Raw Feeding vs Kibble - Balance Schmalance
13 CommentsThursday, 27 July 2017 | Kate
Over the past few weeks raw feeding has taken a real pasting. On TV, in the press, everyone has an opinion (including me, natch,) and I’ve learned to let most of it wash over me for the ill informed claptrap that it is. But one word which we keep getting bashed over the head with (with all the subtlety of Bugs Bunny wielding a cartoon hammer and creeping up on an unsuspecting Elmer Fudd) is ‘balance’.
Experts have been lecturing me about how crucial it is to feed a balanced diet to a dog, and I couldn’t agree with them more. Until the same hackneyed answer on how attain this balance - to feed a processed dog food, probably a kibble, forever, with no deviation, until your dog’s (or cat’s) dying day - issues forth and I’m back to throwing stuff at whichever piece of technology is spewing the information out at me.
Well no. I’m just not having it.
Granted there are some good wet pet foods out there, you could even argue a couple of dried foods (high meat, low carb content, no added rubbish) may even make the grade but to me these are occasional things. Convenience, treats, like a takeaway on a Saturday night. They do not form the lifelong bedrock of my dog’s diet.
To understand why this bilge keeps rearing it’s mangy little head let’s look at how it happens in the first place.
The Expert’s Dilemma
I understand why the experts talk the way they do. No 1: their background is more than likely in the pet food or veterinary industry and their nutritional knowledge has been underpinned by kibble, the dried dog food which has been the mainstay of the commercial pet food market now for decades. No 2: no one wants to go on television in an expert capacity and start talking about anecdotal evidence. It matters not that dogs are throwing off the shackles of poor health and long term medication regimes simply by changing from kibble to raw feeding, if it won’t stand up in court no one’s going to stick their neck out and say it.
The Editor’s Dilemma
While the results of changing from kibble to raw are out there for all to see: better health, weight loss, coming off long term medication, a longer lifespan, it’s very hard for the editor of a programme, newspaper or newsite to put anyone with that opinion up on screen. Because the peer reviewed evidence just isn’t there to back it up. So no matter what you think of the presenter or expert remember that Editorial Policy, or the broadcaster’s legal team is in the background giving the final say so.
The only people you will ever hear speaking about raw feeding, unless you’re really lucky, in a media capacity will be dog owners themselves.
The Well Trodden Path
So the experts and editors rely on peer reviewed evidence, which they then interpret. The problem is that any peer reviewed evidence will result from a funded study, often commissioned by a large pet food company. Studies cost a lot of money, and we should definitely be asking questions about safety, efficacy and nutrition so more power to their elbow. But because they cost small fortune from a business perspective you’re only going to commission a study or piece of research if your cost/benefit analysis stacks up. I.e. ‘If I can test X I’ll hopefully prove Y so it’s worth the £500k outlay for the return in profits (Z) because I can state it in my marketing’ Total business sense. But many food producers simply cannot do this.
So what you’re left with is a pet food made to a specification laid down in guidelines generated from peer reviewed research which everyone can get behind.
But because of the way kibble is made you can’t attain that ‘completeness’ using food alone.
Except it isn’t.
Garbage In Garbage Out
So you end up with a dog suffering from a yeasty gut, plagued with smelly ears, itchy skin and general misery because this food was manufactured under a set of guidelines laid down with the intention of making sure every dog gets the nutrition they need based on the assumption that this is the only food you will ever feed your dog.
I am exhausted with it all. This is not balance. And this message of ‘feed your dog a processed dog food’ might as well finish with ‘or else!’ Or else your dog will suffer, he won’t be getting the right nutrition because, frankly you can’t be trusted to work it out for yourself.
The Missing Ingredients
And another thing! That daily bowl of kibbley ‘goodness’ is sorely lacking in the other essentials of life: There is no joy, no enjoyment and no love in there. No texture or taste sensations, no anticipation or satisfaction. Just a joyless, loveless, predictable, barren wasteland of brown, shapeless biscuits. It’s enough to make a dog slink off into a corner for a good cry.
Feeding Raw Is Balanced
Anyhow, if you want to feed a complete raw food you can, you don’t have to go DIY, no one’s demanding you knit your own yoghurt or anything. It’s a cinch to swap over and retain that ‘balance’ everyone’s blathering on about like it’s as elusive as the ark of the covenant in Indiana Jones.
If you want to go raw buy it already made. Because the likes of Natural Instinct and Natures Menu are obliged to follow the same guidelines as any other pet food manufacturer; the food must be complete and balanced. Only raw food producers don’t have to add nutrition in after cooking because there isn’t any cooking to destroy it in the first place. All the vitamins, minerals, trace elements and amino acids found naturally in chicken, venison, tripe, blueberries and seaweed are all present and correct, in a far more stable and available form for your dog or cat.
Their body understands what’s coming down the chute and can utilise it far better. Not only that but the carbohydrate content is minimal by comparison so your pet is getting what he or she needs.
When it comes to cat food, in processed food taurine has to be added by law because cats can’t produce it themselves in the way we or our dogs can, they must retrieve it from meat. The EU standard is 0.9g per 100g of dry matter. Natural Instinct’s standard is 1.25g, over 30% higher so they don’t have to add any of that either (except in Country Banquet Fish), it’s there, naturally occurring, quietly going about it’s business.
So yes, the experts are correct, balance does matter but overprocessed dog food is not the answer. Variety is the key. Feed different meats, fish, veg and fruit. Chuck in some bone, go crazy and add sweet potato (you know you want to) and watch the pounds fall off your overweight dog, their eyes brighten and their skin cease to itch. Think of it as like giving up smoking. For every vet bill you save on put some money in the pot. Every time their medication gets reduced a little more chuck in another fiver. In six months time book yourself a cheeky weekend away with the money you’ve saved. The dog won’t mind, he’ll be too busy admiring his sleek new profile to notice you’ve absconded.
Because you’re all worth it.