Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Meat Producers as Allies for Healthy Pet Diets

Yesterday I took a field trip to one of two meat processing plants on this island, the one that sends me rmb. It's a hour and a half drive across the island to another world. The Hamakua coast was sugar cane land, before sugar companies went broke. Now it's largely vacant or cattle-grazing land.

Hawaii Beef Producers is a fourth generation Portuguese family business, now run by a dynamic woman, Jill Mattos. When I arrived, I met Jill, who introduced me to the resident USDA Dept. of Agriculture meat inspector and the production manager. We talked at some length about the benefits of raw-meaty-bones for cats and dogs, and all agreed that promoting rmb for pets was essential to their health and an important educational mission. Jill said her lifelong, rmb-fed 17-year old Labrador retriever is healthy, except for one arthritic hip and being deaf, but otherwise she is fine. Plant manager has a mixed breed who eats all rmb. Inspector agreed pets should be fed rmb. So we started with unanimous agreement about the wisdom and benefits of feeding pets rmb.

Discussion then turned to how the HBP plant can produce pet foods. I was amazed at the quick responses of the USDA inspector to proposals to use many parts of the cattle that are now put in the landfill! Jill told me earlier that about HALF of the cow ends up in the local landfill -- a huge waste. USDA inspector told the production manager that he can write a one-page protocol to cover all the additional parts to be inspected as pet food. Inspector said he will inspect them and clear them as a group. Plant manager and owner immediately agreed to write the protocol that day.

From their point of view, this is a huge win, because instead of paying to dispose of unusable waste, they can now sell some of these parts to pet owners. Next week, they will be sending me samples of trachea, esophagus, lips, spleen, and other yet-to-be-named parts for pet consumption, which they promise to sell at "a great price"! From a negative 50% of the cow to any positive % is a double benefit to their bottom line.

I also learned that one local grocery store in Hilo buys 10 cases of beef neck bones a week for pets. I saw the neck bones in production, and they have a lot of meat on them, so they looked good. I will get some next week. HBP also have a number of buyers who are packaging raw meats and meaty bones to resell to pet owners. In an earlier conversation with the other meat producer on the island, I learned that they sell all the pet food cuts they can produce and have buyers waiting. I suspect there are a lot pet owners out there quietly feeding rmb against all veterinary advice, because they are using good common sense.

Jill invited me to participate at their booth at a big September event, Taste of the Range, an annual culinary celebration of Hawaii meat products. The resorts' best chefs team with meat producers to cook up gourmet dishes, and residents and visitors feast. We will write and distribute a glossy handout to promote rmb for pets. Perhaps, our local experience will be useful to other rmb supporters in other places. Just the fact that a meat producer wants to support rmb for pets is a small victory.

I think we should consider how to get meat producers on our side. American beef producers are a powerful lobby. Same is probably true for pork, poultry, and sheep processors. If my local experience is representative, these guys are losing a lot of money from USDA rules against using many animal parts for human food. Their waste must go to rendering plants on the mainland, but wouldn't it be much more profitable for them to sell fresh raw meaty parts to pet owners? Potentially, meat lobbies will strongly support feeding pets rmb. Has anyone tried to recruit their support, to change meat inspection rules, to market rmb pet foods from waste parts?

Has anyone pointed out to meat producers how their products are being misrepresented in dry pet foods? Those "super-Premium" bags of kibble
that list meat as the first product actually contain a tiny percentage of meat after high-temperature processing. Kibbles are cooked starches masquerading as meaty pet foods. Meat producers may take umbrage at such violence to their good names.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vet School Deficiencies, or Why Not To Trust Your Vet's Advice on Feeding Your Pets

To earn a DVM degree in the US, students complete four years of training at one of 27 accredited veterinary schools. The four-year curriculum focuses on treatment of illnesses in large farm and small pet animals and some exotic species. Courses are organized around diseases and their treatments. Little attention is given to normal development or healthy feeding, topics of great importance to pet owners. Why ?

