Raw Feeding Philosophies
The concept of raw diets for pets are not new. Before the introduction of kibble and other convenient commercial offerings, feeding human food bits to pets was part of the common kitchen routine. The philosophy behind a natural diet is simplicity. By natural we mean bio-appropriate and bio-available. A diet that fits our pets' true nutritional requirements. Simple raw animal protein, a small amount of minced bone for calcium and phosphates, natural non-synthetic minerals and vitamins, and a small amount of carbs specifically for your fur kids. By "raw", we paraphrase "Restoring Animal Wellness"! These concepts "re-developed" themselves over the last 30 years due to the public awareness created by Dr. Billinghurst and Dr. Lonsdale, both international thought leaders in canine and feline nutrition.
As a result, we combined all of the positive elements of the different approaches to create a well-balanced meal plan framework through the products and brands we stock, incorporating a little of the prey-model (whole meaty bones), and a little of the BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) concepts for canine pet cuisine. We believe there must be a balance in the overall dietary approach, and this balance typically materialise over the period of a month when feeding your fur kids. For this reason, we promote raw meaty bones as meal replacements, example, pork and venison bones for the adult and senior fur kids, and chicken necks and wings for the youngsters. We also promote mixing natural supplements such as raw frozen sardines into the meal plan, as these items supply natural essential fatty acids (EFA) and omega-3 and 6 to your fur kids. To round our approach off, we believe that natural supplements, such as prebiotics, probiotics, essential oils, and natural vitamin and minerals all contribute to the overall nutritional profile required by each individual fur kid.
To determine the amount of edible parts your fur kids should be eating as part of a balanced nutritional meal plan, whether BARF, PMR, Frankenprey (more details below), reference the anatomy of a typical prey animal. These portions include muscle meat, soft edible bone, and digestive organs: all of which are vitally important for your fur kids to consume on a raw food diet. Our selected raw frozen formula meals are all produced based on these principles, and pre-packaged for your convenience, so that you don't have get down into the grit of making it yourself.
The percentage of edible parts in most common prey animals are:
- 10% Digestive organs (Digestive System)
- 10% Edible bone (Skeletal System)
- 80% Muscle meat (Muscular System)
Under the principles of biologically specie appropriate raw diets, pets typically consume:
- 5-10% Organs: liver and kidney (Digestive System)
- 5-10% Compact Muscle Proteins: heart and tongue (Muscular System)
- 50-60% Meaty Bones: chicken legs, bone-in breast meat, whole fish, etc. (Muscular System & Skeletal System)
- The Remaining 20-40% Body Muscle: beef, pork shoulder and cushion, gizzards, eggs, green-tripe, etc. (Muscular System)
Meaty bones are primarily body muscle (about 60-70%), so your fur kids are still getting a large portion of muscle meat from the bones. Consuming soft bone in this manner is more natural for carnivores. While they are chewing on the tough raw meat, the soft bone underneath is being ground up into easy-to-swallow pieces.
Our suppliers manufacture the supreme pet cuisine we stock and supply to you;- minimally processed, wholesome, and natural. We all know that people need real, whole, minimally processed foods to thrive. Pet parents and guardians who realize this and make healthy eating choices themselves quickly realize that this same logic applies to their cats and dogs.
Our fur kids are biologically designed to eat what they have eaten for centuries before big kibble companies existed – meat, bones, and tripe (the fruits and vegetables digesting in the stomachs of their prey). They were never designed to eat high-carb, grain based diets (see our article titled "High Carb Diets for Pets?"), and they were designed to eat a variety of raw, moisture-rich foods. We believe that feeding them kibble is like giving a piece of bread to someone with celiac disease – every meal for their entire lives. Over time, they would not be very healthy and would have several health issues.
Like pet parents, pets need:
- Moisture Rich Meals;
- Minimally Processed Foods;
- Whole Meats and Produce (not meals or by products);
- Food Free of Additives, Hormones, Antibiotics and Pesticides;
Our pets thrive on properly prepared raw meat-based diets. Processed foods can never match the nutrition available in such a meal.
First, what do we mean by properly prepared raw meat diets?
Properly prepared raw meat diets, such as the ones we stock and supply, are “complete and balanced”, or "complementary" as defined in the South Africa legal framework through Act 36 of 1947 (Department of Agriculture Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act) [ref]. There are many people who attempt home-made raw diets, but these can be complicated, expensive, and time consuming. There are several different nutritional requirements that must be met, and the needs vary over time. It practically takes a graduate degree to be able to get it right – which many pet parents and guardians in fact do (without the degree of course ..). But if a pet parent gets it wrong, the results can be devastating, and this is one of the main reasons so many veterinarians are against raw diets.
