Everyone Loves a Treat!

Previous Social Media posts regarding sugar levels in horse feed and forage have generated lots of interest. In one post we mentioned the sugar content in carrots which lead to many people being curious about the sugar levels provided by other fruit and veg, so this week I have been investigating the sugar levels in some popular fruit and veg we use as treats for our horses to provide information to update an article on our website.  

Firstly, I went shopping to get a selection of fruit and veg that I find tasty and have routinely given my equines over the years including apples, pears, carrots, parsnip, swede and bananas. Not all equines like the same things and whilst my pony would have gobbled anything on offer, my horse used to be very suspicious of some items that perhaps she hadn’t had much experience of. Even though to me pears taste deliciously sweet, she would absolutely point-blank refuse them!  

Varity of fruit and veg

Secondly, I needed to establish the sugar levels in each item. Some of the items had nutritional information on the packaging and so it was easy to establish the sugar level from the back of the pack, but for the loose products I looked either at the supermarket’s website or another online ‘nutrition facts’ resource for the necessary information. 

Thirdly, when we’re talking about sugar is it defined in the same way on labels for human food as sugar is defined on horse feed labelling? When human food is labelled, sugar must be shown as ‘carbohydrate- of which sugars’. Sugars in the label are defined as monosaccharides and disaccharides present in the food. You may see this as ‘total sugars’, or ‘sugars’ as well on some sites. It is important to look at what measurement the sugar is listed in as I found that it varied somewhat from ‘a typical pear contains’, to g per 100g, to %.  

When sugar is listed on the label of a horse feed bag it is as sugar %. It is only a legal requirement to declare the sugar % on a bag of horse feed when a claim has been made about that nutrient – most likely that the product is low sugar. The Luff Schoorl method of analysis is used to report sugar level in horse feed and reports monosaccharides and disaccharides as well as some oligosaccharides up to 10 saccharide units. Further investigation found that the Luff Schoorl method is also used for human food as well and so when looking at sugar we can compare sugar in food and sugar in feed.   

Fourthly, on my investigative journey was the decision on how to present the information gathered. This mostly stemmed from my ponderings on ‘well how big is the average pear?’. Other than because I needed to get some fruit and veg for the week, this is why I went shopping in the first instance so that I could weigh all my produce to determine how much sugar was in each item as well as showing the amount per 100g. This is important as we need to know what we or our horses are getting from the amount that we actually consume.  

Lastly, I wanted to compare the sugar level in my items of fruit and veg to hay and some products that can also be used as treats in treat balls from the Dengie range. In the table below you can see that hay, because it is fed in larger amounts supplies a larger amount of sugar. In fact a 500kg horse being stabled overnight receiving 5 sections of hay will be getting around 1kg of sugar. By comparison the odd piece of fruit or veg or mug of Dengie pellets in a treat ball supplies small amounts of additional sugar.  

ItemWeight of Item (g)Sugars g/100g as fedAmount of Sugar in the Item (g)
Braeburn Apple1881120.68
Conference Pear1521015.2
Hay2kg (1 section)10200
Dengie Grass Pellets200g (1 cup)1224
Dengie Alfalfa Pellets200g (1 cup)510

*whilst horses will eat an entire banana including the skin, the sugar values are for the flesh only.

For more information on what to feed your horse or pony or for help and advice on all aspects of feeding call the Dengie Feedline: 01621 841188 or complete our Feed Advice Form.