A message from Dr. Karen Becker on feeding a raw food diet.

 Dr Mercola:

I recently interviewed Dr. Karen Becker, who has been in charge of our Healthy Pets site for the past four years.

If you have a dog, cat, or some other type of furry or feathered companion, and you haven’t yet visited Dr. Becker’s site, be sure to sign up for the Healthy Pets newsletter. I think you’ll find it an invaluable resource to help you change your pet’s life for the better.

Just as we’re trying to improve health for humans here with the Mercola.com newsletter, Dr. Becker is doing the same for pets.

In our interview above, we talk about an important topic that’s every bit as vital for animals as it is for humans, and that is the food your pet eats.

And just as there’s massive deception, fraud, and misinformation in the human food industry, there’s an equal if not greater amount of misinformation and deception in the pet food industry.

90 Percent of Pet Foods May Cause Disease in Your Pet

As you might suspect, the driving force behind the pet food industry is not to create a nourishing, species-appropriate diet for your pets; the focus is on making a profit, unfortunately often at the expense of your dog’s or cat’s health.

Dr. Becker explains:

” … 90 percent of pet foods out there contain totally inappropriate ingredients that are not nourishing and actually create low-grade inflammatory processes, diabetes and obesity. All the same health issues occurring in the pet world are occurring in the human realm in terms of overall health. But additionally, these pet foods are rendered, [which means]… not approved for human consumption. On top of the inappropriate ingredients in pet food, if people really knew the quality of food they are feeding their pets, they would be totally appalled.”

For example, the scrap meat that is deemed unfit for human consumption (because it contains tumors, abscesses, diseased tissues, etc.) is often rendered and used as “protein” in pet food.

Bottom line – if you feed a mass marketed commercial pet food, your dog or cat is typically getting a low grade concoction of rendered, leftover animal parts (including not only diseased tissues but can often include beaks, feathers, snouts and feet) and other inappropriate ingredients like genetically modified (GM) corn or soy, as well as wheat and rice.

Your Dog or Cat Wasn’t Meant to Eat All Those Carbs

Another biologically inappropriate ingredient found in plentiful supply in the vast majority of commercial pet foods are grain-based carbohydrates.

“Dogs and cats are by nature carnivores. Kitties are obligate carnivores. Dogs are scavenging carnivores. These two carnivore species don’t even have a carbohydrate requirement. We are putting into their bodies a bunch of foods that are metabolically unnecessary, that are setting up the same degenerative processes that are occurring in human bodies,” Dr. Becker said.

If you’ve ever wondered why dog and cat foods contain so many grains if they’re not nutritionally necessary, it comes down to profits once again. Grains are cheap fillers, and this is why they’re added to most pet foods – not because they have any nutritional benefit for your dog or cat. To create a truly meat-based food costs more, and it is far less expensive, and easier, for pet food manufacturers to load their foods with corn, rice and wheat than it would be to figure out how to make a competitively priced food that would actually be species-appropriate.

“Grain-Free” Doesn’t Mean Carb-Free

Even many of the higher end pet foods marketed as “grain-free” contain carbohydrate fillers like potato or pea fiber. And adding to the problem is the fact that many veterinarians will tell you these and other carb fillers are “good sources of energy,” which could not be further from the truth.

Dr. Becker continued:

“It’s interesting that veterinarians have started marketing some of these carbohydrates as a good source of energy. But absolutely, we know that dogs and cats are not requiring any of these grains – they break down into sugar.

Sugar, of course, causes an insulin release. Insulin then causes blood sugar to drop. Cortisol is then released to rebalance blood sugar. So dogs and cats are dealing with this whole cycle of carbohydrate ingestion, insulin release, and cortisol release. The metabolic syndrome that’s occurring in people – leptin resistance – is absolutely occurring in pets as well. We’re seeing diabetes in dogs and cats, most certainly, and obesity that leads to musculoskeletal issues and secondary organ degeneration. The whole cycle is occurring in pets.”

 Original Article


Give Them Meat: Why Are Vets Resistant To Raw Dog Food?


At a Waltham Nutritional Sciences Symposium, researcher Professor Wouter Hendriks presented more evidence that dogs are carnivores (you can see the video summary here). Those of us who feed raw are inclined to say, “Yeah? So what?” We’ve all taken that for granted, given the dog’s sharp, pointy carnivore teeth and carnivorous ancestors. So when I saw some web pages discussing this “new” finding, I was curious to see what anyone would get excited about.

Well, it seems like this might be news to some vets. “In veterinary school we learned that cats are carnivores; horses, rabbits and ruminants are herbivores; and pigs and dogs ­­— like people — are omnivores” says veterinarian Dr Patty Khuly in a recent article.

