For dogs, just as for people, the saying “you are what you eat” applies. But modern pet foods are a far cry from the old fashioned chicken-bone based foods of yesterday.

Many of today’s pet foods are a combination of meat protein mixed with grains and most are mixed with flavor enhancers. Leading flavor enhancement companies including AFB International and the French based company SPFare continually doing research into what makes dogs go bow wow.

At AFB International experts have been testing flavors of ingredients that go into pet food in order to ensure companies that these household friends will find their food appetizing.

In order to better keep up on the continuing trends having to do with pet food products manager Cheryl Murphy says that the new research lab in St. Louis, Missouri is crucial in helping to achieve the absolute highest quality in pet food.

An expert who conducts research at the lab, Slobodan Baskot, who is also a research and development assistant with BHJ Pet Food in Graasten, Denmark used freeze-dried rumen of cattle and freeze-dried swine liver to test the palatability of two enhancers in dry dog food.

Three feeds were produced in a twin screw extruder including a control feed, a control feed with 2 percent freeze-dried swine liver and control-feed with 2 percent freeze-dried rumen of cattle.

The three test feeds, which showed little chemical change, were given to forty dogs divided into two groups. One group received the control-feed mixed with freeze-dried rumen of cattle and the other received the food mixed with freeze-dried swine liver. Both groups were given the control feed.

The dog owners were then put in charge of keeping a daily log of progression of their dog’s reaction to the food when given both the control feed and one of the mixes at mealtime.

In order to achieve the standard of immediate acceptance of food by a pet, the results of the test showed that more work having to do with palatability needs to be done.

Tests results showed dogs preferring the liver laced food over any of the other two. Though the control feed was shown to have a satisfactory taste, the dogs also showed to have healthy appetites due to their consumption of both of the test feed options in most cases.

“These results point out the need for further research on dog feeding behavior and awareness of the importance of natural palatability enhancers for commercial pet-food,” Baskot explained.

The danger of creating flavor enhancers that are too affective it that dogs can be enticed to eat food that lacks nutritional value.

Companies such as Nestle who owns Alpo, Come 'N Get It, Mighty Dog, Chef's Blend, Fancy Feast, Friskies; Colgate-Palmolive who owns Hill's Science Diet Pet Food; and Del Monte owners of 9-Lives, Kibbles `n Bits, Cycle, Gravy Train are all on the cutting-edge of business and competition is fierce like a cage full of bulldogs.

In order to establish standards among the pet food industry the Association of American Feed Control Officials, AAFCO developed “Nutrient Profiles.” The profiles include recommendations on protein, fat, fat soluble vitamins, water soluble vitamins, and mineral content of foods.

Despite the implement of profiled guidelines the Animal Protection Institute says that the standards don’t cover all boundaries including areas of “palatability, digestibility, or biological availability of nutrients in pet food.”

On the business end of palatability in pet food Tyson Foods Inc., who merged with Des Moines, Iowa,based Kemin Industries Inc. in January announced its intention to create its own line of pet food flavor enhancers.

“Tyson has always led the industry in providing high quality ingredients to the pet food market,” said Jeff Webster, senior vice president and general manager of Tyson’s Renewable Products division.

By setting a trend having to do with high quality, factors not covered in the “Nutrient Profiles,” or the feed trial method will not be such an impediment.

Webster describes the way the two companies will be able to set a new standard in the pet food arena. “By teaming up with Kemin, we’re entering another value-added segment of the pet food production process,” he said.

In consideration of the safety of pets involved in the advancement of quality food quality it is beneficial for companies to keep in mind the incident that left a reported six pets deceased in 2007. The deaths, which were linked to the protein constituent gluten, was used as a filler in the food.

The event that served as a lesson to the pet food industry about what is really important—the health of the pet, ended up in a recall that covered 51 dog food brands and 40 cat food brands sold throughout North America, included Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba.

Paul K. Henderson, President and CEO, Menu Foods stated his interactive concern. “We take these complaints very seriously and, while we are still looking for a specific cause, we are acting to err on the side of caution."

As the popularity of the pampering of pets grows so does the palatability of pet food—with consideration of the safety of man’s best friend.