Sunday, March 28, 2010

First Experience with Packaged RMB

As soon as I posted the weekly packages of  raw-meaty-bones for various sizes of dogs and cats, an order arrived for two packages of 7 meals each for 40- to 50-pound dogs. 

The pet owner heard about the rmb diet and Kona Raw Co-op from her daughter in Texas!  The daughter feeds her own dogs rmb.  She told her mother to try the diet with her two bull terriers, one of whom has severe skin problems.  The mother had no experience with feeding anything but Science Diet kibble but was willing to give rmb a try.

So, I made up 14 meaty meals of about 1 pound each (2% of 50 pounds) plus bones to gnaw.  I ordered a variety of poultry, beef, and pork, liver, heart, tripe, and kidney to start.  Cutting up portions of various meats that add up to about a pound is not easy, even though I am the chief butcher at Kona Raw. Figuring out how to assort muscle meats, organ meats, chicken leg quarters, beef neck bones, and soup bones into roughly equal meals is a mix-and-match challenge.  It took me about 45 minutes to cut and allocate meaty chunks and bones into 14 baggies. 

When the lady arrived to pick up her dogs' weekly menus, she said enthusiastically that she had already introduced the bull terriers to raw beef heart and kidneys she purchased at a local grocery store.  Her dogs were thrilled, she said.  I said how great that was, but told her she can buy the same meats for less from the co-op, because grocery store meats come from the same company that supplies the co-op -- Hawaii Beef Producers.  I urged her to look at all the meats and meaty bones on the Kona Raw web site and begin to put together weekly orders.  Chickens are on sale at Safeway this week....

I predicted that packaged rmb meals will recruit and educate new raw-feeders about how to plan a weekly rmb diet for their pets.  Seeing approximate amounts and the variety of meats and meaty bones available will make them more comfortable with feeding rmb. 

I look forward to her feedback on how well her dogs like various meats and meaty bones and whether the portions seem suitable. If she orders weekly packages again, I'll cut, measure, and package 14 meals again.  At least two kibble-fed dogs can now enjoy a healthy rmb diet, and before long their owner will decide what's on the menu this week.

Transitions from Kibble to Raw-Meaty-Bones

I am accumulating experiences with pet owners and puppy buyers, who have not thought about raw feeding before.  Experiences are data.  Traveling down the road to raw-meat-bones with motivated pet owners and prospective puppy buyers highlights what people believe about the nature of pets and their diets.

Most people have never seen a dog eat half a raw chicken.  They can't believe it's safe or healthy until they watch me hand an adult Lab half a chicken.  The dog takes the chicken gently in her mouth, retreats to a private spot, and proceeds methodically to chew it up, leaving no morsel behind.  People are astonished -- she ate it, bones and all!  Nearly all of them exclaim that they had been told never to feed dogs chicken bones.  An explanation about cooked versus raw bones follows.

Bacteria?  Yes, I wash my hands very carefully and clean all the surfaces the poultry touched.  People can become quite ill from bacteria in raw meats, but healthy dogs can handle bacterial loads quite well.  They evolved to eat whole prey and carrion (aka, rotting, bacteria-loaded meat).  I don't feed rotten meat, but they have been observed to dig up days-old bones and chew on them.  Nearly everyone has had the same experience.  An explanation about dogs' short gut and acidic digestive system, that dissolves bone, follows.

The next step is a discussion about how a diet of raw-meaty-bones can be "complete and balanced".  Vets use this phrase so frequently to sell commercial kibbles and canned mush, it has assumed the status of a pet-food mantra.  People chant, "100% complete and balanced", while searching their brains for what it means.  "What do wolves eat?" is a helpful question at this point.  They all know that wolves eat whole prey of various types and sizes.  They know that wolves do not eat grains.  So, wolves get all the nutrients they need from whole prey, right?  Yes, it must be so.  Do wolves eat some grasses and berries?  Yes, a bit from time to time, when prey is not available.

Now it's time to cement the idea that dogs are a subspecies of wolf.  Surprisingly, nearly all pet owners realize that dogs are modified wolves.  The veterinary myth that dogs are omnivores has not caught on with the pet-owning public.  People know dogs are wolf-carnivores, for whom a carnivore diet is most appropriate. If dogs are wolves, and wolves get a "complete and balanced" diet from whole prey, dogs must also get a "complete and balanced" diet from whole prey.  Yes, logically, of course.  Can dogs, like wolves, eat some vegetables and fruits? Yes, most dogs enjoy bits of veggies and fruits left over from your table, and avocados, papayas and mangoes they find on the ground in Hawaii.  Raw eggs are good, too.

