SFRAW’s Protein Comparison Chart: Calories, Protein & Fat – includes TCM food energetic categories for select proteins plus, ancestral diet macronutrient requirements compared to pet food standards

We offer a tremendous selection of different protein options at SFRAW including many wild, hard to source, and novel proteins to meet the needs of our members. Many members have worked very hard to stabilize their animal’s health by making dietary changes or imposing certain restrictions. Others may be facing a new health challenge in their animals that require a focus on specific nutrients in the diet.

We are often asked to help people choose a protein that meets specific dietary needs. I hope that the below information will help our members choose the right proteins to meet these needs, or just learn more about what may be best to achieve various goals in mind.

A Good Start Begins with becoming familiar with and understanding your dog or cat’s basic “macro” requirements 

TIP: Please go here to learn about macronutrients and micronutrients if you aren’t sure what this means.

CALORIES Most dogs and cats require 25-30 calories per pound of ideal body weight per day. However, metabolic rates and absorption efficiency/ability can vary dramatically on an individual level. So, the most accurate way to determine the correct amount to feed each animal is to closely monitor their body composition to determine if they’re receiving ideal caloric intake. Feed less or feed more, as needed, to maintain a lean body condition.

PROTEIN & FAT  Due to moisture content, a varied raw diet will provide an estimated average of 14-20% protein on an “as fed” basis. A simplified way to calculate your dog or cats minimum protein requirement per day is by their ideal body weight (in pounds): dogs require at least 1 gram of protein and cats require 2 grams.

It is important to understand that, when it comes to dietary protein for dogs and cats, there is no maximum level according to the AAFCO/NRC. Also, be aware that the quality, not just the quantity, of protein used in the dog or cat diet is critically important. The quality of a protein will have a tremendous influence on their risk for developing or healing from disease.

What about CARBOHYDRATES? Not typically listed on pet food labels (which is a problem!) This is because dogs and cats simply do not have a nutritional carbohydrate requirement, according to the AAFCO/NRC guidelines and regulations. Zero. Carbohydrates are not a recognized or required nutrient in the dog or cat diet. Indeed, including carbohydrates in the dog or cat diet is now considered highly problematic by many nutritionists and researchers. More here and here.

DOGS are opportunistic carnivores. Standard recommended guidelines suggest that dogs require a minimum of 20-25% protein and 10-25% fat to survive. For a dry kibble dog diet, less than 25% protein would be considered low and may be dangerous. For a dog canned diet, below 5% is going to be low protein. “According to the AAFCO/NRC, food prepared for adult dogs is required by regulations to contain a minimum of 18% protein (quality of protein aside). But there is no regulation that establishes a maximum level of protein allowed in the dog food. Any level of protein above 18% would be the “proper amount and proportion” of protein – or ‘balanced’ nutrition for an adult dog according to pet food regulations.

CATS are obligate carnivores that require a minimum of 30-50% protein and 15-30% fat to survive. According to some research, cats may actually do best on a diet that includes 40-50% high quality fats. For dry kibble cat food, less than 30% protein will be on the lower end, may be dangerous (must be prescribed and monitored by a professional). For canned cat food, less than 6% protein is low in protein. “According to the AAFCO/NRC, a “balanced” food for adult cats is required by regulations to contain a minimum of 9% fat. Again, there is no regulation that establishes a maximum level of fat allowed in the cat food. Any level of fat above 9% would be the “proper amount and proportion” of fat – or ‘balanced’ nutrition for an adult cat according to pet food regulations.”

Ok, this gives us very basic minimum requirements suggested by the pet food industry and research on modern pet foods. But what is the IDEAL macronutrient profile for our dogs & cats? 
Note: The below information is specific to canines. Incidentally, when it comes to ancestral diets, the same findings apply to feline species. These macro values are good targets for raw and fresh food feeders, IMO, and may be used to guide you in determining an appropriate macronutrient profile for your domestic canines and felines.

Also: Macronutrients are the primary nutrients found in ingredients and foods. This is different from putting together a diet or menu to meet requirements necessary to balance a DIY fresh foods diet. For example, the ca:ph ratio and other nutrients that are necessary for proper balance. You will need to provide and prepare a properly balanced diet/menu for your dog or cat according to the below chart/link on our website or another good source. So long as certain DIY basic dietary requirement are maintained, you may then choose to further modify the diet by looking at macronutrient requirements and the different types of nutritional ratios/considerations included in this blog post for your animal’s specific and individualized needs.

