Rosemary Extract- Why is it in Ground Turkey? Is Rosemary Extract Safe to Feed to Pets?

February 20, 2022

rosemary extract in ground turkey- raw fed dogs, raw fed cats
Ground meats often found at your local grocery store are a staple in many raw feeders' households. But have you ever come across rosemary extract listed on the nutrition label of your ground turkey?

Not all do, but many companies add rosemary extract as a preservative. Have you ever wondered if it is safe to feed meat containing rosemary extract to your raw fed dogs or cats? If the thought has ever crossed your mind, then keep on reading!

What is an extract?

By definition, an extract is a specific component (phenols) sourced through chemical separation and concentrated from the original whole compound (rosemary herb in this case).

Rosemary extract is a very specific and isolated part of the whole herb. As such, a pure extract may not trigger allergic reactions to the antigens (proteins) found in whole rosemary, since only a specific type of compound was isolated to create the extract. 

What is a preservative?

Food preservatives are a variety of chemicals or organic compounds used to ensure safety and avoid quality loss derived from microbial, physical–chemical, or enzymatic reactions. There are different types of antimicrobial and antioxidant agents, each one with particular modes of action. Acidulants, organic acids, and parabens are widely used antimicrobials, though the use of natural alternatives is increasing.

How does rosemary extract work as a preservative?

Rosemary extract preserves food it is mixed with by delaying the effect of oxygen breaking down chemical components of raw meat (ie. prevents spoilage).

In more specific terms, rosemary extract is an organic compound that acts as an antioxidant by delaying lipid oxidation of surrounding raw turkey meat in this context. 

In a 2011 study that investigated the effects of water-soluble turkey extract vs. sodium erythorbate as additives to raw turkey meatballs, 
“the addition of water-soluble rosemary extract (at a level found acceptable in a sensory analysis) to turkey meatballs retarded the formation of TBARS, but it was less effective than sodium erythorbate and offered protection against redness fading during MAP storage. Sodium erythorbate delayed the hydrolytic process in vacuum-packaged turkey meatballs. In MAP samples, a mixture of water-soluble rosemary extract and sodium erythorbate exerted a weaker antioxidant effect and a stronger antimicrobial effect, compared with the additives used alone. Turkey meatballs with water-soluble rosemary extract were characterized by the best sensory quality, in particular when stored under modified atmosphere. Further research could investigate the combined application of rosemary and sodium erythorbate in different meat products as well as the use of different quantities of the additives than those used in this study, with the aim to optimize their antioxidant and antimicrobial effects.” (KarpiƄska-Tymoszczyk, 2011)

Similar preservative effects of rosemary extract were seen in another experiment that focused on varying the concentration of the rosemary extract, albeit while being used on a different type of meat (the chemical target -lipids- remains the same regardless):
“The effects of rosemary extract at different levels (%1, R1, and %2, R2) on the quality of vacuum-packed sardine in terms of sensory, biochemical (thiobarbituric acid, total volatile basic nitrogen, peroxide value and free fatty acids) and microbiological analyses (total viable counts) were investigated. Fish were filleted and divided into three groups. First group was used as the control (C) without rosemary extract, second group was treated with 1% rosemary extracts (10 g L)1 ) for 2 min (R1), and the third was treated with 2% rosemary extracts (20 g L)1 ) for 2 min (R2). Thirty fillets per litre were used. After that, all groups were vacuum-packed in polyethylene bags. The samples were stored in the refrigerator condition (4 ± 1 C) over the storage period of 20 days. The results showed that the use of rosemary extract improved the sensory quality of both raw and cooked sardine, most preferably sardine treated with 1% of rosemary. Biochemical analysis showed that the use of 2% of rosemary extract was found to be most effective (P < 0.05) in controlling the rate of lipid oxidation.” (Ozogul 2010)

Is it dangerous to feed rosemary extract?

With regards to the safety of rosemary extract in a dog/cat diet: 
“Following a request from the European Commission, the EFSA was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on the safety and efficacy of two rosemary extracts obtained from the leaves of Rosmarinus officinalis L., as a technological (antioxidant) feed additive for cats and dogs. The two rosemary extracts were obtained through two different solvent extraction methods, acetone and ethanol. The additives were specified to contain carnosic acid and carnosol as the reference antioxidative compounds at a minimum content of their sum as ≥ 10% in the case of the acetone extract and ≥ 5% for the ethanol extract. Based on the data available, the FEEDAP Panel concluded that the maximum safe concentrations of the additives in feed were 300 and 50 mg/kg feed, for dogs and cats, respectively.” (EFSA Journal, 2021)

Personally, I have never been alarmed by the inclusion of rosemary extract in ground meat or ground turkey I have purchased, and my dogs have fortunately never had an adverse reaction to it.

Rosemary extract, often found as an organic additive in ground turkey, works as an effective, albeit, limited preservative/antioxidant with virtually nonexistent risks for healthy pets.

For dogs, a dosage under 300mg of rosemary extract per kilogram of meat/feed is considered safe to consume, and for cats, a dosage under 50mg per kilogram of meat/feed - which is realistically not a concern, given that in a name brand ground turkey pack that contained rosemary extract as a preservative, it was listed as 1 of 4 ingredients found at less than 2% of the total weight.

This means that the maximum possible concentration would be 2mg of rosemary extract out of the 448g package of ground turkey (not even half a kg). This maximum estimate comes out to only ~1/75th the maximum safe dosage for dogs, and ~1/13th the maximum safe dosage for cats, therefore it is negligible from a safety standpoint. 


Please consult physicians/veterinarians, and/or other trustworthy science-based sources for advice on human and animal dietary questions.

As always, I hope this post was helpful!

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