Oh!  Now they are puzzled about why, for so many years, their vets have sold them Hill's Science Diet and told them it's a "complete and balanced" diet for their dogs.  Science Diet must have the same nutrients as whole prey, doesn't it?  Well, no, kibbles are primarily cooked starches, not raw meats and meaty bones.  Even if the bag lists meat as the primary ingredient, it isn't.  Eyes widen as people hear how pet food labels list ingredients in order of their pre-processed weights.  Meats are 75% water, which is eliminated in cooking, leaving only traces of denatured meat in the kibble.  Kibbles are cooked starches.  After a moment of reflection, that idea makes sense, because kibble looks like the cooked cereal it is.

So, how can kibble claim to be "complete and balanced" nutrition of carnivorous dogs?  Well, manufacturers spray the cooked cereal with vitamins, minerals, and fats to make it pass minimum requirements as pet food.  Spraying nutrients on kibble really gets them.  They are astonished.  The glimmer of having been hood-winked begins to show on their faces.  You mean I'm paying $50 a bag for cooked crap?  Well, yes, but you don't have to do that any longer.

Cats?  Are cats carnivores, too?  Oh my goodness, of course, cats hunt birds and rodents.  The light dawns.  Pet owners I know are more focused on dogs, so cats are often an after-thought.  I point to my Daisy, a Maine coon cat, who happily eats chicken legs and thighs, beef tenders, pork butt, and gnaws on meaty bones.  It's obvious, once they gave it some thought, that cats are entirely carnivores and don't eat even bits of vegetables and fruits.  Feeding cats kibble becomes an easy abomination.  How could we do that?  Cans of cooked food?  Atrocious!

People who have owned dogs before tell me poignant tales of woe.  They describe a litany of skin problems, ear infections, and chronic diseases that took the lives of pets before their times.  Yesterday, a couple who had recently lost an Akita to cancer said their vet bills averaged $200 a month for the last year of their dog's life.  Steroids, allergy medications, immune system boosters, surgeries, various shots and palliatives cost them a fortune.  The dog had a lifetime of itchy skin and ear infections.  And all the time they were following vet instructions, feeding Science Diet or Iams or Eukanuba. Now they are angry, because they realize, belatedly, how they have been misled and robbed, not only of money but of their pet's longer life.  I have heard this story many times.

Now, prospective pet owners and new members of the raw-meaty-bones co-op want instruction on how to feed, what to feed, how often, how much, and so forth.  I guide them to web sites that can help, give them my guide to feeding a puppy to healthy adulthood, and offer to take the journey with them.  Yesterday, a friend shared her transition from kibble to raw-meaty-bones with the couple who had lost their Akita.  Her 4-year-old dog had sore gums and was reluctant at first to chew rmb.  She gave him raw meats and poultry at first, until his gums were healthier.  Now he gnaws and chews like a dog fed rmb all his life.  The couple realized that they have 6 weeks to wait for their puppy to be old enough to go home with them, and their raw-fed puppy will be an eager rmb eater.  They have 6 weeks to plan (maybe buy a freezer, he said) and get comfortable with feeding the rmb diet. 

Left hanging in these discussions is what to do about local vets.  Every pet needs a vet from time to time to treat injuries, give prescriptions for heartworm and flea medications, and provide inoculations.   I worry I am creating a dissident group of pet owners who realize they've been had.  They blame vets for fleecing their pocketbooks and creating illnesses their pets did not have to suffer.  Not everyone lives close enough to use my dear mobile vet, who is now 100% behind the rmb diet.  Several are clients of the dreaded vet practice, which has caused so many problems for raw-fed pets (see earlier blog entries about vet malpractice).