If you do not have the time or the money to invest in the education requisite to safely prepare a raw home meal, commercially manufactured raw pet foods, such as the ones we represent and sell, are the best option for providing good nutrition for your pet. There are a growing number of raw diets that meet AAFCO’s standards for “Complete and Balanced for All Life Stages” and "Complementary for All Life Stages" (yes, we realise that we might not be seen as very pro-AAFCO, but in the consumer context, the profiles and Act 36 / 1947 itself have a valid purpose in our, and your, life). This means that all the meals we sell have been formulated to ensure they have the nutrients necessary for good health over the lifetime of your pet.
However, AAFCO standards are easy targets and can be achieved using low-grade ingredients (see our article on AAFCO standards). Many commercial dry pet food companies have spent hundreds of thousands of Rands (actually, more like millions of US Dollars) to figure out the cheapest ingredients available that will yield the test result necessary to pass (don't believe us? Watch Canadian Broadcasting Corporation video titled "a Dog's Breakfast" - of specific interest, the AAFCO test submission around 35min 19secs into the documentary, we reference in our article titled "From Trash to Cash"). These ingredients will be processed, artificial and non-human grade.
We believe that one of the goals of raw pet food is to maintain as much of the naturally occurring nutritional value as possible. Many of the processes commercial processed food is exposed to before it reaches the store shelf strips it of vital nutrients, so our suppliers do nothing more than grind the raw ingredients together, shape and package them, and then freeze them. Heat destroys important building blocks for health, and High-Pressure Processing (HPP) destroys healthy digestive enzymes. By avoiding these processes, our suppliers present a food that is in imitation of nature – with all the amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals intact.
The results can be dramatic. When we switch dogs and cats from processed, grain-based foods to raw pet cuisine diets from our suppliers, improvements become quickly apparent. We have received feedback that the food has improved health in many ways, including:
- Brighter eyes;
- Improved Behaviour;
- Many common skin problems disappear;
- More Energy and Vitality;
- Whiter Teeth, Better Breath;
- Arthritis and other joint issues resolved or reduced;
- Digestive Problems Clear Up;
- Firm, Smaller Stools (that is a benefit for the pet parents);
Let's discuss the differences in feeding philosophies and presentation of pet cuisine in detail.
What are the differences between PREY and BARF?
The most basic “raw” feeding option is that based on what is commonly known as the BARF diet – for those unfamiliar with this peculiar acronym, it stands for either "Bones and Raw Food Diet", or "Biologically Appropriate Raw Diet", depending on who you ask. Although the idea of feeding dogs anything other than kibble was not a new idea at the time, a book published by an Australian vet called Dr Billinghurst in 1993 called “Give Your Dog a Bone” certainly gave impetus to the idea of feeding as Mother Nature intended. It went back to basics and looked at feeding dogs what they were effectively designed to eat. According to Dr Billinghurst’s research, dogs are carnivores, vegetarians, scavengers, hunters and opportunists – so a diet of raw, meat, bones and offal was the ideal food for our companion canines, as this is what they would naturally eat in the wild – despite the fact that dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years.
In nature, many hunting animals tend to eat virtually all of their kill, including fur, and some stomach contents. This “whole carcass” method of feeding is not for the squeamish, or those who live in an apartment, but biologically and physiologically dogs have not changed a great deal over time, and are not sufficiently dissimilar to their present wild cousins so as to require a different diet just because they live in our homes rather than in the natural world around us. Some people however struggle to source the food suggested by Dr Billinghurst (his book favours pig carcasses and kangaroos!).
Those who feed their dogs parts from a number of different animal sources will maintain that these supply all necessary proteins, minerals and vitamins, as well as promoting healthy teeth, gums, joints and digestion, and many thousands of dog owners still revere “Give Your Dog a Bone” as the bible for raw feeding.
Since the original publication of “Give Your Dog a Bone”, however, Dr Billinghurst has slightly revised his feeding model to include 20% crushed vegetable matter and fruit. It is the original absence of these additions which historically set the next method of feeding apart from the BARF diet.
Another major advocate of the raw diet, Dr Tom Lonsdale, in his book “Raw Meaty Bones” bases his diet on just those three words – raw, meaty, bones. Whilst not opposed to dogs eating fruit and vegetables, most of the people who follow this diet will agree that the benefits of digesting fruit and vegetables can be obtained from other sources, and recommend feeding a “whole prey diet” – which would include tripe and smaller animals containing pre-digested vegetable matter. Contrary to popular belief, Dr Lonsdale’s suggested diet contains up to a maximum of one third vegetation – much higher than that now recommended by Dr Billinghurst. The differences between these two feeding camps is therefore tiny, and often only exists in the minds of the supporters of each author.
