Get into your cozy chair with your sweat pants on… We are going to take a trip back in time to learn about life before kibble, and find out why exactly your vet might not be the most reliable source for your pet’s nutritional information. Think Nutritionist VS Doctor. Think Brain Surgeon VS Orthopedic Surgeon…Think Cats VS Dogs, even.
This Blog Post marks the first in a new series of TMI (too much information) Posts. They will all be the burning answer to one of those questions that you always wanted to know, but then you were in the middle of getting the answer from someone you decided it wasn’t worth it after all. BUT with these posts it IS worth it… very important stuff is happening. Anyway, sit back and enjoy our grown-up story time with your favorite pet and perhaps a grown-up beverage. I now introduce to you:
The Evolution of Kibble & Why Your Vet Might Not Have All the Info, after all…
written by Chelsea Kent
Brain Surgeons and Orthopedic Surgeons… There are really smart people in this world but no one knows everything… not even your vet!!!
With the evolution of the natural food industry people often end up in the position of wondering why their veterinarian recommends one thing and the natural pet food industry recommends something completely different. Not only are the recommendations completely different, but they seem to vehemently oppose each other.
Why is that? Ponder with me, if you will. Once upon a time…
…in a world before we thought that DDT was a good idea, before there was industrial pollution, heck, before there was even advertising, there was a thing called a farm.
In this long ago time we knew what nature was. We had pigs and chickens and cows and fruits and veggies… we supplied food for our families, and our pets, through the efforts of the land we lived on and the work we put into it. We didn’t have pre-packaged, heavily advertised, appealingly labeled, convenient products delivered to our doorsteps or even available at the local grocers. Then along came industrialized agriculture and pre-packaged convenient products… and with those came the trash and leftover scraps from their processing… as well as the waste from products gone bad or labeled as unusable. For a while (before the concept of bio-hazardous waste) those things were put into landfills… but soon came problems with rats and pests, which brought disease and filth. So whatever could be done with all this junk if it couldn’t be put in the trash? Well… feed it to the dog, of course!!! They’ll eat anything!!! (After all they have been eating our “clean” chemical free family, farm and “tribe” garbage for the duration of human history.)
However, it was soon noticed that pet owners had an aversion to purchasing rotten scraps for their pets when they could, instead, offer the fresh wholesome (and free) scraps right off their dinner tables that they had been offering for years. So, what’s a company to do???? AH-HA… cook the rotten scraps into little balls that resemble nothing even remotely similar to the products that comprise them!!! And thus, KIBBLE WAS BORN!!!
Add some cute packaging and advertising about the amazing convenience and wonder of scooping one simple thing out of a bag rather than cooking additional foods for your pets and VOILA… an industry was made. Not only did this industry resolve the problem of food trash and agricultural waste in landfills, and pests spreading disease, but people LOVED it because it gave them a perceived decreased effort to their long hard days on the farm.
But, remember, there was a time before when the idea of feeding pets a processed dry cereal food made out of a slurry of random goods (and never offered rotation or “real food” of any kind) seemed strange and defied logic.
It was simply the advertised promise of “convenience” that allowed this type of product to become the norm. It was further extended when these dog and cat food companies realized that they were losing profits when people continued to feed their pets fresh, wholesome table scraps. So out came the advertising about how unhealthy and even unsafe it was to give your pet ANY real food, OF ANY KIND… EVER… not because this was true (realistically, pets had ONLY lived on table scraps, and THRIVED, for centuries) but to increase the profits of the pet food manufacturers.
