Busting The Top 3 Myths About Fresh Food Diets for Pets
Busting The Top 3 Myths About Fresh Food Diets
By Sarah Griffiths, DCH
Are you super confused about pet food?
We’ve been seeing stories about pet food in the news over the last while. We also hear a lot of worry from pet guardians who are confused about the concept of feeding a raw food diet. So, we thought we’d take a few minutes to clarify some common misconceptions about feeding a fresh food diet to your pet.
First and foremost, we want to remind you that fresh food is in its own category and doesn’t fit into traditional pet food classification. Common sense must always be at the forefront when you think about a fresh food diet as a real, healthy, and viable option for dogs and cats.
In that light, let’s do some myth busting! Below are the top 3 myths we hear on a regular basis about fresh food diets for pets.
MYTH #1: RAW FOOD CONTAINS HARMFUL BACTERIA THAT WILL MAKE MY PET SICK
Veterinarians have historically been known to caution pet guardians about feeding fresh raw food because of potential bacterial contamination such as salmonella, e. Coli, and listeria. You may also have heard recently about the romaine lettuce recall for e. Coli and salmonella. A question for you: In the wake of this romaine recall, has your doctor told you to stop eating lettuce? Of course not! We would never consider removing fresh food from our diet just because there was an isolated occurrence of one type of food being contaminated. So, why is this any different in the pet food industry? It’s not! However, there are definitely ways for you to ensure that your pet’s food is safe and we’ll share some of these below.
Our Biggest “Beef” with Myth #1? We Know That Processed Food Isn’t Sterile!
Salmonella, e. Coli, and listeria pet food recalls happen regularly on dried/processed pet foods. Additionally, processed foods are recalled for other horrifying reasons such as dangerously high levels of synthetic vitamin D supplementation and aflatoxin (a dangerous fungus from rotten grain products), both of which can make your pet extremely sick. You can check out the FDA veterinary recall page to learn more.
Our question: Why is that not being discussed more within the veterinary community? Just because dry/processed pet food comes from a bag does not mean it is free of bacterial contamination. In fact, processed dry pet food is generally left in an open bag out of the fridge at room temperature—which creates an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply.
Pathogenic bacteria can come from anywhere since bacteria surrounds us all the time. Keeping your pet’s microbiome healthy is your first and highest priority. You can actually prevent pathogenic bacteria from growing by giving your pet a rotation of probiotic strains. Because we’re total pet food nerds, we actually add special strains of probiotics to our meals that target pathogenic bacteria for destruction! See our Probiotic series for more details here.
Quality Control and Food Safety DO Matter!
It’s important to know WHERE your pet food originates and is processed. Also, since there are no Canadian regulations for pet food safety it means there isn’t usually much transparency when it comes to quality control in the pet food industry. Currently, pet food manufacturers do not have to answer to anyone about how they produce their product—this can contribute to significant food safety issues.
Given the lack of a regulatory body for pet food in Canada, we at Red Dog Blue Kathave chosen to undergo the long and detailed process to have our facility HACCP verified. HACCP requirements are the highest humanfood safety standardsin North America. To learn more about HACCP and what’s involved, click here. We also have a full-time microbiologist on staff, Tanys Franz, who does daily testing of our products, equipment, and facility to ensure that food contamination is never an issue. We use fresh whole-food ingredients that do not present the risk of accidental overdose of synthetic vitamins or dangerous fungus from rotting industry by-products.
Therefore, if you were worried about feeding fresh food to your pet for bacterial reasons, we hope we’ve resolved your fears and set your mind to rest!
MYTH #2: FRESH FOOD DIETS ARE NOT BALANCED AND COMPLETE
Have you heard the hype in the news and on social media about grain-free diets causing dilated cardiomyopathy? Veterinarians continue to caution against fresh food diets because they sometimes do not meet AAFCO standards or are missing vitamins and nutrients that could cause issues for your pet.
Let’s look at some FACTS!
When Done Correctly, Fresh Food Diets Can Actually Exceed AAFCO Standards
This is 100% true! There are many ingredients that aren’t recognized by AAFCO as essential, such as live enzymes and naturally occurring vitamins and minerals (vs. synthetic versions) which are only found in whole foods.
