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Surprisingly the secret to healthy dog food may be an ingredient as unusual as the feather.
The company pioneering the use of feathers in its dog food is Royal Canin renowned for high quality dog food and cat food and especially the breed specific range.
Royal Canin’s usage of feathers even attracted the attention of business magazine Forbes who lauded the company for their ingenious ingredient.
Forbes reporter Marc E Babej said: “Once in a while, a product forces you to do a double take. That’s what happened when Keith Levy, the president of Royal Canin USA told me the brand has a dog food product that uses chicken feathers.”
Dog feathers are especially suited for dogs with food allergies.
Mr Levy said Royal Canin was developed in 1968, by French veterinarian Jean Cathary who got tired of seeing dogs coming in with recurring conditions like eczema and realised there was a need for better nutrition.
He said: “We take nutritional science to a whole new level. For us, terms like “organic” are irrelevant, because we begin with the end in mind: what’s the unique food a specific animal like a Persian cat needs? Or a dog with food allergies? A Great Dane has a very different digestive tract from a Yorkie. We offer foods for the specific needs of specific animals.”
The Royal Canin anallergenic formula uses chicken feathers as the main source of protein.
Mr Levy said: “Some dogs have intense allergic reactions to certain kinds of proteins. Conventional wisdom was focused on limited ingredient diets – fewer ingredients that would minimise the chances of an allergic reaction.
We have a team in France that is travelling the world to find ingredients. In this case it’s feather meal. It’s not only nutritious but can also be made very palatable to dogs. Feathers are broken down to an amino acid level and don’t have much of a taste. Then we add palatizers for taste. In this case, we have to be very careful not to provoke an allergic reaction.”
Customers may think feathers are being used because they are cheap, but Mr Levy said that is definitely not the case.
He said: “You might be surprised, but feather meal is actually not cheaper because breaking it down to amino acid level is a costly process. In fact, feather meal is more expensive than chicken meat.”
Royal Canin UK has been invited to comment.