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Do Vets Like Raw Meat for Dog Food?

Do Vets Like Raw Meat for Dog Food?

In a word, YES!  Over the 55 Million years of our dog's organic evolution, grain-based, dry dog food kibble at the grocery store just wasn't available.   In fact, the idea of dog 'kibble' didn't even arise until 1860 in London, England.  Your vet will tell you that your dog's whole body is built to eat meat, not grains or corn.  From all sharp, pointy teeth to hold and cut meat (like a knife and fork - no flat molars for grinding plants like a cow), to a very short intestinal track that can only process proteins, the heart of a wolf still beats in your pup.  (Did you know that the intestines of a carnivore (like your dog), are only about 6 times their body length, while a herbivore is more like 27 times their body length!?).   

Vets like raw meat dog food not just because it is GOOD for your dog, but because of how BAD kibble is for your dog.  Just do a Google search of 'worst dog food', or 'dog food recall', or even 'class action dog food', to get an idea of how bad kibble is for your pup.  All the pesticide soaked, GMO, not-fit-for-human-consumption grains are what go into your pup's dog food kibble.  Sure, you have to handle and store organic, raw meat differently; but no more so than that chicken in your fridge for tonight’s dinner.  Your pup's health will really appreciate the difference, and it probably doesn't cost any more than the daily latte from your favorite coffeeshop.  Isn't that family member worth the little extra effort?

When it comes to dog food, what does organic mean?

 Pet food manufacturer are selling more and more dog foods labeled “natural,” “human grade” and “organic,” and the industry considers them to be the hot new trend.   Let’s take a look at exactly what these words mean in connection with dog food.

The government has never bothered to define “natural” for human foods, so this word means anything the manufacturer says it does. For pet foods, however, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has a definition:

Natural: A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as may occur unavoidably in good manufacturing processes.

Clear as mud, right?  You can grind, heat, render or extrude a pet food to an unrecognizable mush, but it’s “natural” according to AAFCO if you haven’t added anything synthetic—unless your “good manufacturing process” requires you to. AAFCO also says that “natural” must not mislead and if the word appears on the label, every ingredient in the product must meet the definition. Unfortunately that is a standard that is impossible to meet.  Pet food companies typically buy vitamins, minerals and other additives from factories overseas because they are cheaper, and, where, as we learned in last year’s pet food recalls, quality controls are sometimes nonexistent.  US and European sources have strict quality controls and are a bona fide source for natural ingredients.

We do not see too many claims about human-grade ingredients on package labels, mainly because AAFCO does not have an official definition of the term, and without an approved AAFCO definition, an ingredient or term is not supposed to be used on pet food labels. AAFCO says “human-grade” is false and misleading, and constitutes misbranding, unless every ingredient in the product—and every processing method—meets FDA and USDA requirements for producing, processing and transporting foods suitable for consumption by humans, and every producer of the ingredients is licensed to perform those tasks. Few pet food companies can meet these criteria.

In spite of the above, AAFCO’s unease does not stop pet food makers from using the term, particularly because the law appears to be on their side. In 2007, a case against The Honest Kitchen led the Ohio courts to rule that the company had a constitutional right to truthful commercial free speech, and could use “human-grade” on its labels. The Honest Kitchen advertises on its website that it is “the only pet food manufacturer in the United States to have proven to the Federal FDA that every ingredient it uses in its products are suitable for human consumption.”

Only a few other companies make human-grade claims on their food labels, but many use the term freely in their in-store materials and website advertising. For example, Newman’s Own Organics presents this information in a question-and-answer format: “Q: Does Newman’s Own Organics use human grade materials? Why isn't that written on the bag? A: Newman’s Own Organics organic pet food uses human grade and fit for human consumption ingredients such as natural chicken and organic grains. The AAFCO Board … actually prohibits the printing of ‘Human Grade’ on pet food packaging.”

So what about “organic” in the context of pet food?  For human foods, “organic” has a precise meaning defined by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). To be certified as organic, plant ingredients in pet foods must be grown without pesticides, artificial fertilizers, genetic modification, irradiation or sewage sludge. Animal ingredients must come from animals raised on organic feed, given access to the outdoors, and not treated with antibiotics or hormones. Producers must be inspected to make sure they adhere to these standards. (Note: Even if they are inspected, whether the standards are good enough is a separate question- see below regarding GMO animal feed.)