Eventually, the idea of feeding pets exclusively cereal had been common for so long that newer generations never stopped to question the logic behind it. This manufactured phobia of feeding scraps to pets seemed to gain credibility as modern factory farming and food processing techniques added dangerous pathogens and chronic disease causing agents to human foods, which is why we can’t recommend only giving table scraps, unless you LIVE on a farm. But there are a lot of healthier, safer, cheaper, AND more convenient options available these days for you to consider… we’ll help you figure it out when you get to that part)…
So is pet food still made from trash? In viewing AAFCO guidelines anyone can see that yes, it is an acceptable practice. Standards of health and quality are entirely dependent on the company creating the product. The majority of well known companies quite literally purchase “seconds” for their pet foods (I’m sure you could find a place to buy them yourself in your city if you look online… and ask them who they sell to, they’ll tell you directly, pet food companies)… rotten and expired products (including the packaging) that grocery stores can’t sell.
Ethical companies are numerous but it costs a lot more to purchase real food (not trash for 9 cents/lb) so those companies have minimal advertising budgets and are not as well known. So where does one go to find THOSE products? A natural pet supply store is generally a great place to start. While some stores are more educated than others, and some “natural” foods are still rotten tricksters, you are still more likely to find better quality in an independently owned store than you are in a big box store or at a vet clinic. Also, research companies yourself, online, and even call them and question them about their practices to determine if they make good products.
So why don’t veterinarians recommend these products and even oppose them? The same reason that brain surgeons don’t perform orthopedic surgery!!! They’re not trained for it. Veterinarians are educated in diagnostics and pharmaceuticals in multiple species. In the same amount of time that a human doctor goes to school to learn about one species, humans, a vet has to learn about dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, lizards, birds, horses, etc, etc, etc.
The only nutrition class that vets are offered (not required) regarding dogs and cats is about eight hours long and is sponsored by Hills Science Diet’s Mark Morris Institute. Prior to taking your vet’s advice about nutrition ask him or her, “what training and experience have you had with dog/cat nutrition?” Were they educated by one company about one product line? Did they spend more than 8 hours learning it? “Who taught you the information that you know?” Have they spoken to and researched recall statistics, sourcing, manufacturing practices, quality control, and science behind foods other than those that advertise heavily to them? Or have they just taken the word of the companies that profit the most from “teaching” them what they advertise?
Just remember that while brain surgeons are incredibly intelligent and well educated people, they are only educated about what they specialize in. You would no sooner get advice from a brain surgeon about how to handle a bunion on your foot than you should go to a vet to get advice about nutrition for your pet. Your preference for asking a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon about foot problems is not offensive to your brain surgeon because its not their specialty and, while vets have come to feel entitled to having pet owners believe EVERYTHING they say, it should not be offensive to any good vet (that acknowledges their lack of education in nutrition) for you to seek advice in your pets nutrition from a pet nutrition specialist.
For the same reason, Hero’s Pets does not offer diagnostics or pharmaceuticals because, it’s not our specialty, and we are not educated and trained in them and we acknowledge that. We may know enough to recommend that you discuss GETTING a certain diagnostic procedure or request information on a certain pharmaceutical but we only advise that you speak to your veterinary specialist about such things, we don’t try to lead you to believe that we know everything about diagnostics OR pharmaceuticals because WE DON’T KNOW. Alternatively, while vets may direct you regarding their understanding of your pets nutritional needs it is unreasonable and even, according to the Veterinary Code of Ethics, unethical for them to provide advice for that which they are not trained in, which includes nutrition. Rather, a good vet should either do their own research that excludes the advertising of big companies like Hills Science Diet, Purina Mills, Royal Canin, Proctor and Gamble, Nestle and Mars, prior to even developing opinions or offering nutritional advice to anyone OR they should recognize their lack of unbiased knowledge and offer a friendly referral to a pet nutrition specialist for pet owners seeking such advice.
– written by Chelsea Kent, co-founder of Hero’s Pets
With 13 years of extensive nutritional research and experience in the pet industry, Chelsea has developed a diverse, comprehensive education and perspective in holistic nutrition and product integrity by working closely with the owners of 100′s of holistic pet companies and complimentary medicine practitioners such as Nutritional Biochemist Franco Cavaleri, Nutritionist Greg Tilford, Jordan Rubin, Microbiologist Jacqueline Hill and Food Scientist Roxanne Stone, and many more.