“Replacing kibble, and with it starch, leads the way toward healthier gut bacteria, balanced blood sugar and a better endocrine system- and that’s just the beginning.”
The thought of feeding raw food tends to divide us into two camps. Either it strikes you as a proper fit with how evolution crafted animals or it conjures up images of marauding, uncouth tribes.
A close consideration of the practice reveals many facts neglected by cursory judgement. And regardless of your point of view, raw is the fastest growing sector of the pet food market. If you were to feed a raw diet to your pet, the first change observed would be improved stools. This is due to its superior digestibility. Another delightful part of feeding raw is pets like it, palatability is great.
The vast majority of pet food is cooked, with extrusion the predominate method. This extrusion produces a kibble and depends on a food containing 25 to 45 percent starch, which upon heating in the presence of water undergoes dextrinization. Dextrinized starch is what makes cookies have crumbs and a pet food kibble hard and crunchy. Though digestible, this starch is of low utility nutritionally. In fact, a bowl of kibble once a day is tantamount to daily endocrine abuse and is unhealthful. After eating, blood sugar spikes, insulin pours forth, blood sugar plunges.
The Abuse Stops Here
This is rather to be avoided as a daily practice. The first benefit of forsaking a kibble diet is this endocrine abuse stops. Excess starch erodes pet health in other subtle ways. It is supporting the wrong gut bacteria. One sign of this: often a persistent or barely managed dermatitis is cured simply by switching to a raw diet. A raw diet promotes a healthier gut microflora, one more aligned with your pet’s metabolism.
A dry pet food low in starch is possible but there is no way to have kibble without starch, and grains provide starch for kibble formation. But the term grain-free is actually a distraction of marketing theater. The problem in any kibble is starch and call it grain-free or not, the problem of starch is still there. What your pet really needs is not grain-free but low-starch.
Kibble derives its starch from corn or some other dastardly grain such as milo, oats or wheat. The name of an ingredient is irrelevant. It’s how much starch it contains. Avoiding certain grains may allow some foggy market claim of grain-free, but if it’s a kibble, the real problem is starch whether called grain-free or not. Starch is starch, and in excess, a problem, no matter the grain it came from. A kibble using pea protein, sweet potato and quinoa may be termed grain-free but is no more innocent than one full of corn or wheat.
“Stop inviting pet food companies to dupe you with a verbal sleight of hand. If you truly want the benefit of grain-free, consider raw, because what you really want is low starch and raw foods (and freeze-dried raw) are one-sixth the starch content of kibble.”
Processing Away The Nutrients
Aside from excess carbohydrate (starch), there is the matter of what happens to a grain even before cooking. As an example, the image below shows the loss of nutrients from wheat as it moves from standing in the field to uncooked flour in a pet food plant. This pillaging of nutrients due to processing by behemoth agriculture further erodes the effectiveness of kibble pet foods. Is it any wonder regulatory bodies mandate vitamin supplements for pet food? The wild canids of the world never see the first molecule of store bought vitamins, yet all of them thrive and proliferate. Whatever they eat, it is raw. Hmmm.
Historically, the advantage of cooking was considered more valuable than the loss it caused so heat addition to food is an ancient and common practice. It is not without drawbacks. In the 1920s the Arctic explorer Stefansson observed Eskimos thriving on an all animal meat diet while his men on the same diet fell ill with scurvy. But his men cooked everything. When they reverted to raw food like the natives, full health returned. Cooking alters nutrients and not necessarily for the better. Admittedly, extreme heat destroyed harmful bacteria, a worthy ambition in the days before refrigeration, but today it is possible to assemble ingredients with a very low risk of pathogenic bacterial contamination.
Heat addition of any kind (boiling, frying, roasting, baking) initiates a process referred to as protein denaturation. An example would be frying an egg. This cannot be undone. You can’t un-fry an egg. Its protein has been denatured. We know a fried egg delivers quality nutrition but what is not appreciated is a raw egg delivers even more. But the advantage of raw food is more than avoiding the diminished digestibility due to cooking. There are subtle but critical additional benefits. Natural enzymes and numerous beneficial bacteria are found in raw pet foods, undamaged by any heat application.
Prescribed Drugs Do As Much Harm As Good
Medical professionals see their fundamental role as saving the ill-informed masses from the ravages of evil microbes. Prescriptions for antibiotics, dispensed with abandon by every clinic in the world, do as much harm as good. While they may indeed subdue a particular pathogen not yet contained by the patient’s immune defense, it simultaneously devastates important and friendly bacteria. Our world without bacteria would be unimaginable. Think, wine, beer, tequila, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and cheese, to name a few marvelous ways we benefit from bacteria.
But these delights are nothing compared to the mysterious marvels now being revealed by our expanded understanding of bacteria. There are ten times more cells in our gut than our entire body. We need these bacteria. Intestinal bacteria from skinny mice fed to fat mice make them skinny (and vice versa). Rat pups kept sterile from birth grow into fearful sickly adults. Their sibs exposed to all life’s bacteria grow into normal adults.
Children born by caesarian have more health problems than those born naturally. Babies need the bacterial inoculation of the birth canal to promote a competent immune capability. Examples such as these, and many more, abound in recent authoritative books (I Contain Multitudes by Yong, The Human Superorganism by Dietert, The Mind-Gut Connection by Mayer).
“We have always known life without bacteria would be different. Now we know it would be an unimaginable struggle.”
A valid subheading of raw food is freeze-dried raw food. Freeze drying as a means of preserving food was first investigated by the military in World War II. Since then it has been perfected and enjoys far reaching use for human and animal foods. The freeze drying process is widely appreciated as the most effective method of food preservation; it imparts the greatest shelf life and the least nutrient damage.
You see freeze dried pet food as dry but this needs clarification. It is dry and it was frozen but hidden in the term is the real advantage; instead of heating, all the moisture was removed using a very high vacuum. We know water boils at lower temperature as we go up in altitude. On a high mountain, water boils at 180 degrees rather than the usual 212 degrees. This is because of lower air pressure at higher altitudes. If air pressure is low enough, water evaporates at room temperature, in other words without damage due to heat.
Warm Up To Freeze-Dried Foods
It is this process, water removal with no heat damage, that makes freeze dried pet foods so attractive. Raw pet food, or pet food preserved by freeze drying, has these advantages: nutrient digestibility and is superior to products that have been heated by extrusion (kibble) or boiling (canned). Natural enzyme activity is preserved. Vitamins remain in a state undamaged by processing with heat. Friendly bacteria are allowed to thrive. A freeze-dried product has a long shelf life due to low moisture and is a most convenient assist when traveling with your pet whether on a plane or hiking in the wilderness. It weighs nearly nothing yet delivers full nutrition in a tidy, palatable form.
Four growing Rottweilers on a raw diet would be a considerable expense. And compared to frozen, kibble is convenient; toss a scoop in a bowl and go. There need be no argument here; kibble dog food is more economical and convenient on a day to day basis. But this can be a false economy over a lifetime. Dry kibble pet food is not the best nutrition. For the best nutrition you need raw or freeze dried. It is the faster growing market segment for a reason – actually many reasons as just outlined. To the extent that budget permits, include raw food in your pet’s diet. Your pet’s vitality will be louder and longer, medical bills lower (gum health much improved), and both you and your pet will be happier.