Food Fact: There is no nutrient found in whole natural food that isn’t there for a reason. If you adhere to the current “conventional” approach to feeding, wherever nutritional deficiencies show up in a diet you would just add synthetics to make it “complete and balanced”. However, that is not the same as feeding natural-source nutrients. On a microscopic level, synthetic vitamins don’t even come close to resembling their natural counterparts and they cannot be considered nutritionally equal.
Fresh Food Diets Are NOT the Same as “Grain-Free” Kibble
Sometimes fresh food diets get lumped in with what the industry is now calling “grain-free” diets and we must make a distinction here. They are NOT the same thing!
Technically, grain-free diets can be made up of any dry food, canned food, cooked food, or raw food that doesn’t include grain products. BUT each of these diets is very different. Dry food, in general, almost always has some form of starch in it. However, food labelled “grain-free” has legume starches that replace grain starches. Even “grain-free” canned food often has legume powders in it. This is not the same as feeding a fresh food diet that has no grains!
Legumes are not part of a raw “ancestral diet” model. Fresh home-cooked and raw food diets can be customized and don’t traditionally use processed starch of any type. Home-cooked and raw diets are generally composed of meat, organs, bones, vegetables, and other whole food “extras” that have omega 3, micro mineral, and vitamin benefits. We want to make sure you understand the differences behind the catch phrase “grain-free” and a species-appropriate diet.
Processed Foods Aren’t “Complete” Either
If you look on any bag or can of pet food (even the ones that are considered “really healthy”), they all use synthetic vitamin and mineral sources. That’s because the raw food materials are usually selected based on the all-mighty bottom line—the cost—and/or altered with high heat. All processed food on the market has some added synthetic vitamins and minerals. If the companies that produce these products just relied on the food sources for nutrient content, it would, in most cases, be incomplete and cause nutrient deficiencies.
“Real food” or fresh food done right contains all of the appropriate macro and micro nutrients in natural forms that are totally available for your pet to absorb and utilize. Learn more about the basics by clicking here.
*Pets dealing with serious health challenges may need whole food supplements for added nutrition if they are dealing with nutrient depletions.
Diet-Related Health Epidemics Are Rising
The Banfield Report tells us there are a multitude of health epidemics related to processed pet foods. Specifically, diet-related diseases are the top killers of dogs and cats. These include obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, dental disease, and heart disease. All of these absolutely have dietary components to them.
To learn more, visit the following links:
As we wrap up this topic about “balanced and complete”, we leave you with this thought: You do your best to feed yourself with a variety of fresh food that, ultimately, equals a balanced diet. It’s the same for your pet!*
MYTH #3: THERE IS NO SCIENCE ABOUT THE VALIDITY OF FRESH DIETS FOR PETS
Would you accept it if your Doctor said you should only consume packaged foods to be healthy? What about the same advice for your kids? – It’s really common sense!
This is where you really have to make a choice for yourself about what you believe is best.
We believe the choice is clear. When you remove the filters, dig underneath the marketing bumph, and just use good old common sense, choosing the right food for your pet doesn’t have to be so complicated! The traditional veterinary industry is the only medical industry in the world that preaches the idea that processed foods are better than fresh food! Really?!
It’s Untrue That There’s No Research
There is a growing body of research being done about fresh food for pets. The demonstrated results are undeniable and the processed pet food companies are definitely feeling the pushback.
Here are some of our favorite independently conducted studies and projects:
a) Raw Proof - 24-month study about raw diets for dogs
And these are just a few of the studies that we found.
Independent Studies Have More Merit…
If you are referring to studies done by researchers who have an agenda (specifically, research that is bought and paid for by dry or canned food brands), the research might have a bias. Also check the age of the subjects, the length of the studies, and exactly what they are measuring—is it puppies or kittens being able to survive for 6-8 weeks or is it a long-term study with years of data to back up the results? As you must be aware by now, there are many political aspects at play when it comes to both the human and pet food industries—including some “health food” and veterinary food.
If you want to know the unvarnished truth, look for studies that have been conducted by independent researchers (like the ones listed above) who report results that don’t have a specific goal in mind from the beginning. These are the studies that will point to whether or not specific foods have value for dogs and cats. Pet food research is not the same as science, even if labeled “science-based”.
Happy reading and happy feeding!