I reduce the number of times they need to use a regular vet practice by organizing low-cost inoculation clinics for puppies and providing flea/tick and heartworm medications at cost.  My mobile vet provides medications  to me at cost, a benefit I can pass on to other pet owners..  Puppy buyers pay only $5.00 for the inoculations my mobile vet administers.  A visit to a local vet for the same shot would cost more than $100, because he charges to examine the puppy, insist on one or more "tests", and charges $35 for the inoculation that costs $5.  Of course, he has an office and staff to maintain.  A visit to my farm clinic is free, thanks to my mobile vet, whose modest visiting fee I am happy to pay for everyone.  Heartworm and flea/tick medications cost $6 to $8 a month.  Vet offices charge $18 to $20 for the same pills and topicals.  Pet owners who buy medications from vet clinics are overpaying by $144/ year per pet. Most owners have more than one dog and/or cat.  So, one way to reduce contact between dissident pet owners and local vets is to provide outpatient services at greatly reduced prices.

I will collect more data with each new litter of puppies and with each new member of Kona Raw Pet Food Co-op.  I am learning to predict and understand the transition from commercial pet foods to raw-meaty-bones.  It's an adventure in re-education and awakening what common-sense pet owners already know.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Can You Trust Your Pet-Food Corporation?

Tonight I will see Michael Moore's new film, Capitalism: A Love Story.  The progressive political group, Move-On, is sponsoring some 1,500 movie parties across the country to spark discussions about how American voters can take back our country from Wall Street and giant corporations.  Fact: The top 1% of wealthy Americans control 95% of the country's wealth. The rest of us work our tails off for them.  Is this the way it should be?

In the present recession, it has become obvious that our jobs, our homes, and our health are all held hostage by a reckless financial system.  Most people do not recognize the signs of capitalist excess, even when they have been laid off from work, had their homes foreclosed, and gone bankrupt from unpaid medical bills. The myth of Horatio Alger -- the chance to make it from rags to riches -- dominates the American mentality.

The enormous power and wealth of corporations were partially unleashed in the recent fight against health care reform.  Only a back-room deal with giant pharmaceutical companies, to guarantee their obscene profits,  kept them from stopping the bill in its tracks.  The majority of Americans still do not know that health care reform will improve their lives, because powerful corporations funded a campaign of lies about provisions of the reform bill.

Some friends are poster children for corporate exploitation, but they don't know it.  After decades of work for huge corporations, showing up reliably, solving problems, and serving well, they were laid off in their late 40s and 50s, without sufficient means of support, until they reaches the age when Social Security and Medicare can help.  Several scramble to earn enough at menial jobs to pay the mortgage and look forward to the day when government regulations will allow them to withdraw funds from retirement accounts, to which they contributed their own earnings. 

Despite being victims of corporate greed, they hold favorable views of their corporations, which have laid off vast numbers of their workers, and do not hold them responsible for their mid-life, financial predicaments.  Some even vote Republican.  Americans believe so strongly in individual responsibility and freedom to make life-changing decisions, they cannot see themselves as victims of unregulated, irresponsible capitalism.

Giant corporations control our food supply and tell us what's good to eat.  We are obese, because huge profits are made from subsidized sugars and starches -- commodity crops -- that should not be the bulk of our diets. Our pets are obese and sick, because huge profits are made by the same corporations from the same subsidized sugars and starches that should never be fed to carnivorous pets.  These corporations control government regulatory bodies that are supposed to protect our health and the health of our pets.  Rather, thanks to their generous support of politicians and professional "experts", government regulations are drafted and enforced to protect the profits of these corporations at the expense of our health and the health of our pets.

Most people trust the safety of the human food supply and the safety of commercial pet foods, despite many incidents in which foods are demonstrably not safe to eat.  Recalls of meats and vegetables for bacterial contamination are so frequent consumers watch for the next recalls.  Only when outbreaks of E-coli or salmonella poisoning sicken more than a dozen and kill more than a few people, are food recalls newsworthy.  Commercial pet food recalls are frequent and largely unnoticed, until thousands of pets are sickened and die.

Most people do not realize that decades of "conservative" governance have rolled back consumer protections that used to be in place, such as domestic meat inspections and inspections of produce and meats coming into the US from other countries.  Such inspections today are a tiny fraction of what used to be conducted routinely.  Congress has not granted either the Food and Drug Administration or the US Department of Agriculture the power to recall contaminated foods.  Recalls depend on food corporations' voluntary actions.  How widely publicized food recalls are depends on how corporations choose to spin their all-too-frequent contamination incidents.  By dominating government regulatory bodies, food producers protect their profits, not consumers.

