Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How You Store Kibble Matters

 I am not a proponent of dry food to begin with (the more I've learned, the less I like it), but some of the ways in which I see people storing dry pet foods are less than ideal. How you store your pet's dry food does matter.

Dry pet foods (which by the way, is technically and legally considered feed not food) are highly processed. Because they are highly processed and use preservatives, they are packaged and stored in bags that are intended to keep them as fresh as possible until the expiration date or shelf life, which can be between one and three years. (Always check the expiration or "best by" date.)

Some of the dietary fats in dry kibble -- fats that pets require -- are very sensitive to air, heat and time. As soon as a bag of kibble is opened, those fats begin to go rancid. Pouring the kibble from the bag to a container, or into a bowl accelerates the process as the kibble is exposed to more air each time. The more exposure to air or heat, the quicker the fats will go rancid.

In addition to that, in the final step of the kibble production process, palatability enhancers are sprayed on the food (because few animals would eat it otherwise), which consist of metal oxides and sulfates that promote the oxidation of fats.

Most bags of dry food have either a plastic or foil liner on the inside of the bag for this reason. The packaging is protecting the food from air (oxygen), heat and moisture. No matter what type of preservative is used in your pet's kibble, it can quickly turn rancid if exposed to air and hot temperatures. Dry pet foods are supposed to be stored in a cool (under 80 degrees), dry place, which (especially here in the South) does not mean the garage.

Sometimes there is the issue of bugs getting into the food which is why people began putting the food in other containers to store it. But instead of pouring the food out of the bag into a container, it's much better to leave the food in the bag and put the bag in the container. It will stay fresher this way. Remember, each time you expose the food/feed to air, the quicker the fats become rancid.

I have seen dry pet food stored in all kinds of containers. The most popular is plastic of course. What most people don't think about is whether or not the plastic your storing the food in is even food grade plastic. The food items we buy for ourselves as well as pet foods, are stored in food grade plastics. Are you using food grade containers to store your pets' food? 

Even so, most (if not all) plastics can leach toxic chemicals into the contents of the container. (Which is why after learning this I stopped using plastic for food storage altogether.) Also, some plastics can actually absorb much of the vitamin C out of the food; it leaches out and gets sucked into the plastic material. This effects shelf life as it causes the fat to oxidize and accelerates spoilage. Another reason to leave it in the bag.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that can be found in many plastic containers, including food-grade plastics. BPA has been shown in several medical studies to be harmful and may even cause cancer. BPA has been linked to thyroid and neurological problems. 

And if you think you're out of the woods by getting BPA-free plastic, better think again. Studies have found that some BPA-free plastics have similar estrogenic activity as plastics with BPA, which cause adverse health problems.

Another reason to leave it in the bag.

Another two important reasons why keeping it in the bag is a good idea: One is that the bags, which were made specifically to keep the food fresh as possible for as long as possible, would likely keep the food fresher longer than it would after being poured into another container (letting air in), which is likely to allow for more space (air) as the food level gets lower. A bag you can roll down to keep the air out!  Two: In case of a recall of the food. If your pet ever gets sick and you suspect the food (or treats), you will need the product information code and expiration date on the package. Or if there is a recall on the food you buy, you will need to know the information on the packaging. This is important! Pet food recalls happen on a frequent basis.

You can follow Cozy Critters Facebook page to get notices of pet food or treat recalls.

Buying too much dry food at a time might save you a few dollars or a few trips to the store, but it may also be causing your pet's food to go rancid quicker. Just how long does that bag last? (More than seven days?) Does it last so long it's most likely stale or rancid once you get to the bottom of the bag because it's been opened and exposed to air so many times? You might want to consider buying in smaller quantities so it's always as fresh as possible. If not, be sure to at least keep the bag closed tightly after letting the air out. 

If you ever notice that the food looks or smells funny, don't feed it to them. Better safe than sorry. You may not even notice anything different when a food has actually turned rancid. If your pet refuses to eat something, don't make them. Animals can sometimes smell when there is something "off" with the food and know not to eat it. We forget sometimes to give more credit to the animals.Their sense of smell is much more powerful than ours! 

If you continue pouring your dry pet food in a plastic container, at least be sure to wash it out and dry it thoroughly before putting a new refill of food in. If you dump new, fresh food on top of remnants of old, rancid food, those remnants of oxidizing old food can spread the oxidation to the new food. 

We need to be more conscious of how we store our pets' food in order to help them stay healthy. How you store their kibble matters.