The vets further solidified their position of dogs as omnivores when a study was published in the scientific journal Nature earlier this year. The summary of that report was:

“Our results indicate that novel adaptations allowing the early ancestors of modern dogs to thrive on a diet rich in starch, relative to the carnivorous diet of wolves, constituted a crucial step in the early domestication of dogs.”

Dogs Are Carnivores…

Last month, professor Hendriks added another dimension to this study. His work shows that just because dogs have adapted to omnivorous diets doesn’t make them omnivores. Although the researchers in the starch study found a few genes that reflected adaptation to starches, “just a few genes’ difference is regarded as an adaptive shift to a condition. These alone can’t possibly alter the entire digestive evolution of a species” says Dr Khuly.

Dr Khuly also adds that dogs have the following carnivorous traits:

  • Dogs’ teeth are adapted to a carnivorous diet (for tearing muscle and crunching bone to extract marrow).
  • Many of their innate behaviors are carnivorous in nature. Consider digging, for example. Like wolves, dogs dig to hide parts of meals for future ingestion.
  • Dogs, like many large mammalian carnivores, are metabolically able to survive for long periods of time between meals.
  • Dogs have a lot of flexibility in metabolic pathways to help make up for a feast-or-famine lifestyle and a wide range of possible prey.

I’d agree with her up until this point. Dr Khuly then concludes, “The result of these findings, argues Dr Hendriks, is that the dog is undeniably a true carnivore. The dog just happens to have an adaptive metabolism as a result of living with humans for millennia. That’s why the dog is perfectly capable of eating a grain-based diet, as most commercially fed dogs do.

…But Not To Vets

Hold on there. How did we get from “dogs are undeniably carnivores” to “keep on feeding them a grain based diet” in the same paragraph? What just happened there?

Diabetes, a condition where the body is  unable to properly metabolize glucose from carbohydrates, is the most common endocrine disease affecting dogs today and its prevalence is growing every year. Thirty years ago, 0.19% of dogs suffered from diabetes. In 1999, the rate tripled to 0.58%. Today, up to 1.5% of dogs suffer from diabetes.

I’d be the first to admit that diabetes is an autoimmune disease and I’d happily attribute it to vaccine damage. But it also bears stating that unnatural foods lead to unnatural outcomes … like diabetes.

I know that when this article is published, the conventional vets and proponents will say what I’m writing is mostly speculation, there’s no science to back it up. And they’d be right.

But to those vets who continue to feed carbohydrate-laden foods, despite the growing body of research showing that dogs are carnivores, and despite the rise of metabolic disease related to carbohydrate intake, I have this question to ask:

Where is the research backing your carbohydrate-based diets? Feeding trials? Give me a break – just because a dog lives for three months eating your food without any overt signs of disease doesn’t mean that food will sustain him and keep him healthy for a lifetime.

I’m tired of being asked for references and research when vets and kibble companies continuously make huge leaps in logic, despite the overwhelming evidence that dogs are carnivores. Somewhere along the line, shouldn’t somebody stick up their hand and ask why we started feeding dogs corn and rice in the first place? What drove that initial decision?

My vote is MONEY.

Kibble Is Made For People With Wallets, Not Dogs

From the time James Spratt tossed hard tack off the side of his ship to the dogs on the docks, to the first kibbles that had dogs chasing chuck wagons around the house, kibble has had one goal and one goal alone: make money from pet owners.

Does your dog have a wallet? Mine don’t, so I buy all their things for them. And the kibble manufacturers figured that out a long time ago, and directed their marketing to the people with the wallets, not the furry beings who would be consuming their food. So we as humans watched the chuck wagon commercials and thought our dog would really like that stuff. We never paid much attention to what was in the bag, just that it looked cool and we loved potatoes and corn, so why wouldn’t our dogs? Now that we pet owners know better, I have to wonder how much thought vets have given to what’s in the bag.

Now there are two kinds of vets. Those who mindlessly chase chuck wagons and those who don’t. Do you know how to tell the difference between them? That’s simple. One will have shelves full of kibble in their waiting area and one won’t.

I for one wish vets would wake up and see kibble for what it is. It’s a relic from days long gone, when we didn’t know any better. Nobody took the time to figure out what dogs should eat and when people started pumping money into dog food, the pet food companies were more concerned with making their brand better than their competitor than asking, why are we putting starches into these foods? Well, they probably did ask that question and the answer was likely, “because it’s cheaper.”

