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Food For Thought - "Raw
Whenever a problem is presented
to a holistic Vet, usually one of the first questions
asked is "What are you feeding him/her?"
The subject of food, especially
of "pet" food, is surrounded with controversy regarding
which brand provides what; which is better brand x or
brand xyz; so called "premium" brands and all the
magical things it will do for your animal; the
"mythical" all the nutrition in one bag your animal will
ever need; and on and on and on!
Probably the most expensive
single ingredient in the most popular pet foods, is the
dollars spent on advertising the product.
How then, do we go about
choosing what diet will provide the best health-or at
least do the minimum amount of harm-for our animals?
A truly INFORMED decision can
only be made by cutting through all the "hoopla" and red
herrings tossed out by the advertising boys and finding
out for yourself just what is really going on.
I know I am probably going to
step on a lot of peoples toes on this subject but Iím
willing to take the flack if it stimulates you to "think
for yourself" about this most basic of issues.
If you donít think the
following applies to your pet food--THINK AGAIN !!
Lets start by considering
ingredients, move on to how they are processed, stored
and eventually used.
When I was still using a
"commercial" food I was naive enough to read the label
and thought I understood the first few ingredients and a
few of the additives, then my eye sort of skipped over
the unpronounceable "---ites, ...ates, etc." I thought
these were just fancy names for various minerals,
vitamins and so on. Boy was I wrong! For those of you
with a weak stomach I would suggest you skip the rest of
Most of us are aware (although
we choose not to think about it) that the primary source
of "meat" in all pet foods, is derived from diseased,
dead, or deformed animals. Anything not "fit" for human
consumption is considered O.K. for "pet" consumption.
For example the National Animal
Control Association has estimated that animal shelters
kill over 13 million household pets a year. Of this
total, 30% are buried, 30% are cremated and the
remaining 40%, about 5 million pets, are shipped to
rendering factories to be recycled and used in pet food.
This may make sense as a scientific "protein source",
but emotionally I am disgusted to think of Dogs being
used as "Dog Food"--all for the sake of economic raw
But what about the injections
of sodium pentobarbital used to put pets to sleep you
might ask? Or the cancerous tumors and other organs of
diseased animals? No problem, says the FDA, such residue
would be too small to cause a problem.
Why then did the University of
Nebraska researchers confirm the death of an
11-month-old girl from an adverse reaction to penicillin
contained in dry cat food she had eaten? The Nebraska
investigators noted in "The American Journal of
Cardiology" that the penicillin level in the cat food
was 600 times higher than USDA limit for human food.
If you were to question the
manufacturer on any of this you would no doubt get an
outright denial BUT consider that for dry foods "meat"
must be reduced to a dry powder in order to be processed
through the giant machines used in the manufacturing
process. This type of material, originates in a
"rendering" plant, that converts carcasses to powder by
the truckload. (Incidentally, they donít waste much in
this process--I leave it to your imagination to
visualize what all is utilized). (see
It's In The Bag for details).
The larger the manufacturer,
the less chance they have of knowing what the source of
their "meat" powder actually was. The truth is, they
donít want to know! There is no way they would dare
"advertise" the facts behind the label.
Lamb & Rice? Sounds yummy but
the same process is being used! Just because it comes
from New Zealand does not mean that little elves down
there cut up all this meat into fresh little chunks that
make up a "Premium" pet food. No dear friends, both
Australia and New Zealand had a "glut" of this
particular animal and couldnít get rid of it for human
consumption on the world markets. Presto Changeo--"Lets
make it into a pet food and charge more for it" (same
old song and dance from the back room advertising boys).
I donít really have room here
to get into the excessive levels of heavy-metal
contaminants( i.e. cadmium, Mercury, etc.) commonly
found in pet foods. Suffice to say that they are FAR
higher than the maximum that would ever be allowed for
humans! Is it any wonder that the incidence of epileptic
seizures in dogs has risen to alarming numbers?