Veterinary Medicine in History
Historically, veterinary medicine had an important role in the economy by keeping transport and food animals healthy. Think back to centuries before the Industrial Revolution (mid-19th century) when animals powered plows and millstones, and before trucks and automobiles (early 20th century) carried goods and people. Horses, mules, and oxen carried loads, plowed fields, and transported people from one place to another. Keeping stables of work animals healthy had enormous economic importance. Control of epidemics, vaccination, inspecting animal feed, and the like were the backbone of veterinary practice.

Cattle, sheep, chickens, and pigs fed the population, and their health was extremely important. Food animals were raised on millions of small farms where animals needed veterinary attention. Wealthy people kept packs of hunting dogs and household pets, which required veterinary care, but this was a minor part of veterinary practice before mid-20th century. Ordinary people kept cats and small dogs for rodent control, but they were not household pets and unlikely to receive veterinary care.

Today, engineers and mechanics keep industrial machinery and transport vehicles in shape. Food animals have been taken off farms and into feed lots and industrial sheds for intensive, mechanized feeding. Veterinarians certify what others design and operate.

Veterinary and Human Medicine Evolve
The evolution of veterinary medicine is similar to the evolution of human medicine. The big issues in human health are clean drinking water, waste disposal, and control of epidemics. Once these public health problems were resolved in developed nations, human medicine became largely the treatment of individuals' diseases and illnesses. Because people value their individual health, human medicine has continuing economic value. Veterinarians' work changed from economically vital control of epidemics and assuring the health of work and food animals to marginally useful treatment of illnesses in individual household pets.

Contemporary veterinary curricula are similar to medical school curricula. Both focus on treatment of illnesses, not on maintenance of health. Little to no attention is given to normal species development, evolutionary biology, or optimal nutrition. The implication of this focus on illness, and not on species-normal development and health, is a lack of knowledge of how to feed and raise healthy pet animals. By failing to understand the evolution of pet animals, veterinarians are woefully ignorant about appropriate feeding. That the feeding advice they do give makes animals chronically ill goes unnoticed.

In the human health system, physicians are paid to treat illnesses and conditions that require intervention. In general, other professionals advise on healthy diets, normal child development, physical training, and so forth. In veterinary medicine, veterinarians are expected to cover all matters pertaining to animal health and illnesses. Today, they are paid largely to treat illnesses and conditions that require intervention. Thus, there is a huge gap in promoting healthy animal care that veterinarians are not educated to fill and no other professionals fill.

Let's look at one vet school's 4-year currculum. In their tri-mester system, vet students take 15 credits per term or 45 credits per year. Over 4 years, they take 180 course credits to earn the DVM degree. Nine credits in the third and fourth years are electives, chosen from a list of optional courses, which allow vet students to "specialize" on diseases of and treatments for large or small animals, marine animals, or exotic birds.

Among these electives is a one-credit, one tri-mester course on small animal nutrition. This course is taught by a pet food company representative at no charge to the veterinary college. Needless to say, the course focuses on commercial pet foods for "healthy" pets and commercial prescription diets for sick pets.

Vet students are not exposed to information about the evolution of carnivorous dogs and cats or to species-appropriate diets for carnivorous pets. No wonder they know nothing about feeding a raw-meaty-bones diet. They are taught about bacteria and digestive illnesses, not about how to keep a carnivorous pet healthy or how to make a sick pet well by feeding a rmb diet.

Your vet is unlikely to know that dogs are a sub-species of gray wolf, with a wolf digestive system. Wolves eat whole prey -- meat, organs, and small bones. This is the rmb diet dogs need to develop well, to keep teeth clean, and to live healthy lives. Vets know that cats are "obligate carnivores", which they interpret to mean that cats need more proteins and fats in their processed diets than dogs allegedly do. They fail to see that cats need a whole prey, rmb diet, not higher percentages of questionable nutrients in processed foods. Cats fed dry kibble, high carbohydrate diets are even more likely to become chronically ill, earlier in their lives, than dogs are.