So now, pet owners are starting to see their furry family members as the little carnivores they are, and the kibble manufacturers are up against it. They need those starches to hold that food together – without starch, those little kibbles would disintegrate into a bag of dust. That’s why the so-called grain free diets are still full of starches like potatoes. They’re just as unnatural for carnivores as corn and wheat, but they’re needed to hold that stuff together.

But while vets may now concede that dogs might not be omnivores, they’re clearly still reluctant to move away from kibble and they’ll continue to view every piece of research through their kibble-colored glasses. They have to, because they’ve got too much invested in it to change so readily. It must be tough to stand in front of a longtime client and say, “Sally, it seems that I’ve been wrong all along and that kibble that I told you to feed Spot might be making him a little sick. You see, I thought he was an omnivore, despite his pointy teeth and relative lack of digestive enzymes to make any use of starches and grains. And then, when research came out saying that he wasn’t an omnivore, I ignored it because, hey, I’ve got all that kibble sitting in my front lobby and all the other vets are doing it. So I hope you’ll forgive me when I still charge you $100 a month for Spot’s insulin.”

Yeah, that’s a tough conversation to have. But wouldn’t we pet owners so love to hear it?

But pet owners have grown up and we can see past the politics and marketing ploys; we just want our dogs to be healthy. That’s why many pet owners don’t see dogs as carnivores as big news; we knew it all along. It’s just common sense – something that’s severely lacking in the conventional world today.

Are you still chasing chuck wagons?

By in Holistic Care, Nutrition And Diet



Decoding your pet food labels. What are those mystery ingredients?

By Dr. Becker

In early October 2011, the poultry industry held a seminar in Nashville to discuss the use of poultry by-products in pet food.

A scientist employed by a major pet food company gave a presentation audaciously titled, The Importance of Rendered Ingredients in Pet Foods.

Of course, a more candid title would emphasize to whom rendered ingredients are important, which is primarily pet food manufacturers.

Rendered ingredients are often the opposite of “important” when it comes to nutrition for the pets eating the stuff.

At the same seminar, a member of the National Renderers Association gave a presentation on emerging markets for rendered products.

It seems in the U.S. we produce about 4 million metric tons of “animal protein meal” per year.

Pet food is the biggest growth market for rendered products.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss the food rendering industry, what types of raw materials are rendered for inclusion in pet food, and how easy it is to become confused by what’s really in the commercial pet food you serve your dog or cat.

Food Rendering Primer

The rendering process involves combining “raw product” (defined shortly) in huge containers and grinding the mixture down to chips or shreds.

The mixture is then cooked at 220º – 270º F for up to an hour, which separates the meat from the bone.

The grease, also called tallow, rises to the top, is skimmed off the mixture, and becomes the mystery ‘animal fat’ frequently found on pet food ingredient labels.

The remaining product is put in a press which squeezes out all the moisture and pulverizes the material into a powder. Shaker screens are used to separate excess hair and large bone chips from the powder.

The result is meat and bone meal added to pet food formulas.

The “Raw Products” of the Food Rendering Industry

Apparently spurred on by the mad cow disease scare, in 2004 a report was made to Congress titled Animal Rendering: Economics and Policy.i

This report is useful in understanding the rendering industry because it simply states the facts, without editorializing. I think you’ll agree the facts are plenty disturbing (and nauseating, for those with weak stomachs) on their own.

These are a few excerpts from the report (bolding by me), with points I want to make following each excerpt:

Renderers annually convert 47 billion pounds or more of raw animal materials into approximately 18 billion pounds of products. Sources for these materials include meat slaughtering and processing plants (the primary one); dead animals from farms, ranches, feedlots, marketing barns, animal shelters, and other facilities; and fats, grease, and other food waste from restaurants and stores.

Point #1: In case you thought the rendered ingredients in your dog’s or cat’s food came only from (presumably regulated) slaughterhouses or animal processing plants, now you know better. Renderers also drive around in specially designed trucks picking up dead farm and ranch animals, as well as dead pets from animal shelters. They also collect fat, grease and other human food waste from food outlets.

Elsewhere, independent renderers collect and process about half of all livestock and poultry that die from diseases or accidents before reaching slaughter plants (Sparks 2002). U.S. farm animal mortalities in 2000 included approximately 4.1 million cattle and calves (totaling 1.9 billion pounds); 18 million hogs (1 billion pounds); 833,000 sheep, lambs, and goats (64 million pounds); and 82 million chickens and turkeys (347 million pounds), according to Sparks, which examined USDA data.

Point #2: Among the dead livestock and poultry that renderers collect are a large number of animals that died from disease or “accidents” – never even making it to the slaughterhouse.