Pet foods are down the sugar-starch food chain from human foods and even more likely to be adulterated with industrial wastes. The 2007 pet-food recall illuminated the adulterated nature of commercial pet foods.  A plastic (melamine) that mimics proteins in tests was introduced into wheat gluten to increase the profits of Chinese and New Zealand corporations.

Adulterated wheat gluten killed tens of thousands of cats and dogs in the US and Canada, before hundreds of pet foods containing the contaminated wheat were recalled.  The same adulterated wheat gluten killed hundreds of infants in China before contaminated infant formula was recalled.  Only dumb luck kept this adulterated wheat gluten out of US cereals and baby foods.  The bottom line is you have no guarantee the pet food you buy is safe, and you will not find out it is unsafe until your pet is permanently disabled or dies.

Here's some advice.  No matter how much you love and admire our capitalist, profit-driven system, your health is not protected by government regulators or by corporate ethics.  For yourself, buy fresh, local produce, range-reared meats, and free-range poultry that are less likely to be contaminated or adulterated.  For pets, buy range-reared meats and free-range poultry, if you can afford to.

Feeding your pets sugary starches that make up the bulk of commercial pet foods is not safe, even if they are not contaminated. Carnivorous pets' digestive systems evolved to handle high bacterial loads in raw meats, such as days-old carrion and buried bones.  Even ripe meats that are not suitable for human consumption are far better foods for healthy pets than starchy kibbles and cooked mush.  Pets with compromised immune systems may not be able to handle meats with lots of bacteria, but healthy raw-fed pets have no problem with ripe meats.

If you agree with Michael Moore that we need to band together to take back our country from Wall Street and giant corporations, you need to look closely at what you eat and what you feed your pets.  Food and health are inextricably entwined.  Corporate profits keep us fat and our pets sick.  You can change your own fate by recognizing how the system works and by learning how to avoid being manipulated by it. 

So, how can we answer the question that motivated this blog entry: Can you trust your pet-food corporation? If your answer is yes, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'm sure you'd like to buy.  No, you can't trust pet-food companies with your pets' heath nor trust the same corporations with your own health.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Conveniently Packaged RMB

For pet owners who are new to raw-meaty-bones, learning what to feed, and how much, can be a challenge.  Where do I start?  How much organ meat, how many meaty hard bones, how much edible bone, and so forth? 

Yahoo groups, rawfeeding, rawpet, rawfed, and others, have tens of thousands of members discussing these questions.  "Newbies" have lots of questions and get guidance from more experienced rawfeeders on these sites.

I decided to package weekly menus for cats and dogs of various weights and to offer them through the local raw-meaty-bones co-op. 

I hope that pet owners, who have been reluctant to try the rmb diet, will feel more comfortable serving pre-selected portions to their pets.

The rule of thumb is to feed pets 1 to 3 % of their ideal adult weight daily or about 15% per week.  Menus are balanced across a week, not a day.  Weekly menus include muscle meats, organ meats, and meaty bones in sizes and portions suitable for pets that vary in ideal adult weight from 5 to 80 pounds.

To the wholesale cost of ingredients, I added packaging costs (about $.50/ week) and a small markup for my time to cut, weigh, and package meals.  Final cost of packaged rmb is $2.20 to $2.40 per pound.  This price compares favorably with local prices for premium kibble and packaged, raw mince.

Another experiment in packaged rmb is being conducted by a brave New Zealand veterinarian, Lyn Thomson.  Her clinic and shop can be visited at:   

Dr. Thomson gets meat for her rmb packages from government-owned lands that are hunted to remove pest species, such as wild hare, rabbit, and ostrich.  Meals also include domestic animals, such as chickens, pork, and lamb (plentiful in NZ).  Here are typical menu items:

Rabbit legs, Rabbit saddle, Hare shoulder, Hare legs, Chicken carcass, Lamb brisket, Green tripe, Heart/tongue, Pilchards, Ostrich mince, Pigs trotters.
Dr. Thomson's Raw Essentials packaged foods are gaining popularity in the Auckland area and are now available at some pet shops and other veterinary clinics.

Feeding pets minced, raw meats and ground bones have long been popular in Australia and New Zealand.  Not so in the US. There is no history of raw feeding in the US on which to build a rmb diet. 

A typical Kona Raw menu includes:
Beef neck bones, Beef soup bones, Beef skirt meat, Beef cheek meat, Beef heart, Beef liver, Beef kidneys. Green tripe, Chicken quarters, Chicken giblets, Turkey legs and wings, and Pork trotters, and Pork butt.