Try to remember when you read a
label, the mind automatically pictures the meat (be it
beef, lamb, chicken or whatever) in itsí "raw" form as
we normally see it at the grocery store. The advertising
boys take this natural tendency and try to enforce it
and enhance it with wonderful images of gourmet chefs
carefully selecting and preparing your pets next feast.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Make an effort
to break this conditioning and picture a powder in its
place. Some companies are still truthful enough to label
the meat as "desiccated"--meaning dry, dry, dry.
So lets see.. we start with
diseased meat, convert it to a form we can legally use,
now what other "goodies" can we get that are cheap,
Livestock-grade grain is
usually the main ingredient used. This is not because
dogs and cats require large amounts of carbohydrates,
but because grains are about as cheap a food as can be
found. However, a still cheaper ingredient is the
"waste" dust, floor sweepings, husks, the rejects from
the screening process for flour, etc. Ideal for our
favorite yummy pet food. But we canít call it scrap can
we--nobody would buy it! So lets call it
"middlings"--nobody will catch on then! (While we are at
it lets call the ground up bones, fish heads and other
good stuff like feet, feathers --"poultry meal, fish
meal, etc."--that sound a lot better than scrap!)
No need to mention that
livestock grade really means we donít have to concern
ourselves with "allowable" levels of pesticide residue
left in the grains.
What else can we get that is
"waste", sounds good and of course is cheap, cheap,
cheap. I know! Lets throw in some Brewers Yeast. Even many of
the "upscale" brands have jumped on this bandwagon!
Are you beginning to get the
idea yet? So far we have only talked about the main
ingredients. What about all those other long names on
the label? Most are added in minute quantities in an
attempt to formulate the so called "balanced" diet.
What these "balanced diets"
choose to ignore is that not all breeds are the same!
Take Phosphate balance as an example. Without enough
phosphate there is abnormal gland (parathyroid)
function, bone metabolism, intestinal absorption,
malnutrition and kidney malfunction. Too much phosphate
can cause kidney damage and may affect the absorption of
other minerals, causing imbalances of nutritional
elements. Combine this with the fact that toy breeds
absorb more calories per pound of body weight than giant
breeds and ask yourself--how do you know if youíre
getting enough, too much or just the right "balance" for
In natural foods (raw), God
does the balancing for us and the body takes what it
needs. When artificially added--who knows what is
With very few exceptions, the
...ates, ...ites, ...ides, etc. are synthetic forms of
vitamins and minerals (cheap) which may or may not be
effectively absorbed by a dog or cat. There are a few
ingredients however that are banned by the FDA for human
consumption but O.K. for pet foods. An example of this
would be any of the Cobalt salts used as additives.
(Again look at Cobalt Carbonate commonly used in the
If you truly are interested in
deciphering the ingredient label, a handy reference
source is a book titled "A Consumers Dictionary of Food
Additives" by Ruth Winter, published by Crown Publishers
in New York.
We are all aware of the
problems created by BHA, Ethoxyquin, and BHT
preservatives but you may want to try and understand the
other "goodies" added to your pet food.
O.K. weíve gathered all our raw
materials, now how do we stick them all together to make
a dry food that has nice little shapes and at least
looks like itís good to eat. Obviously we need a method
that is cheap, cheap, cheap.
Enter the mass production
geniuses and design equipment capable of churning out
TONS of finished product every HOUR. Unless you have
seen this equipment with your own eyes it is hard to
visualize how big these "extruders" are and how fast
they work. Imagine if you will, a single machine pushing
out enough "food" to fill a 40 lb. bag in about the same
time it takes to blink your eyes.
Believe me people, the only way
these monsters can run with such efficiency is to make
sure the "form" of raw material suites THE MACHINE. You
donít change the machine to suit the material--you
change the material to suite the machine.
Everything must start out dry,
dry, dry! Then its "cooked" with live steam, rammed
through tiny holes for the fancy "shape" desired (under
tons of pressure), hurried through high temperature
drying ovens (to get rid of the moisture from the
steam), sprayed with fat and other additives, and
hustled through the automatic bagging procedure. What
chance does a digestive enzyme have of surviving this
Various size runs of various
size bags are made and the finished product is
palletized for shipment in truckload or railcar
quantities to major warehouse distribution centers.