Elemental Nutritional Requirements for Fresh Food Diets

Considering macronutrient (protein/fat/carbohydrates) suggestions for domestic dogs & cats from an ancestral perspective

What Are Dogs Supposed To Eat? – A Review Of The Science
It’s thought that dogs are descended from wolves with domestication by humans first occurring around 14,000 years ago. Some recent research suggests that dogs and wolfs may have shared a common ancestor instead of one being descended from the other.

Regardless, it’s a good bet to look at the diet of wolves when trying to figure out what dogs before domestication would have eaten.

Wolves are carnivorous, and it’s suggested that the ancestral diet for many carnivorous hunter/scavenger typically “consisted of about 85 to 90% meat (primarily from whole prey) along with small amounts of fish and eggs, and 10 to 15% scavenged grasses, berries, nuts, and other vegetation.”

From a macronutrient standpoint, the canine ancestral diet may have looked something like this (data from
(% by calories)
Protein – 49%
Fat – 44%
Carbohydrates – 6%

paper published in the Journal of Animal Science cites another paper by W. H. Hendriks (which I wasn’t able to get access to) that analyzed 50 diets consumed by wolves – it concluded that the average nutrient intake was:
Protein – 52%
Fat – 47%
Carbohydrates – 1%

I found this 2012 study really fascinating – they provided 3 different types of dry food to 51 dogs (of 5 different breeds) to see which type of food the dogs would self select. The 3 types of food were: 1. high in fat, 2. high in carbohydrate, and 3. high in protein. They found that every breed of dog selected “a diet composition toward the highest possible fat intake and lowest possible carbohydrate intake.”

They repeated the experiment with wet food and found a similar result and did a third experiment with a fixed protein amount in the food to determine the exact fat and carbohydrates amounts dogs would select in their preferred food.

They concluded that an approximate target diet for dogs would perhaps be:
Protein – 30%
Fat – 63%
Carbohydrates – 7% (please note: I do not agree with the final conclusions made in this article. I selected the information that I agreed with from my experience and research, and felt comfortable sharing with you here)

The below information is my first draft of protein analysis for the products we currently have available at SFRAW. I am working to add: whole prey chicks, mice and rabbits; MSF Patty Mixes and yes, SFRAW Grinds/Formulas (of course!) — as all of this will be helpful to compare. The nutritional information provided herein is for boneless muscle meats that were USDA or otherwise processed for human consumption, not for offal/organs (which are generally much higher in specific vitamins and minerals) and it does not include the nutritional value of included bone. Please understand that bone (and bone marrow) is considered high in fat, and is also an excellent/ideal source of necessary dietary calcium and other minerals in the carnivore diet.

Some Notes:

  • There will be discrepancies in nutritional value of certain nutrients when comparing ground or intact cuts (thigh, breast, steak) for the same protein.
  • The quality and quantity of vitamins, minerals and fats are heavily influenced by regional and husbandry differences (wild, pasture-raised, grass-finished, heritage, biodynamic, range-free).
  • Handling, storage and preparation methods can alter the nutritional profile by changing and diminishing quality of fat, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Consider that nutritional values can be altered or influenced by the following handling or preparation practices: air-chilled, kosher, halal, properly harvested and handled wild game, on-farm harvested/slaughtered, USDA or state inspected/processed, certified humane (or non-certified, but verified otherwise) or Temple Grandin slaughterhouse, raw, cooked (method, time & temperature make a difference), dry-aged, wet-aged, chopped/ground/whole, frozen, fresh, fermented, (also: brined or marinated using salt/sugar, but these methods to be avoided for dogs & cats). 
  • Expect a change in the nutritional profile and nutrient density when there is a change in moisture (frozen/defrosted or cooked, and how it is cooked vs raw).
  • The below data was collected from various governmental and industry sources including the USDA database.
  • Whenever possible, this data represents information on raw foods, not cooked.

Please realize this is a draft version. I recognize that this file, in this format, may be a challenge to easily utilize while shopping at SFRAW or easy meal planning. I am working on highlighting specific selections on spec sheets/infographic format for different common categories (such as “Higher Protein/Moderate Fat” for example). If there is a category/selection that you’d like to see featured in a spec sheet, please let me know!

Screenshot of our draft protein comparison chart.

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