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Natural Spices & Herbs Used for Animal Nutrition

Jan 5, 2020

When we think about spices, we typically think about the way a sprinkle of a few aromatic ingredients can bring a dish to life. However, those same spices that enrich our meals can have amazing health benefits as well. And not just for people, but for animals too.

Just as for people, natural health trends have gained traction for animals, and more producers of pet food and animal feed are turning to spices and herbs for their nutritional benefits.

Spices and herbs in pet food

Pet owners overwhelmingly regard their pets as members of the family, and as family members, we want to make sure they are eating healthy and nutritious foods.

For many pet owners, “healthy” means “natural,” free from artificial and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. One recent survey found that 52% of pet owners prefer pet foods with natural ingredient claims, especially labeling “supporting a healthy and balanced digestive system” and “promoting digestive health naturally.”

This is where spices and herbs come in. Manufacturers of pet food, treats, and supplements are increasingly seeking these health benefits from natural ingredients such as herbs and spices.

Taking just a few products as an example, a quick search for pet food containing turmeric, ginger, or parsley, returns a wealth of products that use these ingredients for their health benefits. Turmeric contains compounds with strong anti-inflammatory effects and is often used in treats or supplements for joint support in aging or arthritic pets. Ginger is often included as a digestive aid, and parsley’s antiseptic properties, which can be used to fight pets’ bad breath, make it ideal for pet treats and dental products.

Feeding food producing animals

In addition to pet owners, the horse feed and cattle feed industries have also taken an interest in spice and herb based ingredients in feed, driven by key trends including organic or natural production. 

Organic food has become mainstream, with organic food sales hitting $55.1 billion in the US in 2019, up 4.6% from 2018. With the strong market growth, more meat, dairy, and egg producers are ramping up organic production. And, organic farmers must comply with organic regulations on feed inputs, leading organic feed producers and animal farmers to find solutions via natural additives including spices and herbs.

For instance, in the poultry feed industry, organic egg producers have turned to organic paprika to provide nutrients to their eggs. Our US-grown, traceable organic paprika is rich in carotenoids, a class of bioactive compounds crucial for poultry health. The carotenoids in paprika also help provide a rich golden color and better flavor to egg yolks, which appeal to the end consumer.

Beyond certified organic, animal producers have shied away from chemical inputs like pest-control products, seeking natural solutions.

Cattle producers faced with fly problems, for example, are using California-grown garlic as a solution. Animals that consume garlic emit an odor through their skin and breath that repels pests like flies. While some feed producers mix it in with a salt or mineral to create a finished product, some cattle farmers prefer to mix garlic powder directly. 

Complex science, simple principles

These are just a few examples, but there are countless more health benefits to spices and herbs for animals. Many aromatic plants have histories of medicinal use going back millennia, but research continues to discover additional beneficial effects.

While the science is cutting edge, many animal owners have grounded themselves in simpler principles: natural ingredients and diversified diets keep their pets, herd, or flock healthy.

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