Depending on demand, it may
take anywhere from just a few weeks to upwards of
several months before the product finally reaches the
But thatís not the end of it.
Every place where this is stored is subject to insect
infestations. To prevent the public from ever seeing
these creepy little crawlers, sooner or later these
warehouses must use a chemical insecticide spray to
destroy and further deter these "protein" lovers.
Even major Grocery chains are
well aware that they must periodically "bomb" these
little suckers to get rid of them. They donít talk about
it, but it is common knowledge throughout the industry.
In warmer regions pesticides are routinely used every
week not only on pet "food" but also on biscuits, treats
If you happen to get a bag that
somehow has slipped through the spraying and still has
live worms crawling in it, consider yourself lucky. This
could be the most nutritious protein you will find in
Finally you get your hands on
this "fresh" bag of goodies and because it is
"convenient" to use and probably well advertised as a
"nutritious" food--you foist it off on your animal.
The fact that he survives on it
is no credit to the manufacturer or to you. Rather
credit must be given to the magnificent digestive system
of your animal to be able to consume this stuff and
still get something out of it.
When it comes to choosing the
"least worst" its a case of "Let the buyer beware". The
only ones Holistic Vets are recommending at this time
are: Wysong; Precise; and Innova. There may be others
available on a local basis but they may not have
national distribution to make them readily available.
If you insist on retaining the
"convenience" over health factor, and want to keep using
your dry food, at least add a digestive enzyme to give
your pet a break on his already overtaxed system.
Adding some fresh vegetables
and fruits would also help a lot. Even if these too have
been subjected to pesticides, at least they are still
raw and have more to contribute to nourishment than the
highly processed contents in commercial pet foods!
At the beginning of this
century pets were fed on "scraps" from our own food.
Around the middle of this century , the fast food life
style started to make its appearance. As we approach the
end of this century "scraps" have taken on a whole new
I would challenge every
national breed club to do a simple survey of the average
life span of their breed in 1900, 1950, and now! Has it
decreased? Does this correlate with the food we
are feeding to our animals? Have health problems in
I did mention
the quantity of pets shipped to rendering factories to
be recycled and used in pet food. However I left it to
your imagination to visualize what goes on in a
rendering facility. Let me provide you with a few
details to assist the imagery!
Firstly let me say that I am
glad that these facilities do exist. Without them our
cities would run the risk of becoming filled with
diseased and rotting carcasses. It's a dirty job that
someone has to do. Before World War ll, most slaughter
houses looked after their own rendering. After the war,
the rendering of slaughter waste became a separate
specialty. Consequently the rendering plants were no
longer subject to most of the federal inspection
regulations associated with meat processing. Thus today
we find that the industry is largely self regulated and
out of the "public eye."
To even begin to understand
this industry we must first look at the "raw material"
as it is received at the plant. The slaughterhouse for
animal carcasses is one of the main suppliers of
material to the rendering industry. To prevent condemned
meat from being rerouted and used for human consumption,
government regulations require that the meat be
"denatured" before being sent to the rendering plant.
Nice word, but what does that mean?
Basically it means that first
it must be contaminated in some way that would make it
virtually unusable for human consumption. Some of the
materials used to accomplish this task are: carbolic
acid, creosote, fuel oil, kerosene, citronella, etc.
Once this stuff has literally soaked into the meat, it's
then fit to be sent on to the rendering plant.
Another prime source of raw
material is the veterinary community. Not only are dogs
and cats received in nice little green plastic bags, but
also raccoons, possums, deer, foxes, snakes, etc.
Of course we can't forget the
grocery industry, that must somehow get rid of the
spoiled meat cuts that are no longer salable and the
fat, bones, etc. that we (at home) would consider
So inside the rendering plant
we find the floor piled high with "raw product"
consisting of a mixture of whole bodies and animal
parts, plastic bags, styrofoam packages, metal tags, pet
collars--anything and everything that is considered to
be "waste"--but suitable for recycling.