Kona Raw rmb packages have a more limited range of species (4) than the NZ diet (7).  I wish we had access to more game.  If you hunt wild pig, turkey, or game birds, I would love to share some with our pets.

Kona Raw packages do not include any minced meats or ground bones.  I use mince only for puppies from three to four weeks of age and will provide mince to other breeders for young puppies and kittens.  By the time puppies have teeth and some jaw strength, they should be fed chicken necks and wings.

It will be most interesting to see if some pet owners, who have not fed rmb, will try the package menus.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Will Packaged RMB Be the Pet Food of the Future?

Reading around in the bible of raw pet-feeding, Tom Lonsdale’s Raw Meaty Bones, I found the following quote that set off a chain of half-humorous ideas:
Artificial pet foods are sold as branded products and thus define
and create control of their niche of the market. While there are
many candy bars there is only one Snickers. Why do companies
fight fiercely to create brand recognition and then fight fiercely to
defend that brand against imitation? The reason is simple —
access to super-profits. In contrast, raw food must always remain
a generic product. The producers will always find their market
crowded with other producers. No brand name cushion for them (RMB, p. 248).

Aha! Of course, that's why the pet-food market has seen a recent rush of BRANDED raw-minced pet foods! Manufacturers are competing to get their brands of packaged raw mince recognized as THE brand to buy. It's already happening.

Dr. Lonsdale thought that raw food must always remain a generic product, but he underestimated the ingenuity of advertisers and marketers.  Mixtures of raw minced meats and bones have already found markets, and brand names are emerging. Oma's Pride and Nature's Variety are just two brands that are gaining recognition in the pet-food market.

Possibilities for branding raw pet food are endless.  My Aloha Lab brand has just the right mix of organ meats, ground bone, and red-blooded meat to make your pet strong and healthy!  Better than any other brand (and twice the price of the real stuff at the meat counter).

Now, how can we brand and package whole chickens, whole rabbits, and slabs of beef and lamb? It can be done, I am sure. Tyson, bless their black hearts, could easily package and brand chickens for pets. Perhaps, they will be allowed to get rid of dead chickens as pet food, an unsavory thought.  Can whole-birds-for-pets be far down the road?  What about the big lamb producers in Australia and NZ? Bozo's Lamb Parts for Pets could be a winner.

Kibbles and canned mush come packaged for specific breeds and life stages (a nutritional absurdity in the extreme), so let's not pass up the opportunity to sell more differentiated products in niche markets.  Best Beef Parts for Bully contains meaty bones, red meat, liver, and heart in the perfect balance for your bulldog. Oh, you have a Pekinese? We have Best Beef Parts for Pekes in just the right assortment for a small dog's optimal health. I can see it now.  Best RMB for Nursing Poodles; Best RMB for Aging Afgans.  Consumers don't have to think about how to balance an rmb diet for their pets. It comes pre-assorted for them.

This travesty of packaged rmb is just a continuation of consumers' (advertising-guided) preference for branded products over generics. Why should their purchases of pet foods be guided any differently? One reason would be their pocketbooks. Consumers pay enormous amounts extra to get branded products that are no different from their generic counterparts – usually manufactured at the same plants from the same ingredients and merely labeled with a store brand. But consumers keep buying branded, packaged foods for themselves, and they will buy them for their pets.

Look on the bright side of this grim picture. Pets will get a better diet; Science Diet will have to change its formulations, and vets will have to promote raw mince, at the least. Vets will always be behind the curve on these shifts in consumer practices, poor dupes. Their mentors, the giant pet-food companies, will have to catch them up on what to feed pets this year.

I really think the pet-food world is beginning to wake up to raw feeding, even though it may be awhile until assortments of raw-meaty-bones are packaged and branded. Think about where pet food is going, and you may feel just a tiny bit of optimism. Meanwhile, keep shopping at the meat counter, or better still at your local raw-meaty-bones pet food co-op.

Campaign to Reform Veterinary Medicine and Save Our Pets

Veterinary medicine’s teaching, research, and practice on companion animals is funded and controlled by global pet food companies.  Lest you doubt the enormous political and financial clout of these companies, remember they are the same companies that dominate the human food supply. 

