The Chinese pet food market has expanded dramatically over the past decade and now accounts for US$1.5 billion dollars. Many dog and cat foods in the growing Chinese market contain ingredients that ancient farmers domesticated in what is now China, including pork, rice, millet and soybeans.
Humans seem to have domesticated pigs (Sus scrofa) in at least two regions. One was the Anatolian peninsula, modern Turkey, and the other was the Mekong Valley of southern China, according to Science.
Rice has been a staple in pet food diets for decades and despite some minor controversies remains a high-quality supply of calories, wrote Greg Aldrich, PhD, pet food program coordinator at Kansas State University, in his Petfood Ingredient Issues column.
Rice (Oryza sativa) may have been domesticated in two places, approximately 8,000 to 9,000 years ago, reported Nature. Short-grained rice may have originated in China, while the long-grained variety was domesticated in India.
With good protein quality and more fat than most grains, millet has the potential to serve as an alternative ingredient in pet food, wrote Aldrich. Pet foods containing millet are typically promoted as premium and are positioned as alternative ingredient choices, he noted.
It’s estimated that Chinese farmers have been improving soybeans’ (Glycine max) value as a crop for nearly 7,000 years, wrote scientists in PloS ONE. Soybeans too may have been independently domesticated in several areas of East Asia, such as Korea, they wrote.
Although soy has become a very popular ingredient in human foods, it has not become as popular in mainstream pet food products, wrote Aldrich.
Petfood Forum China will take place again in August 2019 in Shanghai.