What is the BARF Diet? Is it the Same as Raw Feeding?
If ever there was something to cause confusion in the canine world, raw feeding seems to be it! Where to start, whether you need to, should do and how to feed raw are top of most beginner’s queries and, just to add more confusion, there are even a number of different names for raw feeding!
BARF or the BARF Diet is one of those. It generally stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, but equally was coined as an acronym by early raw feeding dog owners as: Bones And Raw Food.
Ultimately Raw feeding is simply feeding real, unprocessed food to dogs. Feeding the ingredients that would make up a processed food, rather than the finished, processed equivalent. It is our belief that all pets deserve real, wholefoods, just as much as our children do, and we aim to eat ourselves. The huge school dinner campaign led by TV Chef Jamie Oliver was of a similar vein but for children. Processed food just doesn’t provide the level of nutrition those that we love deserve. Raw feeding isn’t a new trend or craze, its simply feeding as dogs have eaten for 1000 of years already, its feeding real food.
Whether you choose to label this way of feeding BARF or Raw feeding, you are ultimately choosing the better option of nutrition for your dog. Your dog will be healthier, happier and your vet bills will go down!
In the early days of raw feeding (and I was one of those people we all made the meals up at home for our dogs), we fed minced meats, ready minced for us to include bone content, and raw meaty bones alongside it. I will never forget my first day as a kennel maid, aged 16, and a newly chosen vegetarian myself I was faced with the task of splitting Beef Ribs for the hungry Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, who devoured them with gusto once my job was complete. These days you can buy ready-made raw meals with a set bone content meaning even vegetarians can easily feed real food, without having to handle in its original state.
Why BARF Works
Bone content is vital for dogs. It is really the feeding of raw meaty bones, as they fall from a carcass, and the carcasses themselves that differentiates BARF from simply Raw Feeding, as today’s more modern, ready-made meals way is named.
Although the feeding of bones can often be the scariest part it is usually of the utmost satisfaction and health for the dog.
It is the bone content of a dog’s diet that ensure their stomach functions healthily. As well as promoting the chewing action that pre-tells the stomach of some food, the bone encourages the grinding action that a dog stomach can perform. Flexing in and out internally releasing Gastric Acids that not only breakdown the bone in a way our human stomachs would never be able too, but equally killing off pathogens at the same time. A healthy stomach grind is the foremost part of a dog digestive sequence. without it they very easily show the sensitive stomachs that processed fed dogs so often suffer with, or begin to have small intestine weakness, microbiome challenges and even pancreas issues in time.
Maintaining the healthy stomach function is vital to a dog’s health, and true bone content is the key to that.
How to Feed the BARF Diet
Back in the day, we would feed raw meaty bones at least every other day alongside minced tripe, liver a few times a week and the occasional vegetable, back then such as carrots* or leafy greens.
Other than making sure our dogs all had the correct weight of food a day, at least mince wise, we very much played it by ear, adjusting the meals each day to suit what they had been doing, what they liked and even simply what we had left in the freezer.
The idea of balance over time is a big one in the BARF world. Equally, we never purposely weighed each bone to check the weight of the meal. Dense bones such as Beef Ribs would, for instance, weigh a lot more than a set of chicken bones yet both contained a similar amount nutritionally.
This, I feel, is where the complications and concerns arise in terms of what to feed and when. Averaging and trusting our instinct and common sense is not something we have really had to do since the advent of commercial dog foods. I can absolutely assure you it is a lot easier than you think, this ability to judge for yourself how your dog is doing, whether they need more or less bone content or more or less food is empowering. It puts you back in control of exactly what is right for your dog as an individual, which is ultimately how we feed ourselves every, single, day.
Could You Have a BARF Recipe?
To a degree this is possible. But it is actually easier feed if you don’t. No one dog is the same as the next. Generally speaking though these guidelines are useful to follow.
Easy to serve and you may find the most economical way of raw feeding.
Feeding Only Carcass:
This is very hard to maintain in terms of nutrition. In order for dogs to obtain all the nutrition they need they would need an offal content, and a variety of meats fed. Sticking to say, for instance, only chicken carcass is how a raw diet gets a bad name in terms of balance. It is likely the dog would have to get used to the bone content too, although there is a better ratio of bone to meat on most poultry carcass, compared to Beef ribs for instance.
Feeding Only Raw Meaty Bones:
A variety of poultry carcasses, alongside beef ribs, lamb ribs and even rabbits with the fur on is still a way to feed BARF. Original BARF fanatics are big fans of feeding fur too. You would need to add in Offal (such as Liver) at least a few times a week as well.
Feeding Partly Raw Meaty Bones and Partly Minced Meats:
Feeding this way enables you to more easily balance the bone content your dog needs as an individual. Plus you have the option of purchasing minced meats with offal already blended in, saving you the need to feed that separately. In most cases the best way to feed this is a raw meaty bone you have defrosted overnight in the morning, and then a meal in a bowl of a low or no bone content mince in the evening. Tripe has no bone content as it is the stomach of an animal, that’s a great mince to feed alongside raw meaty bones in this version of the BARF diet. For small dogs, one Chicken Drumstick, or a couple of Chicken Wings is usually the amount needed. Bigger dogs could have a set of Lamb ribs, Beef ribs or even a mixture of Chicken wings and ribs. Mini’s can even be fed Chicken Wing Tips.
Feeding Raw Meaty Bones Alongside a Ready-Made Raw Meal:
despite the inclusion of the word Complete on the meal, such as Pro-Dog’s Formulas. Nutritionally speaking it is safe to feed a raw meaty bone alongside these meals. Or instead of one of the meal times, morning or evening. You will not unbalance your dog’s diet. In fact you could find the additional bone content
actually improves their stomach function and overall digestion.
Whether you choose to create your dog’s raw meals at home with raw meaty bones or without, or feed a ready-made meal you are essentially feeding the same fantastic real food diet to your best friend. Think of it as either buying all your own ingredients and creating an awesome Sunday roast just how you like it individually, or simply walking up to the village pub and sampling theirs. Real food is real food, and no creature on Earth has evolved to eat anything different.