In 2002, the NOP did not include pet foods in the organic rules because it could not figure out how to do so. In 2005, it appointed a pet food task force to examine the issue, and this group recommended that organic standards for humans be applied to pet foods. In discussing their recommendations, the NOP cautioned, “these requirements will present challenges for pet food manufacturers, especially sourcing non-genetically engineered ingredients.” The NOP was referring to the fact that 88% of corn, 93% of soybeans, over 50% of the alfalfa and sugar beets grown in the US are all GMO  products.   These are all commonly used in either feeding animals used in pet food manufacturing or directly used in the manufacturing.  Another very interesting fact is that there is no governmental requirement that these GMO items be labelled as GMO products.  So how does a feed lot who professes to be non-GMO actually know it’s feed it non-GMO?  The short answer is it probably doesn’t and is relying on the supplier. 

And what does the term GMO actually mean for these animal feed and pet food products?  The majority of these GMO products contain a pesticide that cannot be washed off.  Most GMO products grown in the US are “Roundup Ready” which means they will be able to withstand  spraying with Monsanto’s Roundup and grow while the weeds around it die.  Of course, whether or not the Roundup ever gets washed off the product is another question.

To date, the NOP has not yet adopted the task force recommendations and organic pet foods are in regulatory limbo, leaving AAFCO to explain how to label “organic” pet foods. AAFCO says that (1) under NOP rules, pet foods may not display the USDA organic seal or claim that they were produced according to organic standards. But (2), NOP also says labeling terms such as “100% organic,” “organic” or “made with organic ingredients” on pet foods may be truthful and do not imply organic production or certification. Therefore (3), AAFCO recommends that labeling rules for human foods apply to pet foods.

So what does this actually mean in terms of pet food? Many industry insiders, and most of the pet food manufacturers think the statements imply that nobody is going to make a fuss about organic claims on pet foods, even when some, most or even all of their ingredients are not really organic.

Following the rules for organic labeling is extremely complicated. Even so, you can go into a pet food store and easily find products that violate these standards. In fact, most of the major pet food manufacturers are actually many of their products organic when their foods may contain only a single organic ingredient. 

 At the moment while “organic” means something for human food it does not mean much for pet food. Many industry insiders believe that the USDA doesn’t think pet foods are important enough to care what is said on their labels or have the budget to enforce pet food labels vs human food labels.

So how do you really know if a pet food is organic?  We at Raw Wild can only speak for our product.  Our ingredients come from wild animals from the Rocky Mountains and have no access to any GMO feed or pesticide or insecticide sprayed feed.  They eat what they have for hundreds of thousands of years- naturally growing grasses and plants in the wilds of the American West. 

In addition, Raw Wild is made in a USDA inspected, human grade facility that only processes wild game animals so there is no danger of any cross contamination with commercially raised animals.

Feel free to contact us at your convenience through the Contact Us section of our web site.



Don’t Feed Your Dog Antlers!

Elk Antlers

Before you buy that cool looking elk or deer antler as a snack for your four-legged friend, think about why these animals have antlers.  A cow, Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep or an African rhino has a ‘horn’, which is like a glorified fingernail that they retain their whole life.  Antlers are one of the unique features that identify and distinguish the deer and elk family from animals with horns.  Each year around January, they “shed” their antlers, frequently knocking them off against trees or digging them into the ground.  Sometimes the antlers just fall off.  The process is sort of like when you were losing your baby teeth, some required fidgeting, some just fell out.  Then around April each year, they start to grow a new and bigger set of antlers for the fall rut. Those antlers are made for digging beds in the dirt and rocks, tearing at trees and principally for fighting.  The antlers need to be extra hard for the violent activities for which nature designed them.  If you want to be the dominant elk come mating season, you need the biggest, baddest, toughest set of antlers on the mountain!  They are not meant to be soft or flexible, and they are definitely not made for chewing.   Did you know that structurally antlers are harder than your dog’s teeth?   It is a romantic idea to give your dog antlers to chew, but many dogs have broken their teeth trying to chew through an antler.  It just is not a good idea. 

