What is 80:10:10 & Why It’s Only 50% Of The Story
All raw feeders come across the phrase ’80:10:10′ sooner or later. What does it mean in terms of raw dog food? Is it ‘complete’ as many suggest? How can we use 80:10:10 in a more species-appropriate diet? These are questions that are rarely answered square on, so I’m going to give you my take on this controversial topic.
What is 80:10:10?
This is the easy bit. The numbers stand for percentages referring to meat, organ and bony material. The diet is composed of 80% (usually by volume, but can be by weight) muscle meat. 10% organ meat, usually the solid organs like liver and kidney. 10% bone is then added for minerals, teeth cleaning and bulk.
Is 80:10:10 Enough?
Most raw feeders try to create a diet that emulates, to a greater or lesser extent, the whole prey animal. Logically, this is what carnivores, even ‘facultative’ (able to eat non-prey food) carnivores like dogs are designed to eat.
This argument, although persuasive, is not the whole story. Dogs scavenge and hunt; they have throughout history and, if all the humans vanished from the earth, this is what they would go back to.
If you’re a hunter-scavenger, like a dog, wolf, dingo or hyena, then basically you eat anything edible. Unlike cats, who are ‘obligate’ (have to eat 100% prey material) carnivores, dogs just roam around hunting prey and looking for lunch, alive or dead or growing, wherever they can get it.
As you know, from watching your dog, they will eat horse, sheep and rabbit poo with great gusto. They will eat cat poo given half a chance. Obligate carnivores don’t; cats are never seen poo-eating, never seen picking berries off bushes or apples fallen in an orchard. Dogs, obviously, are not just big cats.
Some people, notably the ‘Prey Model’ brigade, will argue, with conviction, but little evidence, that dogs should be fed like cats. They insist on just using meat and prey-derived foodstuffs (organs, meat, bone) and the like. I reject this model. I don’t think you can just feed meat, bone and ‘organs’ and leave it at that.
The “80:10:10” feeding model, as well as ignoring some fruit, veg, grass and poo consumption, does not include hair, horn and hoof, other organs (brain, adrenals, eyes and testicles, for example), stomach and intestinal contents and soil.
Yes, dogs, would naturally eat soil – they naturally feed on the ground (soil). Why do you think they bury bones? To hide them for later, yes, but I also think to give them a good muck-marinade in pro-biotic dirt—clever old things.
Is 80:10:10 Right?
If 80:10:10 were the whole story, then this would be the proportions we find in whole prey in nature. They’re not. In nature, the ratio of meat:offal:bone is about 40:25:12.5. So, for a start, the proportions in 80:10:10 do not reflect nature. For a second, the more mathematical among us will notice it doesn’t add up to 100%. What’s missing?
What’s missing is all the in-between bits that we otherwise forget – like blood (about 7%), eyes (<0.5%), skin and hooves etc. (approx 20%), testes/ovaries (<0.5%) and so on (spleen, pancreas, adrenal glands and thymus. In the practical world, it’s not possible or appealing to feed some of these things, so compromises have to be made. Desiccated powder products containing these organs are available from grass-fed New Zealand beef. Adding these to the diet every other week seems logical.
In the USA, it’s possible to buy brains from your abattoir and feed them to your dog. In the UK and Europe, since Mad Cow Disease, the feeding of nervous tissue like brains and spinal cord, and the feeding of glands like thyroid or adrenals has been banned. In the UK, you can buy, for example, veal brain, if that’s your cup of tea, but, the thing is, with human meat, it’s generally cooked before serving in this country. The feeding of raw nervous or glandular material is illegal in the UK. We don’t want a spate of Mad Dog Disease hitting the streets, do we?
80:10:10 and Compromises?
So if we buy 80:10:10 minces as the foundation for our dog’s diet, what do we have to do to move it toward a more complete offering?
The answer, for me, is three-fold. You need to add a) blended fresh raw or lightly cooked green veg, b) vitamins and minerals and c) omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamins and minerals can come in the form of a synthetic supplement. That’s fair enough, but I think superior to that would be to feed a range of nuts, herbs and seeds on a rotating basis, changing every 1-3 months at the least.
Nuts are best served raw and soaked overnight, although this is a pain to do, I realise—anything but Macadamia works. Herbs can be any seasonal thing you can pick up in the garden or supermarket. Don’t give epileptic dogs lots of Rosemary, though – it’s stimulating. Seeds can be anything we eat: sunflower and pumpkin are some of my favourites. I put these bits into the blender with the greens, blend up to a smoothie consistency and pour on food, keep in the fridge for three days or freeze.
Omega-3 fatty acids come from fish, krill, algae and flax oil, although nuts and seeds contain some, too. Most people in the raw world use fish oil, mostly salmon oil. This is fine, but I’d suggest alternating with other fish oils and alternating these each month with plant-based omega-3 sources – both have unique strengths. Why miss out?
And what if, after all of this, your dog has gone off raw food? In this instance, it might have nothing to do with the ratio of food your feeding them, but simply the amount – usually it’s too much!
80:10:10 is great, but, as you now see, it’s not the whole picture. It is, though, the foundation for a really good diet if you just add some extra goodies. A variety of meats and minces is essential in all raw diets, and not just to appeal to the appetite of the dog; it’s essential to avoid excesses and deficiencies. All in all, 80:10:10 is a convenient foundation for your dog’s diet, but it’s only half the story.