Fascinating question, the answer to which involves money, habits, reputations, marketing and familiarity.
And yet, if you talk to any human nutritionist, eating ultra-processed food every day of your life cannot be healthy. Why, then, do we feed our precious dogs this stuff?
Let’s examine the reasons why feeding dogs a species-appropriate diet with raw dog food (that they have evolved to eat) has become a bone of contention among vets, dog owners and animal nutritionists. Explore our full grain free dog food range.
What is Kibble?
Before we look at why raw and fresh dog food is not the default for most dogs, let’s look at what is: dry kibble.
Dry kibbled food is a mix of grain carbohydrate (yes, that’s the main component in most dry dog foods; they break down to sugars in processing and digestion), meat meal (high temperature rendered meat, dried and powdered), cheap fats, minerals and vitamins. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it. Ask your dog what they think?
All these components are mixed together, then cooked at high temperature. The hot gloop is then forced at high pressure through a metal plate with holes in – extrusion. The resulting strings of putty-like material are then chopped to form pellets. The pellets are again heated to dry them. Oils, minerals and vitamins are sprayed on the pellets to replace nutrients lost in the production process. The final product is then bagged and shipped.
In human nutrition, ‘ultra-processed’ is a food classification. It includes ready-to-eat and microwaveable foods such as breakfast cereals, instant noodles, chicken or fish nuggets and crisps.
Ultra-processed food is defined, officially, as ‘Industrial formulations typically with 5 or more and usually many ingredients. Besides salt, sugar, oils, and fats, ingredients of ultra-processed foods include food substances not commonly used in culinary preparations, such as hydrolysed protein, modified starches, and hydrogenated or interesterified oils, and additives whose purpose is to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product, such as colourants, flavourings, non sugar sweeteners, emulsifiers, humectants, sequestrants, and firming, bulking, de-foaming, anti-caking, and glazing agents’.
I find this definition terrifying. And we are recommended by food corporations that this is the best way to feed our beloved dogs?
What does Harvard Medical School say about ultra-processed foods?
Harvard Health Publishing wrote the following in May of 2019:
‘In an observational study published online Feb. 11, 2019, by the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine, almost 45,000 adults aged 45 and older completed several dietary assessments over a two-year period. On average, ultra-processed foods made up about 15% of their daily diet as measured in grams.
After nine years, the researchers found a direct statistical connection between higher intake of ultra-processed food and a higher risk of early death from all causes, especially cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Several factors might explain the connection, according to the researchers. Ultra-processed foods often have fewer nutrients than unprocessed foods, and they contain higher amounts of sugar, salt, saturated fat, and food additives, all of which are associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases.
Besides cutting back on processed foods, the researchers suggested people read food labels when shopping and choose products with a shorter list of ingredients and few or no additives’.
What does the UK’s NHS say about ultra-processed food for people?
In February of 2018, the NHS quoted a French study of more than 100,000 people over seven years. They quoted the study, saying, ‘Each 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet was linked to a 12% increase in risk of cancer’.
Dog owners are advised to feed our dogs 100% dry kibble for life. Oh – and dogs have the highest rate of cancer of any species on the planet, with animals over the age of 10 years having a 50% chance of getting this terrible disease.
If the link from ultra-processed food to disease is so strong in people, why is it ignored when we come to feeding dogs?
Ultra-processed food for dogs
I think the reason we feed kibble is primarily due to cost and convenience. The three big corporations, Mars, Nestle and Colgate-Palmolive, have been waging a brain-washing war on the dog-owning public and animal care professionals for the last sixty years. The bizarre result is that it’s now considered normal to feed kibble. A bit like it was normal in the 1950s to be offered a cigarette by your doctor when you went for a check-up.
The reputation of animal nutritionist and academics the world over is reliant on the truth about dog food not becoming mainstream and accepted, I believe. If you’re a nutritionist and you’ve been advocating dry kibble for dogs for your entire career, it’s pretty difficult to admit that you were wrong all along. Many academics work for the kibble companies, so they’re not going to blow the whistle on the people who pay their mortgages, are they?
It took from before 1586 when tobacco was introduced into the UK, until 1954 when Sir Richard Doll established a conclusive link between smoking and lung cancer.
I sincerely hope it doesn’t take 368 years from now for us to realise the damage we’re doing to our dogs. When will we stop feeding ultra-processed food and start feeding them raw dog food, simply what they evolved to eat over millennia?