The Industrial Revolution completely changed the way we eat, process and store our food – and that applies to dog food as well. Your dog’s ancestors once hunted and ate scraps but adapted over thousands of years to depend on humans for food and comfort. Still, it wasn’t until the 19th century that people introduced processed diets to pets.
The world’s first manufactured dog food was Spratt’s, which appeared in London around 1860. The brainchild of electrician James Spratt, the biscuits were a mix of grains, fish and meats, vegetables, spices and cod liver oil. Known as “dog cakes” at the time, they were a huge success and were heavily advertised all over the country. Less than a decade later, they were also all the rage in the US.
Ken-L Ration, the first American brand of canned dog food, didn’t appear in the market until the early 1920s and was owned by Quaker Oats. It consisted mainly of horse meat and, like Spratt’s, it didn’t have a long shelf life. It was cleverly marketed as “lean, red meat” and was only disclosed in tiny letters at the bottom of the package. This canned food was so successful that by the 1940s, horses were being bred specifically to be slaughtered. Over fifty thousand of them per year that is! Purina Dog Chow also entered the market in the 1920s with the world’s first dried dog food, though the product wasn’t shelf-stable either.
When metal became scarce during WWII, and manufacturers could no longer produce canned food, companies started to look into producing shelf-stable dog food. After all, this was the perfect time to bring a cheaper, more profitable product to the market. Although the first true shelf-stable kibble came into the market around this time, it wasn’t until the 1950s that kibble became a commercial success. This was after the appearance of Purina’s first balanced dog food, produced via extrusion. To explain extrusion simply, wet and dry ingredients get combined to make a doughy mixture. This dough then gets pushed into a machine called an expander that cooks the dough at an alarmingly high temperature killing most of the present nutrients. Yes, that includes all the “Organic and nutrition-dense” ingredients. Once cooked, the dough gets forced or extruded through small-shaped holes and cut by a knife to form the smelly, burnt, brown pebbles we now know as kibble.
Although some brands are better than others, you could potentially think of kibble as “fast food for pets.” The cheaper the brand, the lower the quality of the ingredients used. In fact, the quality of the ingredients in pet food is often so low that they need to be processed at high heat to kill bacteria and make it safe. As a result, many nutrients are lost and need to be re-added later in synthetic form to comply with AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards.
Here are other reasons kibble isn’t the ideal choice:
Lots of Empty Carbohydrates
While dogs can digest carbohydrates and they can be part of a healthy diet, kibble is often oversupplied with them as a replacement for better-quality ingredients. Carbohydrate sources can be a problem if they are used in large quantities in kibble.
Added Preservatives and Other Chemicals
In addition to food dyes and artificial flavors, pet food contains a lot of other chemicals. Fat preservatives such as Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), and Ethoxyquin are often added to foods to extend their shelf-life. Some of these chemicals, including ethoxyquin, can be carcinogenic and are banned from use in human food.
Since many nutrients are lost during the manufacturing process, pet food companies have to add them back later in their synthetic form to be able to label their food as “complete and balanced.” The biological quality of synthetic nutrients is not the same as natural nutrients from fresh, high-quality food.
While pet food must contain a certain minimum of protein and energy to comply with standards set by authorities like AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), there’s no requirement regarding the quality of that protein and energy sources. Some brands get most of their protein from meat- and poultry-by-products, which are, essentially, slaughterhouse waste. This is what’s left after the meat is removed for human consumption and can include things like lungs, intestines, blood, and several other organs. Legally, the meat can even come from roadkill and diseased farm animals, according to Dog Food Advisor.
If you’re truly concerned about what you’re feeding your pets, switching to fresh food for dogs that’s properly balanced and made from human-grade ingredients is your best option.
Feeding a well-balanced, fresh diet made with natural, real ingredients can promote heart, liver and gastrointestinal health, improve skin condition and energy levels and help dogs with food allergies. It can even extend your dog’s life. In fact, a Belgian study that followed 500 dogs for a period of 5 years found that dogs eating a fresh homemade diet lived up to 32 months longer than those eating commercial food.
The problem with homemade diets is that unless you can consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, getting the recipe right can be very challenging. On your own – and even following recipes for dog food you find online -- you most probably will end up with something that won’t completely fulfill your pet’s nutritional needs and, in the long term, will lead to malnutrition (overnutrition and undernutrition of nutrients).
This is where Cola’s Kitchen comes in. We believe in feeding dogs the best food. We also believe in feeding them an individually balanced diet that’s customized to their needs. Take a look at how you can have the best dog food delivered right to your dog HERE.