Alfalfa

 

AlfalfaAlfalfa when used as an additive in pet feeds is typically advertised as being one of the most nutritionally complete food additives. Click here for a full definition of this products use in pet food. (Medicago sativa) is a perennial flowering plant of the pea family cultivated as an important forage crop in the US, Canada, Argentina, France, Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, and many other countries. Alfalfa when used as an additive in pet feeds is typically advertised as being one of the most nutritionally complete food additives. The green leaves of the alfalfa plant are an excellent source of digestible soluble fiber and chlorophyll. Alfalfa is also an excellent source of protein and a rich source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, and zincZinc is an essential mineral believed to possess antioxidant properties, which may protect against accelerated aging of the skin and muscles of the body; studies differ as to its effectiveness. In pet foods is considered important in helping to support healthy skin, hair and mucous membranes. Zinc also helps speed up the healing process after an injury. It has antioxidant properties and is also beneficial to the body's immune system. Zinc also helps stimulate the action of more than 100 enzymes, and helps to stimulate the sense of smell, synthesize DNA and RNA, and promotes normal growth and development.. It also contains the entire spectrum of known vitamins including Vitamin A (Beta Carotene), Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Niacin, Biotin, Choline, Vitamin D2, Vitamin D3, Pantothenic acid, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Tocopherols), and Vitamin K.

 

On the negative side it is thought to be a contributor to bloat in susceptible breeds, like soybean products and brewer’s yeast, Alfalfa is considered a gas-producing food.

 

It is also added to foods in the form of a concentrate known as alfalfa protein concentrate (APC) and will typically appear on the label as “alfalfa concentrate”. The concentrated form consists of complex of protein (45-60 %), minerals (Ca, Fe, Mg), and vitamins (A, D, E, K). APC is extracted from Alfalfa by placing the bulk plant in a press to create a juice from which the proteins associated with carotenoid and chlorophyll pigments are separated by heat treatment and centrifugation and thereafter dried at a sufficiently low temperature. The final product is granulated after adding ascorbic acid and stored in inert gas or in cold storage. Alfalfa protein concentrate is currently marketed as animal feed.

 

Ingestion of products containing APC has been shown to cause slight allergic manifestations in animals to peanuts. Additionally Alfalfa extracts contain phytoestrogens (coumestrol and isoflavones) that are known to disturb the reproduction cycle of females. The total isoflavone (daidzein, genistein, glycitein) content of APC is 255 mg/kg, which is similar to the level of total isoflavonoids present in soy products.

 

The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) defines Alfalfa Meal as: “ the aerial portion [the above ground portion of a plant or all those parts that which can be seen directly with the eye- those that lie in air. It consist of stem, leaves, flowers and fruit and seeds.] of the alfalfa plant, reasonably free from other crop plants, weeds and mold, which has been sun cured and finely ground. “

 

Although alfalfa meal is high in plant protein (18%) and fiber (25%), this hay-family item is more often found in horse feed than dog food. Additionally some articles report an increased incidence of bloat in dogs fed a diet that included beet pulp or alfalfa meal as the fiber source.

 

Alfalfa Sprouts are the tiniest stems of plants emerging from wet seeds and are added to pet foods for their nutritional value as well as they are marketed as an additive that helps to satisfy a pets need to graze (or eat grass)