"Rendering" is the process of
cooking raw animal material to remove the moisture and
fat. Let's take a closer look at how this is actually
Inside the plant we find masked
men (because of the stench of rotting carcasses)
operating mini-bulldozers, loading the "raw" material
into a 10 foot deep stainless steel pit. At the bottom
of the pit, a giant auger-grinder begins to turn. This
converts the mass material into smaller, more manageable
chunks. From there it is transported to another auger
for fine shredding.
Now you have to realize that
this is a business and like any other business, they
have to cut costs wherever possible. Consequently they
do not bother to take the time to remove the flea
collars from pets, the pesticide ear tags from cattle,
the plastic bags, styrofoam packaging, etc. All is grist
for the grinder! Just push it in with the bulldozer.
This mass of goop is then
cooked at 280 degrees for one hour. During the cooking
process the goop produces a layer of yellow grease or
tallow that rises to the top and is skimmed off. The
cooked meat and bone (along with whatever metal,
pesticides, etc.) are sent to a hammermill press, which
squeezes out the remaining moisture and pulverizes the
product into a gritty powder. Once the batch is
finished, all that is left is yellow grease, "meat" and
bone meal. This continuous batch cooking process goes on
non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, grinding
out ton after ton of salable product.
Depending on the dominant
ingredient of a particular run, the product now becomes:
beef, chicken, lamb, meat meal, meat by-products,
poultry meal, fish meal, fish oil, yellow grease,
tallow, beef fat, chicken fat, etc.
Never is it labeled, dog meal,
cat meal, skunk meal rat meal, or any of the "other"
goodies that get mixed in with the everyday batches of
Although this processing
effectively kills off any beneficial enzymes, it does
not get rid of the sodium phenobarbital in the carcasses
of euthanised animals. The potential of other chemical
contaminants to be degraded by the rendering process is
also highly questionable. Perhaps instead of calling
them rendering plants it would be more appropriate to
call them "toxic waste" recycling plants.
Need we say who are some of the
biggest customers of the finished product? You got
it--the pet food companies. The primary source of meat
and fat in commercial pet food is from this endless
process of rendering.
The scary part is that millions
of tons of this "food enhancer" is also trucked to
poultry ranches, cattle feed lots, dairy and hog farms,
fish feed plants, etc. where it is mixed with other
ingredients to feed animals and fish that humans will
By the time the pet food boys
get through adding their own "enhancers" (i.e.
preservatives, food dye, synthetic vitamins,) who really
knows what's in the bag?
One of the most common problems
I hear about is food allergies. Breeders switch from one
brand to another, from beef to lamb, from grain to rice,
etc. and find themselves frustrated at not being able to
solve the problem. Things may seem to go well for a time
and then the same old thing happens all over again.
Changing to lamb from beef
would appear to be a logical thing to try, but how on
earth do you really know just what you are really
getting? Let me give you a hypothetical example of what
could be in a run of "lamb" from the rendering plant and
still legally be labeled as lamb.
If we were to bulldoze into the
pit, say 25% of lamb parts, mix with 20% beef, 20%
chicken, say 15% dogs or cats, and say a mixture of 20%
of various road kill animal carcasses, we can say that
the dominant ingredient of this run is lamb. (For this
example we will ignore the % of plastic, metal,
styrofoam, insecticide, etc.--all to small to affect the
As long as the rendering plant
does not misrepresent the % of protein or fat or
calcium, etc., they are legitimately entitled to sell
the run to you favorite pet food manufacturer as "lamb."
By the way, I should mention
that the fat sold by the rendering industry does not all
come from animals. Thanks to the proliferation of fast
food restaurants, nearly half of the "raw material" is
waste kitchen grease and frying oil cleaned out of the
traps on a regular basis (another industry all of its
own). Again, the pet food people rely on this source for
the fat that is usually sprayed on the kibble at the end
of the drying process.
Once you understand just what
really goes into producing a commercial pet food, you
can't really be surprised to learn that many of the
health problems we see in our companion animals are
directly attributable to a lack of proper nutrition.
When someone asks me "arenít
you afraid of salmonella or contamination in the raw
meat you use?", I only wish I could take them out to a
rendering facility and show them just how bad the
commercial goop can be! Never again would they buy a bag
or can of pet food without realizing just what they are
really doing. Never again would they have any fear of
using "fresh" meat in place of what the industry
laughingly calls food for pets.
