In my previous post i wrote in general about dog food and what it may consist of. In this post I will go deeper into the dry food industry. I don’t want people to feel guilty about feeding dry food, only to raise the question of what dry food may consist of and why it is so important to keep track of that.
Dry food consist largely of cereals such as barley, wheat, rice, oat or corn. Some also use sweet potatoes and/or other “fillers”. These are used as the main ingredient because they cost a fracture of the price compared with meat or other animal based products. In many cases cereals are not even “real cereals”. The pet food industry uses cereal by products, which occure when, cereals are ground, from their straw and/or from cereal based waste from factories that use grain as raw material. As an easy example: When producing wheat flour, some waste products are left over (such as the husks). This can be used as an ingredient for several products. Cat and dog foods are a few of them.
Some of the cereals may even be tainted, contaminated or moldy, and therefore banned from human and livestock feed because in some cases they are poisonous. If such ingredints are used it can be fatal to the pets that eat it – as we now and then read in the papers or hear on the news. Usually these cases go unnoticed, because it’s quite hard to prove that it was the food that caused the illness or death. We have an example in Finland of this, where it was proven by autopsy that a dog named ”Savu”, died of contaminated dog food. Probably many other dogs suffered from the same contaminated rice protein that was used, but went unnoticed by their owners.
Shatter and add up
The ingredients are listed in the ingredients list in an order that is based on the amount of raw material used. What the product contains most of, is listed first in the declaration. Feels pretty straight forward, but it isn’t. The manufacturer can whitewash the declaration to look better, by splitting the raw materials. This sounds absurd at first, until it is understood how this is done. As an example, one can divide cereals, as an example wheat, into several categories, such as flour, starch, flakes, grouts, malt, bran, sprouts and seedes). If these are listed separately, the amounts are much smaller, even if the amount of wheat is high. The other trick is to merge the ingredients you want first on the list by using “group names” such as “animal based meat products”. So if you pick apart the things you want lower on the list and merge those you want first on the list, it’s pretty easy to get the ingredient list to look nice.
To demonstrate how they do it, we can imagine there is a product that contains 67% wheat, 30% meat and 3% of a vitamin mixture. This could be written as a ingredient list like this: Meat, wheat flour, wheat semolina, wheat gluten, wheat malt, vitamin mix. This is not a correct ingredients list, but you get the picture!
Real raw materials or added nutrients?
Have you ever noticed, that the dry food industry seldom highlights the raw materials? They tend to promote the nutrients instead.
Dry food is produced with a pretty strange idea: The nutrients do not come from the raw materials, they are usually added.
The nutrient mix is added to the lot just before it’s formed into pellets and roasted. In the same process, preservatives, colors and flavors are added. These are all but natural ingredients, and many of these are even harmful or poisonous. Therefore most of these are forbidden to be used for human consumption.
To cut back on chemicals, some use vitamin C and E as preservatives. The problems with these are, that they do not work as preservatives for long periods of time and they are not in their natural form, but chemically produced, with a very few exceptions. The vitamin content of the product starts to reduce as soon as the product is manufactured and packed, and the process is is greatly accelerated as soon as the package is opened and the product comes in contact with oxygen.
Even if it’s a obvious fact for most people that cereals in large quantities do not belong in a dogs diet, we often tend to forget everything else that is or can be used in dry food.
Trans fats for instance; The baked pellets are sprayed with fat, before they are packed, so that they would smell as good as they may for the dog. Sadly the fat used is in worst cases rancid. A widely used source of fats sprayed on dog food originates from fast food restaurants (and is btw. classified as problem waste). Not only are these fats rancid, but also filled with trans fat, banned by most countries for human consumption, because their harmfulness to our bodies.
The problem with fat in general, even if it would be of excellent quality, is that it starts going rancid as soon as the package is opened and the food comes in contact with oxygen. if you have a small dog, and are used to buying big bags of dog food, I can tell you with certainty that your dog has been eating a great deal of rancid fats for long periods of time. If you have a small dog, it’s better to buy small bags of food – or even better, switch to raw frozen food!
As we are used to, dry food is marketed as safe and risk free, convenient and with the argument that your dog will get everything it needs from the food. Sometimes marketing strategies even use pet owners fears, where they state that no other way of feeding will ensure that your pet gets everything it needs nutrition wise. In some cases they also state, that dogs cannot get enough nutrients from any natural source, that it’s impossible. In this case I would like to rise a question: If there’s no way for dogs to get the nutrients they need from a natural source, how’s it possible for the whole species to have evolved in nature, before humans were present in the picture? Also, how’s it possible for canines in the wild to survive to date, without kibble or supplements?
Because of these, in my personal opinion, dog food standards (AAFCO and FEDIAF) are good starting points, but do not represent the whole truth. Our science in nutrition is very young, and we discover new information all the time, and we cannot therefore assume that all our opinions about nutritional need are correct as they are today.
Standardized is not necessarily perfect
We are taught by the dry food industry that the path to perfect health is a balanced and standardized food that never changed. Feed your dog only this for he’s entire life – nothing else! Change is bad.
In dry food everything is in one package, the whole matter is standardized, but still, or actually because of this, dogs who eat the food, experiences both surplus and deficit of nutrients. A Surplus or overdose of certain vitamins and minerals, cause other nutrients to not be absorbed or used properly by the body. Because of this, it is more a question of balance between nutrients, than an actual amount of them. This is missed by most professionals in nutrient related discussions.
In raw food all the ingredients used contain different nutrients and different amounts of them. Therefore the canines and felines that are on a raw diet, get an uneven but varied amount of nutrients In a natural nform from their food. This is better understood by the body and gives it the chance to regulate how much is used according to how much is needed. In other words the body enhances or reduces the absorption of nutrients according to need that is based on natural balance in the body. This mechanism is disturbed if fed chemically originated nutrients, so in my personal opinion it’s best to follow nature as far as possible and feed a diverse, raw diet!