Are You Feeding Pet Food or Feed?

Updated: Jun 16

Pet food is a pretty hot topic these days. What’s the best way to feed? What’s the best brand? The best food? How can you tell if your diet (raw or processed) is actually balanced and complete? Is raw dangerous? There is so much conflicting information. Making decisions is hard because I’m scared, I’ll do it wrong.

Why Is There So Much Conflicting and Polarizing Information Between Kibble and Raw?

To get to the root, let’s go back to the beginning and how the concept of pet food came about. Isn’t it just food?

When I Googled ‘pet food,’ I discovered these definitions:

Wikipedia: “Pet food is animal feed intended for consumption by pets. Typically sold in pet stores and supermarkets, it is usually specific to the type of animal, such as dog food or cat food. Most meat used for animals is a by-product of the human food industry and is not regarded as "human grade". “Intended for pets… not for human consumption.”

It is interesting that this definition makes no mention of health, wellness or longevity – which seems like a pretty important metric for me as a pet parent. And what exactly is meant by “animal feed”? This is really where the two very different roads for how we feed our pets begin … There is food and there is feed. Let me explain.

What Is Food?

Food is defined as any naturally occurring substance that is nutritious and can be eaten to sustain life. It comes in endless different forms including plants, animals and minerals. Examples of food are bananas, yams, steak, liver, eggs, bugs, lettuce, salt, grass, etc. Fresh food has a short shelf life and needs to be fed in a timely fashion. Ingredients are selected based on variety, freshness and whole food value, as evident in the Canada Food Guide.

As humans, we have high expectations for food – we expect it to support health and healing.

What Is (Animal) Feed?

Feed refers to pet and livestock rations: highly heat treated, extruded and synthetically fortified with a long shelf life. It’s a product of industrialized animal agriculture and was developed as a mechanism to cheaply and conveniently feed animals, regardless of health or welfare consequences. Animal feed often contains waste products (by-product) from human food industries because ingredients are selected using a math equation of how to meet the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional requirements in most cost-efficient way. The product is cooked down with high temperatures in order to form it into dried pellets. As the mixture cools, synthetically formulated vitamin/mineral premixes are added to compensate for the missing nutrients in the heated-treated mixture. It is then formed into pellets and dried for storage. The shelf life is sometimes guaranteed for years depending on the formulation.

Dogs and cats eating whole food vs kibble aka feed