Unfortunately, your vet is ill-prepared to advise you on any matters pertaining to diet and health, because their education omitted those topics or handed them over to commercial pet food companies. That's the bottom line.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Veterinarians' Warnings About RMB

Feeding carnivorous pets the raw meaty bones (rmb) they evolved to eat may not seem difficult, and it is not hard in practice, but there are barriers to adopting rmb. The most difficult obstacle most pet owners face is their veterinarian's warning that feeding raw meaty bones is dangerous for their pets.

Vets are trusted professionals that owners need to inoculate, treat injuries, and prescribe medications for their pets. If owners ask about, or confess they feed, raw-meaty-bones, many vets launch into a diatribe about (1) pets' need for a "100% complete and balanced" processed food and (2) the dangers of feeding pets raw meats and meaty bones. The disadvantages of processed food diets are dealt with in other blogs. Here I focus on vets' warnings about rmb.

Veterinarians' warnings come in five categories: Bacteria, Bone Splinters, Broken Teeth, Choking, and No Research to Prove RMB is Superior to Processed Foods. For more thorough treatment of Myths about Raw Feeding, go to www.rawfed.com/myths.

Bacteria

Let's assume the raw meaty bones you feed your pets are purchased at the grocery store or butcher that supplies the meats you eat and feed your family. Raw meats and poultry intended for human use often carry some bacteria, in small enough qualtities to pass USDA inspection but enough to colonize and multiply if given the right conditions. Bacteria are especially common on commercially raised chickens and in ground meats.

Humans generally cook meats before eating, which destroys most bacteria. Government warnings tell you to store meats at cool temperature, to handle raw meats with care, and to cook meats throughly to prevent bacterial illnesses. These cautions apply especially to commercially raised poultry and ground meats.

Human digestive tracts are long and convoluted, allowing time for bacteria to multiply and potentially cause digestive problems, or worse. People with healthy immune systems are unlikely to get ill from food-borne bacteria unless the bacterial load is enormous. People with compromised immune systems must be more cafeful about how they prepare foods.

Dogs, by contrast to humans, have shorter digestive tracts and greater acid concentrations in their gastric system, both of which allow healthy animals to consume safely even raw meats with large bacterial loads. Think of how many bacteria would be found on a 3-day old meaty bone, carefully buried and reclaimed by your beloved dog. I don't advise feeding rotting meat, but dogs often choose to scavenge ripe meats, just as their wolf brothers do. Dogs' stomachs have a high concentration of acids that allows them to digest bones. Most bacteria do not survive these acid concentrations.

Wolves/dogs digest foods and pass through excrement in a few hours. This rapid digestive system does not allow bacteria time to colonize and multiply. As long as dogs have healthy immune systems, they can process raw meats in any form they find them. Dogs with compromised immune systems should be protected from bacterial contamination. The human-grade meats and poultry you purchase at the grocery store are unlikely to challenge dogs' digestive systems.

Cats eat fresh meats only. They are usually quite picky about the condition of their food. Cats that eat rmb are very unlikely to get sick from bacteria. Their short digestive tracts, highly acid stomachs, and picky eating all protect them from bacterial problems.

Bottom line: Bacterial loads that could be a problem for pet owners are unlikely to pose a threat to dogs and cats. Owners should store meats properly, wash their hands after handling raw meats, and clean meat cutting surfaces with anti-bacterial solutions (10% bleach is a good one) to protect their own health, not their pets'.

Bone Splinters

Pets consume bones as part of the rmb diet. Bones provide the minerals dogs and cat need for strong bones and healthy organ systems. Consumable bones, such as chickens, rabbits, and small prey, are chewed up and digested. Harder bones from larger prey (sheep, goats, pigs, cattle) are gnawed and scaped, and some bones partially consumed (such as ribs). Most bones from large animals are not eaten, but the meat is gnawed off, thereby cleaning predators' teeth.

