Formulating cooked diets improperly can lead to undernourishment

Published: January 26, 2023

Only the ADF formulates cooked diets the way people shop.

A client has a 30-pound active puppy, needing 1500 kcal per day.  She feeds her puppy an ancestral-type diet, lightly cooked.

The veterinarian formulates a lightly cooked beautifully balanced diet using USDA nutrient database-based software. She enters 1 pound 85% lean crumbled, pan-browned, 4 ounces of cooked heart and 2 ounces of cooked liver, 0.25 pounds of nutritious raw vegetables and lists the fats (10 g hempseed, 2 g fish oil), and the supplements, to make an AAFCO and FEDIAF-compliant recipe.

What a beautiful recipe! The nutrition program tells her that the recipe is 1500 kcal[i], with zinc at 25 mg/1000 kcal, meeting AAFCO and FEDIAF growth minimums of 25 mg/1000 kcal. 

The client goes to the grocery store, and buys 1 pound of raw, 85 % lean ground beef, 4 ounces of raw heart, and 2 ounces of raw liver and lightly pan-browns the meats.

The veterinarian and client think that the recipe is perfect.  WRONG

The client’s puppy will be undernourished.  The recipe only has 1,250 kcal and, with 20.7 mg/1000 kcal, is deficient in zinc.

How can cooked meats be more nutrient dense than raw meats?

Cooked meats can be more nutrient dense than raw meats because cooking methods such as simmering, pan-frying, roasting, and broiling reduce the water content of the meat. (Gentle cooking methods, for instance in a slow cooker or crock pot, do not reduce the water content and help preserve nutrients.)

The calories and the micronutrients are in the dry matter. Reducing the water content does not change the amount of calories and minerals.  Most cooked meats contain more dry matter and less water than do raw meats.

100 g of typical raw 85% lean ground beef contains 65 g of water, 35 g of dry matter, and 4.5 mg of zinc.    

100 g of pan-browned 85% lean ground beef contains 56 g water, 44 g dry matter and 6.6 mg of zinc.  




Water, g

Dry matter, g


Zinc mg

85% lean raw ground beef

100 g





85% lean pan-browned

100 g







The veterinarian’s recipe was for 1 pound of cooked meat.  The client bought raw meat. 82 grams of cooked 85% lean beef = 100 grams of raw 90% lean beef.

The solutions

  1. The client weighs the meat after cooking. This can be difficult and messy, and the client may not understand why. 
  2. The veterinarian uses the ADF and follows our directions for formulating diets that will be cooked. She formulates in raw, hits the “simmering“ button or “gently-cooked” button, and the program converts it to a cooked diet, using primarily USDA retention values, and lists the proper feeding directions for the cooked diet.

[i] Based upon Atwater factors