Plant vs animal proteins. What’s the difference in pet food?

by Dr Lee Danks – Black Hawk Technical Services Vet. Published 1 April 2020

Sure, proteins are present in vegetables like soya beans, peas and legumes such as lentils and beans. The thing is though, that they aren’t always present at the highest natural level.

High protein levels in plant based ingredients are only achieved after significant processing and refinement.

Instead of opting for a highly processed approach, Black Hawk prioritises meat (above vegetable protein) to deliver higher proportions of protein. Minimal processing and the use of whole ingredients fits with our natural approach to nutrition. Meat ingredients have high ‘crude protein’ levels (the same measure you’ll see on the side of the bag) and offer a more complete amino acid profile than vegetable ingredients1. This means that meat naturally contains more of the complete range of amino acids that the dog and cat need to survive on a day-to-day basis. Dogs need 10 different amino acids and cats need 111, and it’s our job as responsible pet parents to ensure they’re getting them as part of a balanced diet.

Authorities in pet food - who write the rule books that combine our global knowledge of what’s best to feed our dogs and cats - define the minimum protein levels for an adult dog as 18 grams per 100g of diet*2.

Standard Black Hawk diets deliver 24-36g, so provide more than the minimum amount by more than 30%. Is that a good thing for our pets? Yes, it sure is, because the additional protein can be dedicated to more biological processes beyond simply ‘staying alive’, like running and jumping and working for longer, healthier skin, coat growth, and using protein as an energy source, which is arguably healthier for overall metabolism.

For cats, the minimum protein needed is higher at 33g per 100g, and Black Hawk cat food delivers at least 35g. Again, this extra supply of quality protein above the basic nutritional requirements is a great resource for your cat.

To clarify further, highly digestible protein, like meat, provides the additional fuel for your pet’s body to respond to the physical challenges of everyday life and helps them to maintain lean muscular mass.

This means that we’re keeping their body healthy and providing the ‘nuts and bolts’ that allow the running, jumping, ball-chasing, tail-wagging and daily play we all love. Studies in dogs have shown that higher-protein diets lead to greater satiety3. This means that your pet is likely to feel fuller for longer after their meal, which is great for weight management.

One final point to note relates to pet food preferences, where meat protein drives palatability. High protein diets generally taste better to the dog and cat, and real meat offers them a unique and often irresistible meal, that they enjoy eating every day.

By including real meat in our recipes, Black Hawk brings high levels of animal-origin proteins together with a variety of other ingredients, like vegetables and fruits that provide nutritional and health benefits. All of our recipes are expertly developed by our Black Hawk vets and animal nutritionists, who carefully select ingredients that are combined at just the right levels, to create nutritionally complete and balanced goodness: a diet which they can eat every day, and one which shows the level of care and attention you dedicate to them.



* On a dry matter basis. Sources:

1. Donadelli R. et.al (2018) The amino acid composition and protein quality of various egg, poultry meal by-products, and vegetable proteins used in the production of dog and cat diets, Poultry Sciences 2019.98:1371-1378

2. FEDIAF (2018) Nutritional Guidelines For Complete and Complementary Pet Food for Cats and Dogs, Accessible online: http://www.fediaf.org/images/FEDIAF_Nutritional_Guidelines_2019_Update_030519.pdf

3. Weber M et.al (2007) A High Protein High Fibre Diet Designed for Weight Loss Improves Satiety in Dogs, J Vet Intern Med 2007:21:1203-1208



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