtaining additives from yeast generally involves five stages (strain selection, cultivation, fermentation, purification, and drying), which may vary depending on the purpose of the product (protein source, prebiotic, flavor enhancer, among others).

The application of biotechnology in this context has the potential to improve the quality, nutrition, and sustainability of pet foods, contributing to the health and well-being of the animal. We can mention some ways in which biotechnology in yeast production can add value to pet foods:

Nutritional quality: the possibility of applying different processes to yeast to make specific nutrients available, such as making the protein more accessible through hydrolysis and increasing the production of vitamins, minerals, or essential fatty acids in yeast.

Digestibility: Yeast-derived products can aid in the breakdown and absorption of nutrients and the availability of nutrients.

Production of functional compounds: Assisting in producing specific functional compounds that offer health benefits.

Alternative and sustainable ingredients: Production of alternative and sustainable ingredients for the food industry.

Customization of food: It is possible to develop yeast that produces specific compounds based on individual needs according to each animal’s specific characteristics and conditions, providing a more suitable and personalized diet.

Combining advances in biotechnology with the nutritional and health needs of pets, it is possible to develop healthier, sustainable, and personalized foods to meet the demands of pet owners. Biorigin has stood out in this field for over 20 years, bringing different biotechnologies that provide different benefits to yeast, including:

Protein source: Yeast is an excellent source of high-quality protein with great sustainable potential. Commonly, we have dried inactive yeast (Nutricell) and hydrolyzed yeast (HiCell). It contains a good variety of essential amino acids necessary for the health of pets. Adding yeast to pet food helps increase protein content and improve overall nutritional quality.

Vitamins and minerals: Yeast is a natural source of various essential vitamins and minerals. It contains B-complex vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid, which play vital roles in animals’ metabolism and nervous system. Additionally, yeast is rich in minerals like zinc, selenium, and chromium, which are important for overall pet health.

Palatability and flavor: Yeast has an appealing taste for many pets. It can be used as a natural ingredient to enhance the palatability of food and encourage pets to eat. Adding yeast to food aids in flavor enhancement (PalaUp), which is especially useful for picky eaters or those with reduced appetite. For example, by optimizing sugar and specific amino acid consumption and utilization, they can ensure that an appropriate amount of sugars is available for the Maillard reaction, resulting in the development of desirable flavor compounds or the presence of nucleotides that enhance the flavor by contributing to the umami taste, synergistically interacting with other taste compounds, stimulating taste receptors, and reducing the need for excessive salt or fat. To apply yeast extract, one can consider including it in the formula directly in the dough or as a coating, along with the palatant, in various pet food formats ranging from dry extruded diets to nutraceutical compounds.

Fiber and intestinal health: Yeast contains soluble and insoluble fibers, which are beneficial for the intestinal health of pets. Fiber assists in regulating intestinal transit, promotes colon health, and helps form healthy stools. Mannanoligosaccharides (MOS) are derived from the cell walls of yeast that support gut health in pets by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and improving digestive function. Moreover, the fiber present in yeast can act as a prebiotic (ActiveMOS and HyperGen), stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and promoting a balanced gut microbiota. It is important to mention that MOS and beta-glucan are both carbohydrates with distinct structures and functions. MOS primarily supports gut health and digestion by promoting beneficial gut bacteria, while beta-glucan focuses on immune modulation and enhancing immune responses. Their applications in pet food and supplements differ based on their specific benefits and mechanisms of action.

Immune support: Yeast contains bioactive compounds like β-glucans, which have immunomodulatory properties (MacroGard). These compounds can help strengthen pets’ immune systems, making them more resistant to infections and diseases. Including β-glucans in pet food provide immune support, modulates inflammation, manages allergies and atopy, promotes gastrointestinal health, potentially in cancer management, benefits cardiovascular health, and may support cognitive function in aging pets.

MacroGard from Biorigin is recognized worldwide and has extensive scientific evidence of its effectiveness. The biotechnology applied to MacroGard gives it a high content of bioactive beta-glucans, and the maintenance of the original structure of this molecule has recently been proven to have an additional function for dogs. In a recent study, Ferreira et al. (2022) demonstrated the beneficial effect of MacroGard in overweight dogs with insulin resistance.

The beta-glucan can be applied in some ways, including as a supplement for immune support, in functional treats or chews for dental health and immune enhancement, in topical products for skin and coat health, in specialized diets for allergy management, and in formulations for specific health conditions such as joint health or gastrointestinal support.

It is important to note that not all yeasts used in pet foods are the same. Some specific yeast forms, such as brewer’s or inactivated Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, are more commonly used due to their nutritional properties and health benefits.

The application of biotechnology in yeast production for pet food offers numerous benefits. It allows for food customization, improves nutritional quality, enhances digestibility, promotes the production of functional compounds, and provides sustainable and alternative ingredients. By harnessing the power of biotechnology, we can create healthier, more tailored, and sustainable pet food options that support the well-being of our beloved animal companions. With ongoing advancements in biotechnology, the future holds exciting possibilities for further innovation in pet food production, ensuring that our pets receive the best nutrition for a happy and healthy life.