RAW BONES DO NOT SPLINTER. COOKED BONES SPLINTER. Most vets who claim to have extracted bone fragments from pets do not know that the bones consumed were cooked. Prohibitions against feeding chicken bones come entirely from cooked chicken bones. Cooked chicken bones, thrown carelessly to family pets after dinner, can indeed result in bone fragments caught in pets' throats and intestines. Raw chicken bones are crunched up and digested without problem.

Most extractions that vets perform come from pets' ingestion of inedibles, such as balls, sticks, and toy parts. Yet, they warn constantly against giving pets raw meaty bones, which pose little to no hazard to pets and provide the enormous benefit of cleaning their teeth and keeping their mouths disease-free.

Broken Teeth

Weight-bearing bones of large prey can be a hazard to pets' teeth. So-called recreational bones, with little or no meat attached, should not be given to vigorous chewers, because they can chomp so hard they crack or break teeth. Large bones with a lot of meat attached do not pose that risk, because the animal focuses on gnawing meat off the bone, not on chomping down on the bone. Hard bones should be removed promptly after the meat is gone.

Bones in chickens, rabbits, fish, and small game pose no risk to teeth. These bones are chewed, swallowed, and digested. Ribs and smaller bones from large animals are not a threat, because they are not so hard as femurs and are partially edible. Most rmb is fed with edible or partially edible bones that do not break pets' teeth. With so much edible bone available, there is little reason to provide hard, inedible bones to pets.

Choking

Pets need to chew their food, both to keep teeth clean and to get digestive juices mobilized for digestion. When pieces of rmb are too small, pets may try to swallow them whole, which can cause choking.

Obviously, the right size for hunks of meat and meaty bones depends on the size of the pet and how voracious an eater he is. Toy dogs and cats can be safely fed small pieces, such as chicken necks, wings, and drumsticks. Larger pets need larger pieces, such as chicken quarters, halves, and whole chickens. The principle is to feed rmb in hunks or whole prey large enough that the pet must chew it before swallowing.

Adult dogs, who have gulped down kibble, may try to gulp down rmb. It is important to give them hunks of rmb they have to chew and cannot swallow whole. Once they experience the joy of gnawing meat off bones and chewing up large hunks of meat, most will cease gulping their food. Puppies raised on rmb seldom have a problem with choking, because they are experienced chewers.

Most choking problems that vets see involve inedibles the pet has tried to consume, such as tennis balls, shoes, and sticks.

No Research to Prove RMB is Superior to Processed Foods

Veterinarians have been taught that there is no scientific research to prove that raw-meaty-bones is a better diet than processed pet foods. Some of them probably believe it. Indeed, studies that compare raw meaty bones diets to processed pet foods are rare and old. One might think that such a important issue would garner a lot of research support, and answers would be forthcoming. Unfortunately, that is not a reality in the conspiratorial world of veterinary research.

Pet food companies sponsor or hire most veterinary research. Their commercial interests would not be served by sponsoring research that compares their cooked starchy kibbles with species appropriate raw feeding. Pet food companies already know that raw-meaty-bones is a superior diet to any they can cook up.

So, they sponsor research on minute biochemical assays and physiological responses that are as distant from dietary comparisons as possible. Faculty researchers get the publications they need for advancement, and pet food company get the thanks -- a transaction that continues to protect commercial pet foods from the searing criticisms they deserve.

Veterinary investigators know that a study of comparative diets would benefit pets and their owners, but if they conducted a scientifically credible study, they would lose support from pet food companies that are significant benefactors of vet schools, vet students, vet conferences, research seminars, and professional meetings. It is difficult to communicate how corrupt the veterinary establishment is, until you have looked into their world.

