Monday, October 26, 2009

Pet Food Must Be Manufactured

Before the 20th century, and still in many parts of the world, food was grown locally and processed at home. Food was animals, vegetables, fruits, and grain products combined in recipes and cooked in the home kitchen.

Today many families' diet consists of pre-processed and precooked foods in cardboard, plastic, and foil containers. We know that packaged processed foods are not as good nutrition as fresh foods, because a lot of nutrients are lost in processing, and added preservatives that are required for long shelf-life are not necessarily good for us.

Pet food followed the same pattern. Before the 20th century, pets ate family leftovers, hunted small animals, and scavenged for themselves. Today, nearly all pets in the developed world eat pre-processed, precooked concoctions that come in cardboard, plastic, and foil containers.

To counter the 20th century move to unhealthy processed foods, physicians and dieticians urge consumers to eat fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains -- the essential ingredients in a human omnivore diet. They advise people to eat whole, fresh foods, not highly processed products.

Pets are not so fortunate. Veterinarians promote and sell manufactured pet foods. Most vets do not recommend fresh meats and bones for their carnivore clients. Why? The short answer is that vets are taught in school that feeding processed pet foods is the only way to assure pets will receive a "100% complete and balanced" diet. The longer answer addresses how processed pet food captured the entire veterinary enterprise.

In vet school, small animal nutrition is taught as nutrient analyses of precooked, processed, bagged and canned foods. Courses on pet nutrition are often taught by pet food company representatives. You have to understand the mindset: Pet diets are always precooked and processed, manufactured foods, never fresh ingredients to be combined at home. Pet diets do not include fresh meats and bones, because pet owners cannot be trusted to learn how to feed pets a healthy diet. Vet students learn that the most nutritious foods for pets are manufactured by Mars, Nestle-Purina, and Proctor & Gamble.

Carnivore diets are amazing easy to understand. Carnivorous wolves and cats eat WHOLE PREY. Whole prey consists of muscle meat, edible bones, and organ meats. Wolves and wild cats do not cook their food, and they do not eat vegetables or grains -- just meats and meaty bones. A healthy diet for dogs and cats consists of meaty items that can be purchased at local stores, or grown at home, if you live on a farm. Whole chickens, rabbits and small game, and hunks of meaty bones from beef, pork and lamb are a complete diet for dogs and cats.

Unfortunately, no large corporations sponsor raw-meaty-bones in veterinary schools' teaching and research. Meat purveyors do not support veterinary students. No buildings or small animal professorships are endowed by meat companies. Meat producers do not underwrite veterinary continuing education and professional meetings. Pet food manufacturers contribute tens of millions of dollars annually to fund all of these things.

Further, pet food manufacturers provide practicing vets with a major source of revenue. Vet clinic shelves are piled high with manufactured pet foods. Vet clinics do not have freezers and refrigerators stuffed with whole prey.

So, vet students are taught that manufactured foods are the only safe, healthy diet for dogs and cats. Most vets advise pet owners that commercial kibbles and canned mush are the only foods pets need for their lifetimes. Vets recommend manufactured pet foods, both because they have been taught exactly that, and because a substantial portion of their incomes depends on continuing to endorse this myth.

Somehow, I suspect that many vets know that commercial, manufactured foods are not the best pet diet, but they are trapped in a system that is competely beholden to the largesse of global pet food comanies. Not only are their own incomes dependent on pet food sales, all of their professional organizations are similarly corrupted. Individual veterinarians are not equipped intellectually or economically to fight for pets' welfare. And the major animal welfare organizations are all supported by the commercial pet food juggernaut.

Pet owners are the only group who can understand and act to feed carnivorous pets a species-appropriate diet that approximates whole prey. Instead of spending billions of dollars annually to buy manufactured foods and to pay veterinarians to treat the resulting illnesses, pet owners can spend fewer dollars to buy raw-meaty-bones. The payoff for pets will be better health and longer lives.

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