The diet of wolves in the wild is regularly cited as an example to be followed by both those who feed BARF or raw meaty bones, and yet Dr David Mech [ref] (a recognized expert on wolves) has been quoted as saying wolves in fact are not strict carnivores, but carnivores that also eat omnivore foods, further blurring the definitions. We don't have to look that far ourselves, as we still have some vibrant (even though highly endangered) African Wild Dog and Cat communities that can act as reference. They hunt for a wide variety of prey, including gazelles and other antelopes, warthogs, wildebeest calves, rats, and birds. Like most predators, they play an important role in eliminating sick and weak animals in the wild, thereby helping to maintain the natural balance and improve prey species. Of the large carnivores, African wild dogs are probably the most efficient hunters - targeted prey rarely escapes [ref].
The Supplemented BARF Diet
The third example of a raw diet is similar to a BARF or raw meaty bones diet but with added extras, such as supplements like coconut oil or turmeric. You could qualify our approach at Raw Food for Pets as "The Supplemented BARF Diet". Dr Lonsdale does not recommend supplements, but Dr Billinghurst believes they are sometimes required. These days many raw feeders believe that the addition of these “extras” to the diet can only be beneficial to the dog – after all, we all want our pets to live long and healthy lives, thriving instead of just surviving, so why not feed them other foods with known health benefits?
This subject, perhaps more than any other, is one which is argued about the most passionately on every raw feeding internet site. People fall in to either of two camps – those that do add extras which can include vegetables and fruit that the animal may not normally eat in the wild, and those who do not – and each will argue the merits of their case until the internet explodes. Those against the addition of vegetables, for example, will argue that the dog does not nutritionally require anything other than meat, bones and offal (as fed by the BARF people) in order to thrive, and would not eat these if left to its own devices.
The arguments raised are usually based on the belief that dogs are strict carnivores, not vegetarians or even omnivores, and therefore have no need of the nutrients and vitamins found in fruit and veg; but as seen above, even the experts are unable to fully agree. The other side, those who do add carrots, kale, sweet potato and a wide range of other ingredients to their dog’s diet, will argue that these are all excellent sources of additional nutrients and vitamins, with known heath boosting properties, so why would one not feed them to one’s dog, even if the dog would not normally eat them in the wild?
What about my feline kids?
For our cat lovers, another model is currently gaining ground. This model is called the Frankenprey model, which is another variance of BARF and PMR. The Frankenprey model describes the process of creating a whole raw prey animal by using bones, meat, and organs from other animals - like Frankenstein. In the wild, cats eat small birds, rodents, snakes, rabbits, etc. This creates a perfect meal where organs, bones, and muscle meats are in complete proportion. For those of us unwilling to hunt birds and mice for our carnivores, yet still desire to be raw feeders, we turn to Frankenprey.
The Frankenprey model follows a strict 80/10/5/5 guideline and most raw feeders will follow that over a week's worth of meals instead of a day's worth of meals. You'll see this average weekly intake is more convenient and carries a smaller risk of contamination and vitamin/mineral overload; raw parts are thawed in bulk and fed as soon as possible. There must exist a balance; maybe not a perfect daily balance, but a balance nonetheless. 80% of weekly meals should contain muscle meat, 10% of weekly meals should be made of bones, 5% of weekly meals should be made of liver, and 5% of weekly meals should contain secreting organs like kidneys. This sums up to 100%.
As in any topic, there are proponents of the various methods who eschew all others as being inferior. Don’t let these well-meaning but sometimes overly-passionate folks intimidate or discourage you – all three feeding methods (and any combination there-of) are healthy, nutritious and far, far better for your cat than even the “best” commercially manufactured foods.
Which should you feed, BARF, PMR or Frankenprey?
There’s honestly no right or wrong answer, it’s just a matter of opinion. The main point most would agree is that you’re doing right by feeding your fur kids raw rather than kibble. So why does raw matter – and what is it about this subject that inspires such passion in its advocates – be they prey feeders, the raw meaty bones brigade or the BARFers?
Despite the philosophical differences, the different factions will generally stand together against the one issue upon which they all agree – our dogs and cats should not be fed dried processed foods. That is not to say there are no quality dried foods available – but most will agree, where ever possible these should not be fed when a raw diet is a viable alternative.
Try out both and see what works best for you and your dog, or a combination thereof, as we advocate. Personally, as we stated above, we like to feed a mixture of both, more closely aligned with the Supplemented BARF philosophy for dogs and Frankenprey for cats. BARF wins on the convenience factor, however Prey also has it’s benefits, which is why believe the middle road, a combination of both, is the golden road ...
Additional Articles and Videos
You can read Dr. Jean Dodd, Prey Model vs. BARF Diets: Possibly the most contentious battle in the dog world (Dr Dodds).