Updated: Jun 16
When we think about the concept of “complete and balanced” for our own diets, we think about eating a variety of foods including protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit, and water. It also refers to the quality of the food we are eating, not just the quantity of nutrients on the nutrition panel. As we gain a better understanding about the importance of gut health, we now know that a balanced diet must include foods that support our microbiome. In the pet world, the term “complete and balanced” has a much narrower meaning, referring exclusively to a set of minimum nutrient requirements defined by NRC & AAFCO.
The Importance Of Diet Diversity
Nutrient standards are a necessary part of a healthy diet for both people and pets – there is no question about that. However, we don’t sit with a calculator tabulating our daily nutrient intake when we sit down to eat a meal. We focus on eating a variety of fresh foods every day and throughout the week to achieve a balance over time. This is one of the critical differences between food and feed. We know from studies in human nutrition that health starts in the gut and a healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity.
The more variety in the diet, the more diverse the microbiome and the more adaptable it will be to perturbations. Unfortunately, dietary diversity has been lost during the past 50 years in people – and, for pets, this is an even bigger issue. In fact, for years the pet food industry intentionally habituated pet parents to feeding their pets the same food every day, reducing the diversity in our dog’s diets to abysmally low levels. Today we know better and need to start breaking these unhealthy habits for how we feed our pets. Diversity also ensures that the food experience is not just nutritious but also enjoyable.
So, if your key benchmark for selecting food is exact and literal in it’s compliance with AAFCO standards, and you plan to feed your dog the same food every day then, Red Dog Blue Kat may not be the right food for your dog. In fact, very few commercial raw foods can actually fit this bill.
How Does Red Dog Blue Kat Ensure Complete & Balanced Meals?
At Red Dog Blue Kat, we invest a significant amount of resources, time and money on formulating, ingredient research and understanding the latest science of animal nutrition. We use formulation software developed by Steve Brown, one of the leading raw formulators in North America. We work with him and other experts to continually review and improve our methods and formulas.
We Formulate Using The Following Principles:
1. We Use Whole Foods
Using whole foods, not synthetics. We intentionally avoid the use of extracted nutrients because we believe that, when it comes to food, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Whole foods are metabolized, absorbed and utilized differently than isolated/extracted vitamins and minerals.
2. Food Variety and Rotation
Variety and rotation of a diverse range of foods. According to Dr. Karen Becker, a leading veterinary expert in animal nutrition, a complete and balanced diet requires:
Rotation between many body parts and species.
Using a 5 and 5 rule: Feeding 5 species and 5 organs in rotation or combination to achieve balanced
Feeding a variety of colorful vegetables so fiber can feed gut microbes, offer antioxidants and phytonutrients and to provide additional support to pets living a more domestic and sedentary lifestyle.
AAFCO does not include many components in food that we know are essential to optimal health. The benefit of a rotational diet is that your pet will be getting a variety of antioxidants, phytonutrients, healthy fats, enzymes and not just the bare minimum of nutrition.
To learn more, watch Dr. Karen Becker- Grand Opening | Red Dog Blue Kat
We are still just scratching the surface with our understanding of gut health and nutrition for people and pets. Formulating to support this is an ongoing process of continual improvement, not a single event.
The Formulation Of Our Meal Lines
No Frilz Dog Meals
Our No Frilz Meals for Dogs are formulated to meet or exceed AAFCO nutrient standards by combining several protein sources. We still highly recommend feeding these meals in rotation to ensure the 5 and 5 rule is met. This is especially important for growing puppies who have more demanding and diverse nutrient requirements to support their growth.
Complete Dog Meals
Our complete dog meals are designed to be fed in rotation to achieve a complete and balanced diet. Each meal is formulated to include meat, bone (poultry and fish) and organ from the same species. For example, our chicken meals only include meat, bone and organs from chickens. The only exceptions to this are kangaroo, venison and rabbit where we are not able to source organ meats (and use lamb organs instead).
We develop each formula using a combination of software and lab analysis and we strive to get as close to AAFCO standards as possible. Ingredients from each species have distinct nutritional profiles, making single fresh food formulations that fully meet AAFCO standards without supplementation. We use nutrition analyses and software to verify that a rotation of our poultry, red meat and fish meals will achieve AAFCO standards. Here are some examples of complete and balanced weekly rotations:
3 x Chicken Complete, 2 x Beef Complete, 2 x Salmon Complete
3 x Turkey Complete, 2 x Kangaroo Complete, 2 x Herring
Rotational Diets Meet / Exceed AAFCO Standards
What's The Harm In Adding Synthetic Supplements?
Adding synthetic vitamins and minerals to real food doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially if it is ensures that we can check off the nutrient standard boxes, right? Research consistently shows that synthetic nutrients are no replacement for a healthy, balanced diet. Whole foods are complex and are metabolized differently than vitamin and mineral supplements. Secondly, while some synthetic nutrients are harmless, others can be dangerous if taken in excess. There is a higher risk of excess with synthetics because of their extreme concentrations. Some synthetics can also pose risk for allergic reactions or intolerance which can be counter-productive for pets suffering from allergies. You can view the FDA's Veterinary Recall Database to see all pet food recalls.
Why Aren't Most Commercial Raw Diets Complete & Balanced?
Earlier, I mentioned that very few commercial raw food meals can consistently meet AAFCO nutrient standards in every meal without using synthetic vitamin and mineral mixes. The reality with any fresh food ingredients is that its nutrient content is not set in stone. For example, while its fair to say that lamb liver is generally higher in vitamins and minerals than other organ meats, the specific nutrient levels in a single lamb liver is dependent on where the lamb was raised, what it was fed, and even the time of year.
The nutritional composition of bones is even less consistent (“bones” can refer to a number of different ingredients including chicken frames, large animal femurs, joints, necks, etc. Example: 10% chicken frames will have a very different nutritional value than 10% beef joint bones. In addition to that, most labs that conduct nutrient testing are not experienced in extracting nutrients from whole food ingredients (especially bone) so the margin for error for vitamins and minerals can be as high as 25% (according to Steve Brown and other experts). It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed raw diets that don’t meet 100% of AAFCO’s requirements in each meal. If they contain high quality ingredients and clear directions for how to feed a complete and balanced diet, you can provide your pet with all the nutrients over several meals. If you’re not sure how to do it, give us a shout and we will help! Contact Us
If you want to feed your pet a true complete and balanced diet (not the narrow meaning defined by AAFCO) by using fresh food and understand the concept of rotational feeding, then RDBK is a great fit for you. We wholeheartedly believe that taking the time to learn how to do this will pay off in spades when it comes to your pets health and quality of life!