Over the last few decades, plasma has been appearing on pet food labels and some pet parents may be curious about the purpose of this ingredient and why it is used.
What is Plasma?
Plasma is a component in blood. When blood cells and platelets are separated out of whole blood, the resulting nutrient-rich clear fluid is referred to as plasma. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), plasma is the portion of blood “which has been separated away from the cellular matter (red and white blood cells) …The protein portion of this product is primarily albumin, globulin and fibrinogen type proteins.”1
Plasma is naturally found in all foods that contain meat. In the wild, predators do not let food go to waste and all parts of prey are consumed, including muscle meat, bones, organs, and blood. Though plasma can be isolated from the blood of any animal, it is most common to see porcine (pork) plasma and bovine (beef) plasma used as ingredients in pet food. Plasma offers functional attributes for wet pet foods as well as health benefits for dogs and cats.
Nutritional and Health Benefits of Plasma
Plasma is rich in important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, potassium and magnesium.2 It is an excellent source of essential amino acids and has been found to be superior to other protein sources such as skim milk.3 Research with dogs has shown that the inclusion of plasma in dog food results in improved digestion and decreased fecal output.4
Plasma has been used in feed formulas for multiple species as a source of functional proteins, nucleotides, and antibodies that provide unique health benefits. 5-8 For example, it has been suggested that certain plasma proteins provide immune benefits through their antibacterial properties. In pigs, it has been established that the antibodies in plasma have antibacterial effects and can be used as a potential alternative to antibiotics.9 Research has also shown that plasma can play a role in supporting optimal gut health. Diets supplemented with plasma have been shown to result in reduced diarrhea and promote the health of the digestive tract due to a decrease in inflammation in the gut.10
Why is Plasma used in Pet Food?
The proteins found in plasma have unique properties that can be used to give wet pet food its recognizable texture. Achieving the correct texture is an important factor in pet food palatability, especially for cats. Albumin, globulins and fibrinogen – which make up the majority of the proteins in plasma – have the ability to produce a stable and compact structure when cooked.11 This means that these proteins work together to create the desired texture. Compared to other texture-modifying ingredients, such as carrageenan, plasma can be used as a nutrient-rich ingredient to improve the overall texture of wet pet food.11 It has been found to have better water retention capabilities compared to other texture-modifying ingredients such as wheat gluten.11 Not only does it work well to create the proper texture in wet pet foods, but plasma has been shown to be extremely palatable to both cats and dogs.11
- Plasma is the protein-rich clear portion of blood.
- Plasma is rich in essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and contains compounds, such as antibodies, that can provide a variety of health benefits.
- For wet pet foods, plasma provides a nutrient-rich alternative to other types of texture-modifying ingredients such as carrageenan and wheat gluten.
- Plasma is a nutritious addition to any pet food.
1. AAFCO, Association of American Feed Control Officials: Official Publication. 2018, Atlanta, GA: Association of American Feed Control Officials.
2. Council, N.R., Nutrient Requirements of Swine: Eleventh Revised Edition. 2012, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 420.
3. de Rodas, B.Z., et al., Plasma protein for pigs weaned at 19 to 24 days of age: effect on performance and plasma insulin-like growth factor I, growth hormone, insulin, and glucose concentrations. J. Anim. Sci., 1995. 73(12): p. 3657-3665.
4. Quigley, J.D., 3rd, et al., Effects of spray-dried animal plasma on intake and apparent digestibility in dogs. J. Anim. Sci., 2004. 82(6): p. 1685-92.
5. King, M.R., et al., A comparison of the effects of dietary spray-dried bovine colostrum and animal plasma on growth and intestinal histology in weaner pigs. Livest. Sci., 2008. 119: p. 167-173.
6. Lagerkvist, G., K. Johansson, and N. Lundeheim, Selection for litter size, body weight, and pelt quality in mink (Mustela vison): correlated responses. J. Anim. Sci., 1994. 72(5): p. 1126-37.
7. Márquez, E., et al., Proteins, isoleucine, lysine and methionine content of bovine, porcine and poultry blood and their fractions. Vol. 93. 2005. 503-505.
8. Nowakowicz-Dębek, B., et al., Addition of Dried Blood Plasma to Feed of Minks During Lactation and Rearing of Kits. 2018. 62(1): p. 25.
9. Hedegaard, C.J., et al., Natural Pig Plasma Immunoglobulins Have Anti-Bacterial Effects: Potential for Use as Feed Supplement for Treatment of Intestinal Infections in Pigs. PLOS ONE, 2016. 11(1): p. e0147373.
10. Weaver, A.C., et al., Efficacy of dietary spray dried plasma protein to mitigate the negative effects on performance of pigs fed diets with corn naturally contaminated with multiple mycotoxins. J. Anim. Sci., 2014. 92(9): p. 3878-86.
11. Polo, J., et al., Functional properties of spray-dried animal plasma in canned petfood. Anim. Feed Sci, Technol., 2005. 122(3): p. 331-343.
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