Ditch the Kibble for a Healthier Dog


Those innocent sounding words like “meat by-products” and “meat meal” are topping the ingredient list of commercial dog foods. Sure, they have great marketing campaigns with pictures of plump chickens, salmon, and healthy vegetables, but more dollars are spent on the marketing than the actual ingredients.

What is on the bag IS NOT what is in the bag.

History of Dog Food

Let’s look at why consumers buy kibble. In the early 1900’s, dog food was considered a luxury. Dogs were generally fed scraps. Dog kibble (biscuits) existed but the product was very expensive. In 1922, the first canned dog food was produced, and it was a huge success. However, when tin and meat were rationed during World War II, manufacturers had to get inventive.

In 1956, the first dry kibble was produced through a process called extrusion.

Basically, the process of extrusion means that all the ingredients (dry and wet) are mixed and cooked under extremely high temperatures. The resulting product is dried and cut into small shapes forming the kibble. This allows manufacturers to produce large quantities of shelf-stable food (snacks, breakfast cereals, pet food, premade cookie dough, etc.).

The unfortunate part of this process is that it negatively impacts the nutrient composition of the food. Today, we understand that a bowl of cereal is not as healthy as fresh food. But we’ve been slower to come to that decision for pet food.

The power of advertising

In 1964, a group of pet food industry lobbyists banded together as the Pet Food Institute. They created marketing campaigns designed to convince consumers that kibble was the absolute best diet for their pets. The ads (combined with the convenience factor) were a huge success within the American public.

By the 1960s, these ads were so successful that most people believed kibble was the ONLY option if they wanted to keep their pet healthy.

What is really in the bag?

The ingredients can vary based on brand; however, all dog food is required to be balanced and meet the nutritional needs of the dog. That sounds reassuring but it is only the basic bare minimum nutrition for your pet.

To make matters worse, brands rely heavily on low quality ingredients to meet the requirements for important things like protein. Some use high carbohydrates or add sugars to make the food more appetizing. Some add so many preservatives, dyes, and synthetic vitamins and minerals that the food is harmful to your pet’s health.

Dog Food Labels Can Be Misleading

Most experts will tell you “read the label”. Does that really tell you much? Did you know that meat by-products and meat meal on the ingredients label do contain protein but no muscle meat?

Many pet food producers claim to be getting their ingredients from “USDA facilities”. They combine this claim with the beautiful pictures of plump chickens, roast beef, and fresh vegetables. Chances are, they are getting the waste or rejected material from these facilities – the parts that are not fit for human consumption. The carcass of a slaughtered animal, dead zoo animal, or roadkill is not deemed a suitable protein source for humans, but it is commonly used by pet food manufacturers as part of the “meat meal” in your dog’s food.

The FDA says, “Processed pet food, including pet food consisting of material from diseased animals or animals which have died otherwise than by slaughter, goes through high heat processing, which is designed to kill harmful bacteria…” (source)

Starch is an essential ingredient to form the kibble and even the varieties that claim to be “grain-free” are not “starch-free”. They simply substitute one starch for another.

What You Can Do to Nourish Your Dog

Not every pet owner has the time or inclination to cook or prepare a fresh food diet for their pet. If you do, we applaud you; however, beyond the time it takes to do this there are a few other considerations.

Homemade Dog Food

If you are feeding a homemade diet (whether raw or cooked), it needs to be complete & balanced. Without the ingredients essential to the overall health of your pet, you could end up defeating the purpose with a diet that is deficient in one or more essential nutrients.

The acceptable level of bacteria in meats you buy at a grocery store is relatively high because it is meant to be cooked. The acceptable level of bacteria in premade commercial raw foods is relatively low because it is meant to be fed raw.

Premade Dog Food

Dollar for dollar you won’t pay much more for a premade raw dog food than you would for a premium kibble but, that is where the similarity ends. A raw diet dog food (fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried) is the best you can buy to promote your dog’s health, stamina, and longevity.

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