June 15, 2020

Interpretive Summary: Pulse ingredients used in companion animal diets

Interpretive Summary: Macronutrient composition, true metabolizable energy and amino acid digestibility, and indispensable amino acid scoring of pulse ingredients for use in canine and feline diets

By: Anne Wallace

Affordable, high-protein, plant-based meat alternative ingredients in pet food is a growing area of need and is also desired by consumers. Legumes are one such high-protein ingredient, specifically pulses, which include peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils. However, research into the quality of plant-based proteins in companion animal feed is currently lacking.

The authors of this June 2020 Journal of Animal Science study looked at the protein quality, standardized amino acid digestibility and macronutrient composition of five pulse-based ingredients for companion animal diets. Black bean grits, garbanzo beans, green lentils, navy bean powder and yellow peas were evaluated. The authors hypothesized that methionine would be the first-limiting amino acid, but that all pulses would otherwise be thoroughly digested.

Standardized amino acid digestibility was calculated via precision-fed rooster assays. The digestible indispensable amino acid scores (DIAAS-like) for adult dogs and cats were calculated based on the precision-fed rooster assays. All five pulses had high digestibility (>80-90%) for every essential amino acid, except methionine, which was the limiting amino acid, a finding consistent with the authors’ hypothesis.

The results of this study suggest that pulses contain high quality, plant-based amino acids, with the exception of methionine and may therefore be a potential alternative to meat-based protein ingredients in companion animal feed. Feeding studies with dogs and cats that evaluate the digestibility and health impacts of pulse ingredients may be warranted. Such studies would help to better understand the potential and practicality of pulses as an alternative to meat-based proteins in companion animal feed.