A few weeks ago I wrote about “all kibble not being created equal” and received a friendly request for more information from Michelle, who wanted to know whether Halo was extruded because a friend of hers had said that “baked kibble was better.” I was glad to get the question because years ago when I was researching The Dog Bible I had been intrigued by a friend’ who had claimed the same thing. However, in doing that research I was not able to find any any validity to that claim… and I had forgotten all about it until Michelle’s question came up.
The timing of her question could not have been better, because I now co-host a show on the Radio Pet Lady Network called Pet Food Advisors hosted by Sean Delaney, DVM, MS, DACVN — someone entirely objective and thoroughly knowledgeable. [By coincidence, it was actually Halo’s own Dr. Donna Spector who introduced me to Dr. Delaney in the first place, as a world-renowned veterinary nutritionist whose life has been dedicated to optimal nutritional health for pets.] I learn something new and fascinating from him every week on the show, often pertaining to human as well as dog and cat nutrition.
Dr. Sean explained that extruded and baked kibbles are both fully cooked when properly done, which is the ultimate goal — the starch needs to be completely gelatinized for digestibility and healthy stools. He said, “I have seen no advantage from the pet’s perspective between the two methods. ‘Baked’ is sometimes suggested as superior as it is borrowing from the perception in human foods that it is more healthful. For example, baked potato chips when compared to fried potato chips are less fatty.” However, that does not apply to making dog kibble. I myself had misunderstood extrusion and thought it was simply a way to make the pieces of kibble before cooking them by various methods — but I have since learned that the extrusion process itself simultaneously cooks the kibble pieces. Dr. Delaney compares extrusion to pressure cooking, which in human nutrition is an ideal way to quickly cook foods to retain the maximum amount of food value. As Dr. Delaney explains about making kibble, “Ultimately, cooking is a function of time, heat, and pressure. In extrusion, that pressure is mainly used to decrease the amount of cooking time, which retains more of the food value, just like in pressure cooking for people.”
Bottom line: baking is not a superior way to make kibble. There is a perception in human nutrition that “baked” is a positive adjective, compared to “fried” — but in pet food, the only variables that can be manipulated are time and heat, which means baking can take a great deal longer than extrusion and at higher heat — all of which adds up to the good news that the very good quality ingredients in Halo kibble are best transformed into a digestible and nutrition food by the extrusion method. In addition, I’m happy to report that Halo extrudes at temperatures that are actually below what most people use to cook their foods at home — and then, as a nutritional “cherry on top,” at the end of the cooking process they also add probiotics for healthy digestion. Sounds pretty healthy to me — and judging from my dogs, it certainly is.