Corporate Control of Our Food Supply

To set the stage for the pet-food scandal, let’s look at a recent, riveting documentary on perversions of the human food supply, called Food, Inc.  It is a must-see piece. You can view it in segments on You Tube at the following links:

 Here are the essential facts.  Elected representatives in Congress vote to allocate farm subsidies to commodity crops – corn, wheat, and soy beans.  These crops are the main ingredients in junk foods, sugary soft drinks, processed cereals, and in the feed for McDonald’s hamburgers and KFC’s chickens.  Elected officials make these products cheap for consumers by subsidizing their production.   Our tax dollars make these fattening products more affordable than fresh fruits and vegetables that are not federally subsidized.  Can we wonder why we are becoming an obese nation with an epidemic of fat kids?

Subsidies for animal feed make horrific chicken factories hugely profitable for Tyson and a few others.  Cattle in  feed lots, where animals are fed antibiotics and subsidized grains, stand ankle deep in their own manure and spread antibiotic resistant bacteria to the human table.  Cheap feed makes McDonalds rich.

To understand why Congress allocates tax monies to support crops used in fast foods, soft drinks, sugary cereals, and animal feed, you have to look at the companies that manufacture these products.  Global giants reign – Con-Agra, Mars, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Heinz, Del Monte, and a handful of others.  These companies make multi-billion dollar annual profits, which they use to influence policy makers (campaign contributions, for example) and lobby for their interests,

The same companies dominate the manufacture of pet foods, which are their hugely profitable avenue to get rid of waste from human food production.  Indirectly, Congress subsidizes the manufacture of sugary, starchy foods that sicken and kill thousands of pets annually. 

Perhaps, lawmakers think what’s good enough for kids is also good enough for pets.  Unfortunately, cats and dogs are not omnivores like kids, who can use carbohydrates as food, along with vegetable proteins, and fats.  Cats and dogs are carnivores that need a diet predominantly of animal proteins and fats.  Kids are getting fat on too much sugar and starch.  Pets are suffering from an inappropriate diet of sugary starches that create allergies, digestive disorders, and urinary tract stones.

To summarize, giant corporations, their executives, and shareholders profit from tax-payer subsidized crops that dominate the food supply for people and for pets, in very unhealthy ways.  Corporate domination of government policies is found in two other notable domains: medicine and veterinary medicine.

Corporate Corruption of Medicine
The larger issues of corporate greed and corruption of the medical professions are being confronted first in human medicine.  Just last night on CNN was a shocking report of Pfizer's misconduct.  They were fined more than $2 billion for their marketing fraud of a drug with limited FDA approval for menstrual cramps that they promoted as a post-surgical pain killer.  As CNN pointed out, $2 billion is merely a few months' profit from their misconduct.  The more meaningful punishment was not applied.  Legally, Pfizer should have been banned from selling drugs to federal health programs, Medicare and Medicaid.  They were not banned, because the public needs Pfizer drugs, or so the FDA said. 

The FDA said it could not afford to ban all of Pfizer's products, so they punished a derivative Pfizer entity, a sham company owned by Pfizer, and left the giant pharmaceutical company to go about its felonious business.  CNN's headline was "Pfizer, Too Big To Nail".  Oh, yes, Pfizer promises to clean up its act.  Yeah, sure.... Drug companies' profits from misconduct are so enormous, they have no incentives to behave responsibly.  The federal government is too toothless to nail them.   Imagine the magnitude of drug company contributions to Congressional campaigns and their lobbying budget.

How will this be changed?  The public is unaware of how corrupt medicine is, but news trickles out.  Last year, the New York Review of Books published a shocking essay by Marcia Angell, MD, Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, highlighting three recent books exposing corruption in medical schools and medical research.  She detailed Congressional inquiries into the mess.  Reports like this throw doubt on what doctors prescribe and who can be trusted with one's health.  People are beginning to realize that their doctors are pawns of drug companies, that doctors are ignorant about the pills they prescribe, that they are making many people sicker, and all of us a lot poorer.

 Inquiries into corruption in medical training and practice are ongoing.  Inquiries into drug research and the corruption of medical schools are ongoing.  All this scandal will shake the halls of medicine long before anyone looks at veterinary medicine. The magnitude of corporate greed and corruption in medicine is many, many times greater and more devastating than drug-company influence or pet-food corruption of veterinary medicine.  Fixing corruption in medicine, according to Marcia Angell, will take decades and a will that is probably not there.

