Friday, November 27, 2009

Adding Up Ingredients in Pet Food

You probably know that ingredients in pet food must be listed on the label, in descending order of weight.  That's weight before processing.  In another blog entry, I talked about how moisture-laden meats, often listed first on the label, virtually disappear in kibble, because they are 3/4 water that is removed in processing.  Dry starches keep their original volume after processing, because they were dry to start.

Recently, I learned about another deceptive practice in pet food labeling: Divide and Conceal. In the revealing pet food video I cited in an earlier blog, Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM cooks up a typical kibble to show how processing works.  She adds three kinds of corn to the mix.  Corn meal, corn gluten, and corn hulls are listed on pet food labels as separate ingredients.  None is the first or second ingredient on the list.  If you add up all the CORN that goes into the mix, however, corn outweighs all other products in the kibble.

Pet owners reading the label on Dr. Hodgkins' home-made kibble would be led to believe that meat meal is the primary ingredient.  Meat meals are dried before being added, so that, unlike fresh meats, meat meals do not lose 75% of their volume in processing.  Even so, the sum of three kinds of corn far outweigh the meat meal.

Now think about the kibble label that list chicken as the first ingredient, followed by corn meal, corn gluten,and corn hulls.  75% of the chicken is lost in cooking.  What's left is a tiny amount of chicken in a corn nugget. 

Real kibble is even worse than Dr. Hodgkins' demonstration product.  Not only may there be three kinds of corn in the kibble, but more than one kind of another starch  -- wheat, barley, potato, tapioca, etc.  If you add up all the starches in cooked kibble, it's no wonder that proteins and fats comprise less than 30% of the final product.  Still worse for carnivorous pets, the proteins and fats may not all come from animal sources. Vegetable proteins and fat do not have the same nutritional value for carnivorous pets as animal proteins and fats, but for label regulators, protein is protein, fat is fat.  Not so!

To summarize, the pet food label that says the first, primary ingredient in kibble is beef or chicken probably has a tiny percentage of meat in the final product.  Add up all the starches to figure out what's really in the bag.

This thought brings me to a confession.  I changed veterinarians when my old one told me never to mention raw-meaty-bones in her clinic, that I was endangering my pets and not giving them appropriate nutrition.  I interviewed a new veterinarian about his views on feeding.  Although he does not support raw feeding, he said, he was not totally against my feeding raw-meaty-bones, because I seemed to know what I was doing.  I accepted this truce as the best deal I could get among local vets and moved my many pets to his practice.

A year later, the vet and I had a heated argument about dog food, because he told one of my puppy buyers to switch from a raw-meaty-bones diet to Hill's Science Diet, which he sells.  I was furious.  I told him the puppy had the best possible diet, and he told these naive, new dog owners to abandon it.  He countered that puppies only need 24% protein in their food and a lot of other nutrients not provided by raw meat alone. I told him that's why we call it raw-meaty-BONES, because raw meat and BONES provide all the minerals and vitamins dogs need.

Raw-Meaty-Bones is a convenient equivalent of whole prey, which dogs evolved to eat as a complete diet.  I appealed to his knowledge of wolves but got the vet-party line that dogs are not wolves but omnivores.  Omnivorous dogs, he said, need grains and vegetables as well as proteins and fats for a complete and balanced diet.  I told him the claim that dogs are omnivores is counter-factual (e.g., a lie), because research in the last decade has proved that dogs are a subspecies of gray wolves and share 99.8% of their genes with wolves.  He looked at me blankly and said, no, dogs are omnivores.

He told me I waste money feeding dogs a diet that is more than 24% protein.   I am foolish to waste money on meats and bones when dogs can be fed 24% protein in kibble, with a lot of cheap "fillers".  He reiterated that puppies need only 24% protein in their food, and the rest is "filler".  Rather than argue about the need for animal fats, as well as proteins, I took a different tack.  "If I fed a diet that was 48% protein, would I feed only half as much?", I asked.  "If the rest is just "filler", why feed it?"  He backpedaled and said, well, no, there are essential fats and carbohydrates, too, and reiterated that a raw-meaty-bones diet is not complete and balanced.  I asked him, "What could be more complete and balanced than the whole prey diet dogs evolved to eat?"  He said he didn't have time for this useless argument, had patients to see, so we terminated the discussion, and I terminated this vet. 

Losing a client with 14 dogs and a cat is not a trivial financial loss for a new vet practice, especially when I include the 30 or so puppies I bring annually to be examined and inoculated.  This poor vet was giving me the party line on dog food.  He told me what he had been trained to believe.  Even when it did not make sense, he had no other information to call upon.  The term, brainwashing, comes to mind.  All he ever knew about evolution and the natural world was erased by pet nutrition training in vet school.

For a few moments, my friends and I thought we'd run out of local vets, but a new mobile vet came to Kona.  This vet retired from a practice on the mainland to live in Hawaii and open a house-call practice.  This vet is  open to new ideas, because he was trained in India.  He didn't get the full brainwashing by pet-food companies that vets trained in developed countries do.  Pet-food giants are just beginning to penetrate markets in developing countries, and, as their history predicts, will be penetrating their veterinary schools.  They just haven't got there yet.

At first, he worried about bacteria and bone fragments, but after reading Tom Lonsdale's books and articles, he became "98% convinced" that raw-meaty-bones is the best diet.  My older dogs' healthy mouths also impressed him.  Here, at last, I found a vet with a working brain.  And, he makes house calls!  It's heaven!

 My Indian-trained veterinarian has followed the raw-meaty-bones trail to look at commercial pet foods in a new light.  He exclaims over listed ingredients and tells me they lie.  He reports on cases he sees where foul mouths and chronic diseases can be cured with a raw-meaty-bones diet.  He gets it! 

It is tragic that so many other vets have been brainwashed by pet-food companies and that they inflict their counter-factual beliefs on clients, to the enormous detriment of pets' health and owners' finances.  Just look at pet-food labels, add up the harmful starches, and recognize that they lie.


  1. Even in the developing countries it is hard to find any vet who have not been convince by the publicity that the human can do better than nature...

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