For any of you that have not
yet switched to a raw diet, I would urge you to go back
"Food for Thought," in
conjunction with this article. By doing this you should
have enough basic information to make a fundamental
decision on the type of diet you choose to use for your
As we move into the 21st
century maybe it's time we turned the clock back a
hundred years and got back to some basic nutrition.
The two most frequently asked
questions I get with respect to a raw diet are:
Q: Aren't you afraid of
Salmonella or bacterial contamination of the raw meat?
A: Absolutely not! Firstly, a
healthy dog is well equipped by nature to
handle the "bugs" that we have been taught to fear. How
else could the species have survived (both in the wild
and domesticated) for thousands of years, feeding on raw
foods? If you are unable to get over this fear, the
solution is extremely simple. Pre soak the meat in
grapefruit seed extract or food grade hydrogen peroxide
to kill off any germs. I have never bothered, but the
extra step may be worth it if it gives you more peace of
mind. (Elderly or weaker animals could benefit from
Q: When you feed raw bones,
like chicken wings, aren't you afraid your dogs will get
splinters, or choke or get hurt from them?
A: Again, absolutely not! If
you cook them that's a different story. Cooked bones are
brittle and can splinter and cause problems. Raw bones,
such as those in chicken wings are actually flexible to
some degree and break clean. Dogs and cats are
carnivores and have been designed by Mother Nature to
consume and digest raw bones as part of their normal
of grain and other starchy foods contribute to most, if
not all, of the degenerative diseases. Domestic pets
should be getting their carbohydrate in a similar manner
to their wild ancestors.
spectrum of minerals must be supplied in your pet's diet
in correct balance and sufficient amounts if he is going
to remain healthy into advanced old age. Bones are the
storehouse of almost all the minerals your pet requires
in perfect balance for optimal absorption.
Should You Believe?
answer to this is very simple. To get the answers you
need, you have to ask the pup itself! By understanding
what puppies eat in the wild, you will learn valuable
clues as to what you should be feeding your domestic
pup. You can find out exactly what the digestive system
of a puppy is programed to eat.
By looking at
young wolves growing up we are actually observing our
young pup's ancestors. If we couple that with modern
scientific discoveries about diet, health and aging, we
are able to produce a realistic, health promoting,
evolutionary puppy diet. From studying the eating habits
of wolf cubs which are seen to be perpetually hungry,
subsisting on raw food consisting mostly of bones and
being forced to scavenge a wide variety of foods, we get
vital clues about successful puppy raising.
- The bulk
of a puppy's diet should consist of raw meaty bones
- All or
most of the rest of their food should also be raw
should always be kept a little hungry
should never grow at their maximum growth rate
should be kept slim, lean and hard. Not roly poly,
fat, young puppies
should learn to eat everything
When we consider
how wolves/dogs were raised in the 'pre-pet-food' era
and compare that to our modern methods of husbandry, we
can only conclude that the changes we have made to
feeding and exercising have indeed been dramatic, and
that their effects on puppy growth have been traumatic.
The degree to which modern dogs experience ill health
reflects the degree to which they are subjected to
biologically inappropriate methods of feeding and
exercising. Let's look at those biologically
inappropriate forms of puppy management so rife today.
food a modern pup eats is cooked...
For the first
time in its evolutionary history we are asking our dogs
to eat nothing but cooked food. This is biologically
unacceptable and a very dramatic change. It is most
often processed food, usually either canned or dry food.
The cooking process destroys many of the life enhancing
factors found only in raw food. These include enzymes,
many natural antioxidants and other anti-degeneration
food a modern pup eats is based on cooked grain ...
majority of the food eaten by the modern dog is composed
of cooked grain as the most fundamental and major
component of the diet. Another dramatic and biologically
unacceptable change. Dogs have never in their
evolutionary history eaten cooked grain. The results on
health are devastating.
meal and rendered fat come next...