            Imagine a pack of wolves bringing down an elk in the forest.  Do they start dinner by chewing on the antlers?  Of course not!  The meat is always the number one target.  The meat represents pure protein and is easily eaten and digested.  After the meat is gone they might move on to the extra work of breaking the soft bones to get at the marrow.  Only in dire circumstances would a wolf try to eat antlers.  It is a tremendous amount of work to break down antlers, there is little there but calcium and a wolf can’t risk breaking its teeth on them.  Antlers are just too hard, and broken teeth for a wolf can be a death knell.  In nature, antlers are not what wolves eat and nor should your dog. 

            So what happens to all those old antlers, do they simply litter the forest floor?  Today, lots of people hunt for the antlers that elk shed each year as both a recreational activity and for profit.  Antler sheds are used for making coat racks, chandeliers, and other furniture.  In nature, the shed antlers become a high calcium feast for forest floor scavengers like porcupines and other rodents that can’t kill the large prey.   Those forest floor scavengers have the special teeth for gnawing on old antlers.  Even these scavengers don’t actually ‘chew’ on the antlers to break them, but slowly gnaw or scrap them for the calcium.  Those antlers missed by the scavengers will eventually decompose into the ground providing nutrients to the surrounding soil.  Just like you shouldn’t open a beer bottle with your teeth because the cap is too strong, your pup shouldn’t chew on antlers.

            For a minute, let’s set aside the logic of how nature works and instead look at the science.  The Moh’s Hardness Scale is the standard used for measuring the hardness of all sorts of things. For example, your fingernails rate a 2 on the Moh’s Scale.  Pure gold also rates a 2, and if you have ever been fortunate enough to have any pure 24 karat gold, you have noticed how easy it is to mark.  That is why rings are made of 10, 12, and 14 karat gold, to add strengthening metals.   

            Your dog’s teeth, just like your teeth, are made up of multiple layers and are hollow for the root.  Each layer of the tooth has a different hardness and serves a different purpose.  The Dentin in teeth rates between 3 and 4 on the Moh’s Scale.  This is about as hard as limestone.  The outer veneer of tooth enamel, however, rates even higher, at a 5 on the Moh’s Scale.  That is as strong as iron, but unfortunately, your teeth only have a thin coat of enamel.  The bulk of a dog’s tooth contains Apatite which also rates a 5.  An antler rates a 5 on the Moh’s Scale as well, but it is a solid mass with no layers and no hollow for a root.  By way of comparison, a copper penny only rates a 4 on the Moh’s Scale.  Even though your teeth contain materials that rate a 5, you would never consider chewing on a penny, would you?

            Now I did mention that wolves do break the bones of prey to get at the marrow.  And both raw bone and antler are made of the same materials, but they are structured differently and function differently.  Growing antlers are covered on the outside in velvet that is a dense network of blood vessels to feed a frenzied growth rate of only about 150 days.  At that point the blood flow stops, the velvet starts to fall off and the solid antlers harden into the elk’s primary defensive and offensive weapon.  On the other hand, raw bone is always moist, hollow, filled with marrow, and meant to be flexible to absorb a fall or other impact.  Never serve your dog cooked bones.  The cooking not only hardens the bone to the point they can break teeth but the calcium in the bone changes structure when it is cooked.  It becomes linear and very brittle.  That is why cooked bones splinter and can cause a dog to choke or die of internal damages caused by the ingested splinters.  

            So what natural, organic treat can you give your pup to eat?  Raw bones from your butcher are great for your dog.  They are soft and still contain marrow, which is not only a healthy snack but an absolute treat for any canine.  Most grocery stores are now selling them in the meat displays, or your butcher can cut some up for you upon request.  Have them cut in at least four to six-inch sections, so your pup isn’t tempted to try and swallow it whole and choke.  You can also have the bones cut length-wise to speed your pup getting to the marrow.  But be warned, this is not a carpet-fit treat.  Try it though; your pup will.