Fighting Corruption in Veterinary Medicine

Here's the main message for small pet owners: Veterinary medicine has been corrupted by giant pet-food companies for their profit and to the enormous suffering of pet carnivores.  Vets are mis-educated about pets and bribed by pet food companies to push their products.  Carnivorous pets evolved to eat whole prey.  Raw-meaty-bones is an approximation of whole prey that modern pet owners can provide.  Keeping pets' teeth clean and gums healthy is essential to their health and longevity.  These facts are solid and worth fighting for.  We can fix these problems!

In the past 20 years, I see changes in the way pets are viewed and in what they are said to need. 
  1. Pet-food manufacturers have been pushed to make claims about "natural" and "raw" foods because consumers have become more discerning about what they feed pets.  A significant fraction of pet owners look for meat as the first listed ingredient (not knowing how little is actually in the food after processing, but they will figure that out soon).. 
  2. Pet-food industry knows that so-called premium" and "natural" foods are the only growing segment of their market. Days when they could sell any old stuff as pet food are waning. 
  3. "Raw" is the new "premium". More and more "raw" minced and ground bone foods are hitting the market each month. Albeit a half measure, at least pets are getting nutritionally better foods -- low carbohydrates, more animal proteins fats, and bone. My bet is that in 5 years, sales of packaged raw pet foods will double or triple.
  4.  Dr. Wysong sends out his raw-meaty-bones message to tens of thousands of pet owners who buy Wysong products.  That has some impact.  His message is entirely contrary to advice from vets, who hate and fear raw bones. Wysong doesn't sell raw-meaty-bones.  Let’s give the guy some credit.
  5. I predict that more and more pet owners will realize that minced foods do not clean pets' teeth and will include raw-meaty-bones in their pets' raw minced diets.  They won't switch entirely to rmb, because it's too messy, but many or even most pets will be far better fed than they are today, and vets will enjoy less revenue from cleaning pets’ teeth. 
We pet owners need focus our efforts on breaking the stranglehold of pet-food companies on veterinary medicine and promoting the welfare of carnivorous pets. 

1.     Spread the word about raw-meaty-bones to other pet owners.  Many pets suffer allergies, are on restricted diets and tons of medicines.  Help the owners to try rmb to cure pets’ allergies.  It works!
2.     Let your vet know you stand by this diet and the benefits it gives your pets.  Let her/him know that an appropriate diet prevents problems and cures ills.
3.     Challenge vets to show you independent research, not sponsored by pet-food companies, that compares the benefits of a raw-meaty-bones diet with commercial pet food. 
4.     Ask vets about genetic research in the last decade that classifies dogs as a subspecies of wolf, not as a separate species and not as omnivores, which they were taught in school.  What do wolves eat?  Not grains and vegetables, for sure! 

Pet owners can have impact in our smaller world of veterinary medicine.  After all, we pay their salaries.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Manufactured Raw Mince and Other Garbage

The trend is clear.  More and more pet-food companies are getting on the raw bandwagon.  As pet owners wise up to the many deleterious effects of commercial kibbles and canned-mush, pet-food providers are scrambling to make products to replace dry and canned pet foods.  If consumers want raw meats for their pets, manufacturers can mince and package ground meats and bones in cute chubs and tubs that they hope will appeal to conscientious pet owners.

There are several problems with minced meats and ground bones.  First, minced foods do not clean pets' teeth but provide a gummy sludge that leads to periodontal disease.  Second, frozen pet foods are processed is some manner and preservatives are added to extend shelf life.  These products are not exactly raw and unadulterated when pets eat them.  Third, a major provider of frozen pet food, Nature's Variety, ran into problem with their pasteurization process, by which they attempted to rid ground meats of bacteria.  According to Pet Industry News, Nature's Variety had to recall massive amounts of their minced chicken pet foods for fear of salmonella contamination.  Of course, pet food recalls for bacterial contamination in kibbles are commonplace, but we are just beginning to see problems in frozen raw products.

I keep asking myself why pet owners will buy these frozen and refrigerated "pet foods" at $3.00 or more per pound when they can buy the fresh ingredients contained in these chubs and tubs in their grocery stores for less than half the price.  Does merely labeling them as pet food make it okay to feed to Fido or Fifi, whereas whole chickens and meaty beef bones at the meat counter are not suitable pet food?  How silly is this?