The cooked grain
is teamed up with meat meal (with its damaged protein)
and rendered fat. It is not uncommon to use rendered fat
from domestic animals in pet food - and there are
reports that this is happening - together with flea
collars and other dangerous chemicals such as the
euthanasia solution in some of these deceased and
Aside from the
dangerous chemicals it contains, that rendered fat
contrasts strongly with the healthy fat so full of
essential fatty acids that our dog's ancestors ate.
These heat destroyed components are biologically
unacceptable. They do not support healthy growth. They
do not support a healthy life or contribute to a healthy
old age. The meat meal bears very little relationship to
the healthy raw meat eaten by a wild dog.
Add loads of
refined sugar, loads of salt, chemical colorings - dyes,
to make the product look like something it is not. Add
artificial chemical flavorings to make it taste like
something it is not. Add flavor enhancers to make sure
the animal eats something it ought not to. Add chemical
antioxidants (known carcinogens) to ensure the product
does not become obviously rancid.
the legally required nutrients...
These are the
currently known to be essential vitamins and minerals.
The legal constraints on commercial pet foods do not
require them to include vitally important biologically
essential antioxidants and anti-degeneration factors
present only in whole raw food. As a result, these
products do not contain many of the essential factors we
do know about such as enzymes, nor do they contain many
of the essential factors we don't yet know about, the
ones yet to be discovered and only present in whole raw
modern puppy diet omits bones...
The omission of
raw meaty bones from the diet of the modern dog is
central to the formation of bone disease in pups.
Because the modern pup does not eat bones it misses out
on all the essential nutrients bones supply including
its calcium in perfect balance and form, together with
all the other minerals required for healthy bone
formation in perfect balance and form.
The result is
that the modern pup obtains it minerals in a totally
inappropriate form. The modern pup also misses out on
its eating exercise. This eating exercise is a vital
component of the exercise regime designed to grow
healthy disease free bones and joints.
modern pup does not eat vegetables or fruit...
Instead it eats
dry or tinned processed grains. Another complete
disaster. The lack of crushed vegetables makes a
monumental contribution to the production of
degenerative disease in dogs, including problems such as
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia. The modern pup does not eat the
gut contents of a herbivore or anything like it. As a
result it fails to receive a mass of essential nutrients
so essential for its bowel and over-all health.
world, special foods, 'designed for growth', have become
part of the processed pet food industry. They say that
the foods designed for growing animals must have more
nutrients that support growth compared to diets designed
to maintain a grown animal in good health. This
contrasts with a good healthy food where top quality
whole food ingredients are used in all the diets. Common
sense tells us that our dog's ancestors have grown and
reproduced using the raw diet without the benefit of
special foods for several hundred thousand years. In
other words, our dogs' ancestors have grown properly,
survived and reproduced on the same basic foods, no
matter what stage of life they were at. Think carefully.
Which environment of diet do you want your dog in? The
modern environment of biologically inappropriate dog
food, excessive protein, excessive calories, fast growth
rates, calcium supplements, excessive exercise and bone
disease, or the time honored way which produces healthy
longevity, abundant reproduction and brilliant health.
feeding is the practice of feeding domestic
and other animals a
primarily of uncooked
meat, edible bones, and organs.
Supporters of raw feeding
believe that the
diet of raw meat, bones, and organs is superior
nutritionally to highly processed commercial pet food.
They mimic a similar diet for their domestic companion,
as it is believed that a balanced raw diet has the
benefits of giving the animal a healthier coat, cleaner
teeth and breath, reduced stool volume and odor, and
better overall health.
As raw diets can range
from meticulously prepared and tested to diets composed
of a variety of meats and butchers' scraps, the
nutritional balance of a raw diet can vary greatly
depending on the recipe. However, supporters of raw
feeding believe that not every meal needs to be
"complete and balanced", and that nutritional balance
can be achieved over time by feeding a wide variety of
meats, fats, bones and organs from several sources, such
as chicken, turkey, lamb, cattle, pigs, fish, rabbits,
etc., and even wild game. The general belief among the
supporters of raw diets is that pets have no more
complex nutritional requirements than humans, and that a
variety of ingredients over time will provide the pets
with a sufficiently balanced diet.