Guidelines for helping clients formulate meat-based diets that meet AAFCO, NRC and European standards

Exploring how recipes for meat-based diets such as beef, bonemeal and poultry can meet AAFCO, NRC and European standards.

Part I, guidelines for beef recipes iv.

The recipe:

  • 10 pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound beef liver
  • 2 pounds various vegetables
  • 1.5% egg shell powder
  • 11 teaspoons (44 g) (1 tsp per pound of meat) coconut oil “for linolenic acid”

Guideline #1: if a recipe does not specify the leanness of the meat, avoid the recipe.

Sometimes the special on the ground beef is 60% lean, or even fattier. Let’s assume the meat is 70% lean, and look at the diet. First the approximate macronutrient contentv, compared to standards.


This recipe exceeds standards for total fat, and does not have enough protein for puppies. Normally one need look no further at a recipe like this, just say “no don’t use this recipe,” but a closer look at the amino acid and fatty acid profiles shows how really bad this recipe is.

Table 2 shows that using 70% lean beef, this diet falls well short of all standards for many essential amino acids, especially tryptophan. Table 3 shows that, even though the diet has too much fat, it is still deficient in the essential long chain fatty acids.


If the recipe specified 90% lean, then we’d have a good start, and the recipe would show promise, meeting all macronutrient and amino acid standards. Table 4 shows the approximate macronutrient content using 90% lean beef.


Guideline #2: with most meat-based diets, puppies need ground bone, bonemeal or equivalent; calcium carbonate sources (e.g. egg shells, coral calcium) do not suffice.

Now that we’ve corrected the macronutrient content of the recipe, we can look at the Ca and P content in Table 5.


Not good. The Ca / P ratio is too high, well above standards (with 70 % lean it is even worse), and there is not enough P for puppies. But it’s easy to correct this by using bonemeal (or equivalent) instead of egg shells. At Table 6 shows, changing the recipe from 1.5% egg shells to 1.5% bonemeal significantly improves the Ca/P content of the recipe.


Guideline #3: ruminant and poultry recipes need separate strategies to balance the fats.

Corollary: if a recipe states “use coconut oil for linolenic acid” it’s best to avoid the recipe.

With ruminant recipes we worry about LA and ALA deficiencies; with poultry recipes we worry about excess LA.

Table 7, recipe with 90% lean beef, 1.5% bonemeal, and “coconut oil for linolenic acid,” shows that the recipe does not meet standards for several essential fatty acids, including LA, ALA (linolenic acid), and the long chain omega-3s, EPA and DHA. That’s because coconut oil is not the right fat to add. Indeed, Table 8 shows that, according to the USDA database, coconut oil provides no linolenic acid. It takes just a one minute search of the USDA database to learn this.

In Table 9 we replace the coconut oil with hempseed oil, which produces a much better fatty acid profile. Note that fish or fish oils are still needed.


Table 10 shows that poultry diets have an opposite issue. Fatty poultry often contains more LA than recommended, above safe upper levels. Excess LA has been linked to inflammation. We discuss poultry recipes in part 2.

Guideline #4: lean beef recipes often need to provide specific sources of manganese and iodine for all life stages, in addition to iron and sodium for puppies.

Corollary: ideally, recipes should provide different supplements for different meat sources.

In Table 11 we show the approximate mineral profile of the improved beef recipe; note that recipe falls short of minimums for iodine and manganese for growth and maintenance stages. Specific sources of these minerals (such as high iodine kelp, or manganese proteinate) need to be provided. For puppies, sources of iron and sodium are also needed.

The micronutrient content of lean chicken recipes often differ from lean beef recipes. In Table 12 we show the approximate mineral profile of a good, lean chicken recipe (developed in part 2). Note the differences in trace mineral content. Lean poultry recipes often need to provide specific sources of manganese, iodine, copper, iron, zinc and vitamin E.


Here is our improved, but still not complete, beef recipe, changing three items from the initial recipe.

  • 10 pounds 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 pound beef liver
  • 2 pounds various vegetables
  • 1.5% bonemeal or equivalent
  • 11 teaspoons (44 g) (1 tsp per pound of meat) hempseed oil or equivalent.

Guideline #5: “don’t make a year’s supply at once.”

Nutrients degrade in the freezer, especially in frost free freezers. Special concern: Thiamine and the long chain omega-3s.


i The recipes in this paper are compared with the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), proposed revisions for 2014 Official Publications,

ii The National Research Council of the Academies of Science (NRC) “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats” 2006, and

iii The European Pet Food Industry Association, Nutritional Guidelines for Complete and Complementary Pet Food for Cats and Dogs, Publication July 2013.

iv Fresh food recipes need to be formulated and analyzed on caloric bases, not dry matter bases. This is required by AAFCO, NRC and European standards, and it makes a difference (formulating a meat-based diet on DM basis can mean that puppy may only get 62% of minimum recommendations of many trace minerals). From the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), 2012 Official Publication, p.136: “Dry matter basis presumes an energy basis of 3,500 kcal ME/kg…Rations greater than 4,000 kcal ME should be corrected for energy density. ” Most meat-based diets have >4,500 kcal ME/kg DM basis. Diets analyzed on a DM basis reports minerals as g or mg per kg; diets analyzed on a caloric basis reports minerals as g or mg per 1,000 kcal ME.

v All nutrient data from the USDA database,, unless otherwise specified. The nutrient content of natural foods vary, test results are often not accurate and the USDA data are not always correct. Therefore all numbers on the nutrient content of foods are approximate.

vi A compilation of data from tests conducted by the author at several nutrient testing laboratories.

For information on part 2 “I found this great deal on chicken parts…” guidelines for formulating poultry recipes that meet standards, contact Steve Brown at , or James Pendergast at

© Steve Brown, 2014
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