It is true that there are no well-designed and executed studies that compare raw-meaty-bones to processed pet food diets. But one does not have to look far to find plenty of evidence to support rmb. First, contemporary genetics tells us that dogs are a suspecies of gray wolves and share the same digestive system. Wolves eat whole prey -- meat, organs, and meaty bones. That diet has sustained them through thousands of years of evolution. Similarly, cats are close relatives of desert wild cats who subsist entirely on whole prey.

Second, tens of thousands of pet owners testify online and in print about the amazing improvements they observe in pets' health when they switched from commercial pet foods to rmb. Although a few testimonials do not constitute scientific evidence, findings from many thousands of pet owners and a few renegade veterinarians do constitute strong presumptive proof of the value of rmb.

Third, the damage done by commercial pet foods to dental health is incontrovertable. The American Veterinary Dental Association reports that by 3 years of age, 85% of dogs and 75% of cats have gum disease serious enough to require professional treatment. Untreated periodontal disease sends bacteria into the blood stream, carrying disease to all the major organs. Pets' immune systems are overwhelmed by chronically infected mouths. Veterinarians see and smell pets' foul mouths every day in their practices; they know how serious the problem is. No one denies this epidemic of infected gums and later chronic diseases results from feeding pets starchy, commercial pet foods.

Vets see pets fed rmb with universally clean teeth, healthy gums, and strong immune systems. They don't see rmb-fed pets often, because they don't get sick often. When vets do see healthy older pets with perfect teeth, they still express concern about the hazards of feeding pets rmb. What could be more hazardous to pets' health than chronic infections and diseases from kibbles and cans?

Finally, good common sense tell us that a species appropriate diet has to be better than a commercially processed one. Physicians tell their patients to eat fresh foods, not to eat McDonald's burgers and fries at every meal. For human omnivores, fresh meats, fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains constitute a healthy diet. For carnivores, whole prey -- meats, organs, and meaty bones -- constitute a healthy diet. Wolves and wild cats do not eat starches or cooked foods. They eat raw-meaty-bones.

We really do know how to feed ourselves and our pets appropriate, healthy diets, even if we do not always follow these principles. Veterinarians and pet food companies also know what constitutes a healthy diet for pets. Eventually, veterinarians will be called to task for promoting and selling commercial pet foods that destroy pets' health.

Kibbles Are Starches that Destroy Pets' Health

We've seen them on TV and in countless print advertisements. Cute pictures show raw meats and fresh vegetables pouring into colorful bags of kibble that claim the products are "natural", "fresh", "wholesome", "meaty", and so forth. The truth is quite different.

Ingredients listed on bags of kibble are extremely deceptive, and purposely so. Pet food manufacturers are allowed to list ingredients in the order of their weights, prior to processing. High-temperature cooking that is required to produce kibble radically changes the proportions of those ingredients.

So-called "Premium" and "Super-Premium" kibbles list meat as the first ingredient, leading consumers to believe that meat is the largest percentage of the product. That conclusion is false. Raw meats contain 75 - 80% water. When cooked in kibble, meats are reduced to vanishing small percentages of the final product. Grains and other starches are the predominant ingredients of all kibbles.

Here is the explantion of this scam from the Food & Drug Administration, which administers federal labeling requirements for pet foods:

"Ingredient List: All ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight. The weights of ingredients are determined as they are added in the formulation, including their inherent water content (emphasis added). This latter fact is important when evaluating relative quantity claims, especially when ingredients of different moisture contents are compared.

"For example, one pet food may list "meat" as its first ingredient, and "corn" as its second. The manufacturer doesn't hesitate to point out that its competitor lists "corn" first ("meat meal" is second), suggesting the competitor's product has less animal-source protein than its own. However, meat is very high in moisture (approximately 75% water). On the other hand, water and fat are removed from meat meal, so it is only 10% moisture (what's left is mostly protein and minerals). If we could compare both products on a dry matter basis (mathematically "remove" the water from both ingredients), one could see that the second product had more animal-source protein from meat meal than the first product had from meat, even
though the ingredient list suggests otherwise."