Last week, I had the good fortune to talk with a major provider of raw pet foods in New York City.  Jerry Briffa wholesales raw-meaty-bones of many types and minced meats and ground bones for many raw pet-food providers.  He says the popularity of minced and ground products rests on the ease of feeding them without the pets dragging them around the house. Minced meats are eaten in the bowl, not dragged across the living room carpet.   Living in Hawaii, where we go outdoors 12 months a year, I never considered how hard it can be to keep enthusiastic rmb-eaters from soiling carpets with their meaty bones.  It is difficult to feed rmb in the house, unless one confines pets to an easily cleaned surface.

No excuses.  Pets need raw-meaty-bones to keep healthy teeth and gums.  Ground bones and minced meats are not suitable substitutes.  Find a place to feed your pets, train them to eat on a cleanable surface, and chalk up messes to the cost of keeping a healthy carnivore at home.

Friday, March 12, 2010

More Sad Stories about Veterinary Malpractice

Last week, I took a lovely 13-month old, yellow Lab boy to my brother-in-law in New Jersey.  Cody, the puppy, was an instant hit with Howard, his daughter, and her husband, who live in the house.  Three adoring adults are great for Lab kids.  They also expect and reward good behavior and give him several walks a day. 

Howard took Cody to the local vet he has used for years for a former dog and current cats. Cody needed an annual booster shot.  Here's his report:

I took Cody to the vet yesterday. He is, of course, in excellent health. The vet was, how shall I say it? She was not too enthusiastic about the raw food diet. She expressed concern was for food borne pathogens such as E. Coli and Salmonella that lurk in our food supply. She hinted that quality organic commercially prepared dog food was good or that I should get raw food that was pasteurized. Pasteurized? That's like cooking the food.
I feel very sad to hear this report.  I don't know why I expected NJ vets to be more informed about carnivorous pets than local vets in Hawaii, but I did.  I know how universal the mis-education of vets is, but I secretly hoped Howard's vet would be different.  I hope he can find another, more understanding vet, because it's difficult to use a vet who blames all problems on the raw diet.  Ironically, the same vets blame none of pets' problems on commercial junk food -- the root of most pet diseases and disorders.

I hear more vet horror stories from Kona Raw Pet Food Co-op members.  This week a member told me her German Shepherd mother played too roughly with her 4-month old puppy and fractured his leg.  She took the puppy to a vet to cast the leg.  When the vet learned the puppy is fed the rmb diet, she told the owner the puppy's leg will never heal on "a raw-meat diet".  Raw meat is not a complete diet because it lacks calcium and has relatively too much phosphorous.  Owner explained she feeds a raw-meaty-BONES diet that has plenty of calcium and a good balance of calcium and phosphorous.  Vet insisted the leg will not heal on a raw-meat diet.  She cast the leg and told her to come back in three weeks, but she warned, the leg will not be healed unless she feeds a "compete and balanced" commercial pet food.

Owner returned in three weeks.   Vet refused to x-ray the leg or change the cast, because owner continues to feed rmb.  The cast was getting tight on the growing puppy.  This vet refused to treat the puppy, so she left.  The vet actually followed the owner out of the clinic into the parking lot, screaming at her to feed "complete and balanced" kibble and warning her the leg will never heal on "a raw-meat diet".  She could not hear that a raw-meaty-bones diet has all the nutrients a dog needs, in balance.  RMB is the closest approximation to the whole-prey diet dogs evolved to eat, for heaven sake.

Owner asked me what she should do, because she worried about the cast becoming a tourniquet.  I advised her to go immediately to another vet I know to be less doctrinaire about commercial pet food and more accepting of raw feeding.  This vet x-rayed the puppy's leg, said it was healing just fine, and took off the hard cast.

What can we do about vets whose fear and opposition of the raw-meaty-bones diet compromises their practice of ordinary medicine?  For a vet to refuse to examine a puppy's cast leg, to do a simple x-ray to see if the leg has healed, equals malpractice, in my opinion. The puppy could have lost the leg to gangrene.   I looked at the state veterinary association web site to find out how to lodge a complaint about this vet (the same practice I have described in earlier blogs).  I have a litany of complaints, both personal and reported by others, against this practice.  Guess what?  There is no information on the official veterinary association web site about how to make a complaint.  I will have to write to the president to find out how to complain.

What are the odds that the state veterinary board will find for the raw-meaty-bones diet and against this vet practice?  LOL.