Raw Dog Food 101
Raw Dog Food is Minimally Process, Wholesome and Free of Artificiality
We all know that people need real, whole, minimally processed foods in order to thrive. If you have not already figured out before arriving at this page, you will soon learn this is true for our pets also.
I’m going to guess that you would not want your human loved ones to only eat dry Rice Cereal with no milk, for every meal, day in and day out. Your grocery store kibbles are just this and your four legged loved ones should not be eating this way either. Like people, pets need,
- Moisture Rich Meals
- Minimally Processed Foods
- Whole Meats and Produce (not meals or by products)
- Food Free of Additives, Hormones, Antibiotics and Pesticides
In this talk, we will show why dogs and cats thrive on properly prepared raw meat-based diets, and why processed foods can never match the nutrition of a properly prepared raw meat diet. We will review the superb safety record of properly prepared raw meat diets; a record that grain-based manufacturer would envy.
And then, we’ll look at who is feeding raw meat- based diets, what they are feeding and how. Along the way, we’ll correct common misconceptions about raw meat-based diets. We will then conclude with a look at the future of the raw meat-based diets, and what effect these diets will have on the traditional industry.
First, what do we mean by properly prepared raw meat diets?
Properly prepared raw meat diets are “complete and balanced”. There are many people who attempt homemade raw diets which if not done properly will result as nutrient deficient because of the lack of small but important ingredients. We are not saying that you can not successfully make a complete and balanced homemade raw diet, it is just risky if you have not done your homework. There are many great books that will aid you in doing this, one of which we recommend Steve Brown’s “Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet” or “See Spot Live Longer”.
Commercially manufactured pet foods must meet AAFCO’s standards to be labeled as “Complete and Balanced for All Life Stages”. This means that they have been formulated to ensure they have the nutrients necessary. However; these standards are easy targets and can be achieved using low grade ingredients. Many commercial pet food companies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure out the cheapest ingredients available that will yield the test result necessary to pass. These ingredients will be process, artificial and non-human grade. Most raw dog food companies use only human-grade, all-natural ingredients that are often better then what you feed yourself.
Since the products in raw dog food are… raw, produced in refrigerated rooms and flash frozen, the nutrients remain intact. These foods naturally have all the amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals upon which the dog evolved.
We see the results. When we switch dogs from processed grain-based foods to raw dog food diets, the improvement in the dog is usually profound; everything from;
- Brighter eyes
- Improved Behavior
- Skin problems Clear Up
- More Vitality
- Whiter Teeth, Better Breath
- Arthritis Often Goes Away In Weeks
- Digestion Problems Cleared Up
- Firm, Smaller Stools (that is a benefit for the pet parents)
Long term multi-generational feeding programs conducted by Volhard, Schultze, McKay, and others show that results are just as profound in the long term. The dogs live longer, healthier, happier lives.
Heat, the enemy of nutrition, and why processed foods can never match the nutrition in properly prepared raw meat-based diets.
Most kibbles are produced at temperatures above 300 degrees F under 600 or more pounds of pressure per square inch. I don’t think anyone can dispute the fact that this is a harsh environment for many nutrients. Heat destroys all the enzymes, some of the known antioxidants, and perhaps many of the known and unknown phytochemicals and flavonoids. High heat may alter the bioavailability of some of the minerals and perhaps even alter the chemical structure of the amino acids. The pet food industry, through AAFCO, has done an excellent job of compensating for the known lost vitamins and the decrease in bioavailablity of minerals with increasingly more rigorous standards, especially when compared to NRC standards of just 30 years ago. Indeed, I predict that soon the AAFCO raise the bar and require higher nutrient levels that will make the low-grade kibbles struggle to survive.
Nutrients that are in Raw Dog Food.
Enzymes and Phytochemicals
Natural, whole intact raw foods contain numerous substances — including enzymes and phytochemicals — that modern science is discovering are important for proper nutrition in humans and laboratory animals.
Enzymes are specialized protein substances that are involved in all the dog’s activities. Even thinking requires enzymes. Enzymes are found abundantly in fresh, minimally processed natural foods. When dogs eat their natural diet of raw meats and produce they get far more enzymes then what they will derive from process kibble.
Enzymes are deactivated or destroyed at temperatures above 118 to 170 degrees F; therefore there are no enzymes in processed dog foods. This forces the dog’s digestive enzymes to do all the work, and perhaps puts a strain on the dog’s ability to manufacture necessary metabolic enzymes.
Perhaps one of the reasons we see such immediate improvements with older dogs when converting them from processed grain-based foods to quality raw dog foods are the enzymes in the raw foods. With aging the dog’s secretion of enzymes is gradually reduced and the importance of eating natural foods with enzymes increases.
A little over a century ago Vitamin C was first discovered. In 1958, free radicals were discovered. Today, when we think of disease-fighting nutrients, we don’t just worry about A or E or C. We study the phytochemicals and flavonoids in plants and herbs. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring compounds in vegetables and fruits that are getting increasing attention from researchers looking into the connection between diet and disease. Some phytochemicals function as antioxidants. Epidemiological evidence from more than 200 studies link consumption of foods rich in phytochemicals with decreased risks for certain diseases ranging from some cancers to aging to some forms of dysphasia. For instance, the sulforaphanes found in broccoli have been shown to help prevent certain types of cancers.
Fruits and vegetables have hundreds of antioxidant compounds. Some, like vitamin C, are destroyed by heat. There is a growing consensus among researchers that a variety of whole foods — not supplements — should be the source for antioxidants. Many of the antioxidants identified as having a health-protective effect represent a group of compounds found in the intact food, which in concert provide the health-protective effects. The selected antioxidant alone will not yield the entire health benefit. “Vitamin research has only scratched the surface in understanding subclinical deficiency states, bioavailablity, and nutrient-nutrient interaction.”(The Nutrition Desk Reference, Garrison and Somer, 1995.) One needs to eat the natural, intact vegetable or fruit, with the full complement of natural phytochemicals, to yield the entire health benefit. Raw forms of vegetables and fruits are the most consistently associated with lower risk of cancer. (Steinmetz and Potter, “Vegetables, fruits, and cancer.” 1991).
In sum, people, laboratory animals, dogs and cats need some whole, intact foods in order to be at their best. One cannot replace or add all the enzymes, antioxidants and phytochemicals that are destroyed or altered in processing.
Are raw meat based-diets safe?
As more people turn to a raw dog food diet, the more this question gets asked. We are happy to announce that in our 14years of distributing raw dog food, we have not had a single recall. It is been shown that pets can handle larger amounts of bacteria then us humans can. Think about your dog taking a drink out of the toilet (they do it more often then we know). Do they get sick? It is likely you would if you took a nice big gulp. Dogs have short acidic digestive systems, especially when compared to humans. With this being said it is very important that you handle the raw meat food just as you would any raw meat product. Wash your hands and all surfaces that came in contact with it. Do not let your children handle the food.
How they feed
There is a misconception about how much effort it takes to feed raw meat diets. The headline “Raw food diets are difficult” is misleading. With some of the commercially available raw meat diets, they are almost as easy to feed as kibble. Just defrost and feed. For those that want to make their own food, there is more effort, but it is not difficult. It is an effort of love and care.
Many people mix raw meat based foods with grain-based foods, usually to reduce overall cost. I’ve seen people mix with mass-market dog food, but most mix with top of the line processed grain-based (Innova, Precise, Wysong, Solid Gold). An increasing number mix with whole grains and herb mix like Sojourner Farm.