The FDA tells pet owners how to calculate the meat percentages of dry and canned pet foods (http://www.fda.gov/cvm/petlabel.htm). The only useful conclusion, however, is that pet foods that list meats as the first products have tiny percentages of meats in the final products, after 75% of the meat's initial weight (water) is removed.

Conscientious pet owners pay huge amounts for "super-premium" pet foods because they believe they contain healthier ingredients. Pet owners are not told the better ingredients are reduced to ash in the high-temperature cooking process kibble requires. To make kibble sustain life at all, manufacturers have to spray the cooked product with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients after cooking, because cooking destroys many nutrients the ingredients had before cooking.

How can pet food manufacturers advertise their kibbles as healthy diets for cats and dogs? Simply stated, government regulators allow pet food manufacturers to deceive pet owners into believing the kibbles they feed their cats and dogs are healthy, "100% balanced and complete" diets. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Kibble pet foods are primarily STARCHES, sugary starches that are required to hold kibble shapes together. So what's wrong with feeding cats and dogs a food that is primarily starches? Everything is wrong with a starchy diet for carnivorous pets.

Hear what a pet food manufacturer says about his own and others manufacturers' kibble products. Randy Wysong, DVM, founded Wysong Pet Foods more than 30 years ago. Wysong produces both dehydrated meat products (he calls True Non-Thermal or TNT) and ordinary kibbles. Dr. Wysong knows what's wrong with feeding dogs and cats processed foods, especially kibbles. He states in Truth 34: The Starch Question:

"Although farmed starches (grains and tubers) represent a predominant part of modern processed pet foods, they are not really a natural food. That’s because they are too difficult to digest or are toxic in their raw state. As a steady part of the diet, starches which are really polysugars predispose pets to a variety of diseases including diabetes, dental disease, obesity, arthritis, and more. So why are they present in pet foods at all?

"There is a widely held belief that starches are merely used as cheap fillers. Although this may be true for some manufacturers, there is another reason they must be used. To create a shelf stable dry kibble, starch is necessary for cohesion, shaping, and efficient drying. Thus some starch is essential. "

"The only way to evade starches is with canning or, better yet, new TNT™ (true non-thermal) processing technology (NOTE: a dehydration process). But rather than expend the effort and cost of such processing, most manufacturers simply try to deceive consumers into believing their foods do not contain starches, when they in fact do. The “no grain,” “no corn,” “no wheat,” and the like marketing slogans are examples of such deception. When scrutinized closely, such foods are found to have starch just like all others, but in the form of potato, rice, tapioca, or the like. "


Dr. Wysong knows that his own and all other manufacturers' claims of wholesome nutrition in bags of kibble are baldface lies. They know their kibble products are unhealthy for cats and dogs. Don't be deceived; pet food manufacturers KNOW their foods make pets chronically ill.

That pet food manufacturers are allowed to deceive pet owners to believe they are feeding beloved pets a healthy diet is a disastrous failure of government regulation. Government regulation of pet foods is a myth, because manufacturers and their paid consultants run the regulatory process. Scratch a regulatory panel and you will find professors with pet food grants and paid consultants to pet food makers.

Pet owners should be outraged about health-destroying kibble diets, and they would be if they understood the diets carnivorous pets need and why contemporary processed foods are creating so much illness. Unfortunately, government consultants, veterinary schools, and practicing vets are all part of the problem. They all profit from the deception.

Pet owners are victims of a multi-billion dollar, global scheme that lines the pockets of huge corporations and their allies. The primary victims are tens of millions of pets, who suffer rotten teeth, infected gums, and chronic disorders from their ordinary, "premium" and "super-premium" kibble diets. It doesn't matter how much you pay, it's still kibble -- sugary starches that will predispose your beloved pet to periodontal disease and a lifetime of chronic illness.

The solution: Feed cats and dogs the whole prey diet they evolved to eat and that will keep them healthy. For the average pet owner, that means raw meats and meaty bones.