Integrated plants operate in conjunction with animal slaughter and meat processing plants and handle 65%-70% of all rendered material. The estimated 95 U.S. and Canadian facilities (NRA) render most edible animal byproducts (i.e., fatty animal tissue), mainly into edible fats (tallow and lard) for human consumption. Edible rendering is subject to the inspection and safety standards of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) or its state counterparts, which by law already are present in the meat slaughter and processing plants. These plants also render inedible byproducts (including slaughter floor waste) into fats and proteins for animal feeds and for other ingredients. Because a meat plant typically processes only one animal species (such as cattle, hogs, or poultry), its associated rendering operations likewise handle only the byproducts of that species. The inedible and edible rendering processes are segregated.

Point #3: Note the rendering of edible products for human consumption is subject to USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service standards. Also note that rendered inedible byproducts (not for human consumption) include slaughter floor waste. Is it any wonder the edible and inedible rendering processes are kept separate?

Independent operations handle the other 30%-35% of rendered material. These plants (estimated by NRA at 165 in the United States and Canada) usually collect material from other sites using specially designed trucks. They pick up and process fat and bone trimmings, inedible meat scraps, blood, feathers, and dead animals from meat and poultry slaughterhouses and processors (usually smaller ones without their own rendering operations), farms, ranches, feedlots, animal shelters, restaurants, butchers, and markets. As a result, the majority of independents are likely to be handling “mixed species.” Almost all of the resulting ingredients are destined for nonhuman consumption (e.g., animal feeds, industrial products). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates animal feed ingredients, but its continuous presence in rendering plants, or in feed mills that buy rendered ingredients, is not a legal requirement.

Point #4: Independent rendering operations — and there are many more independents than there are integrated operations overseen by the USDA (165 vs. 95 as of 2004) – deal primarily in rendering the inedible-for-humans stuff. Note that while the FDA regulates animal feed ingredients, it is not legally required to have a regular presence in independent rendering plants.

Back to the Pet Food Company Scientist’s Presentation

In his presentation, the scientist discussed the making of dry pet food and the benefits (his word, not mine) of chicken meal and poultry fat in pets’ diets. He stated that:

“The petfood world is very reliant on poultry byproducts. Chicken meal and poultry fat are important ingredients in pet food. Chicken fat is more than just an energy source. It also provides healthy skin and coats, enhances the aroma of the pet food, provides a nice sheen, and seals and shields dry kibble to increase shelf life.”

First of all, the pet food company scientist seems to be using the terms “chicken” and “poultry” interchangeably. He first refers to poultry fat and in the next sentence switches to chicken fat. Chickens are poultry, but not every type of poultry is chicken

“Chicken fat” is considered a reasonably high quality ingredient in pet food formulas, as are most named animal fats. Poultry fat, on the other hand, is an ingredient to stay away from.

AAFCO definition of poultry fat:

Obtained from the tissue of poultry in the commercial process of rendering or extracting. It shall contain only the fatty matter natural to the product produced under good manufacturing practices and shall contain no added free fatty acids or other materials obtained from fat. It must contain not less than 90 percent total fatty acids and not more than 3 percent of unsaponifiables and impurities. It shall have a minimum titer of 33 degrees Celsius. If an antioxidant is used, the common name or names must be indicated, followed by the word “preservative(s)”.

Knowing what we now know about the “raw product” of the food rendering industry, note that poultry fat does not necessarily come from slaughterhouse chicken – or even from chicken.

It can come from anywhere, including “4-D animals” – dead, diseased, disabled or dying prior to slaughter. It might be chicken, or it might be turkey, geese, buzzard, seagull, unidentifiable roadkill with wings, or a pet bird euthanized at an animal shelter.

Poultry By-Products

The scientist says, “The petfood world is very reliant on poultry byproducts.”

Certainly the “petfood world” doesn’t include pets, because dogs and cats, given the option, wouldn’t rely on a pulverized mixture of rendered fowl necks, feet and intestines to supply their nutritional needs.

AAFCO definition of poultry by-product meal:

Consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcasses of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, exclusive of feathers except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices.

Keep in mind by-products consist of the parts of animals that are NOT meat. Poultry by-products include parts of the fowl that have little or no nutritional value — and there’s no way to tell which parts have been mixed into your pet’s food.

The scientist refers to poultry by-products as value-added ingredients. Value-added for whom? Certainly not the animals eating the stuff. He also describes rendering as environmentally responsible.

It doesn’t seem appropriate nutrition for dogs and cats is a part of the discussion at all, does it? It’s clearly all about what’s important and of value to the pet food industry’s bottom line – not the health or quality of life of the animals it is feeding.

For obvious reasons, poultry by-products are less expensive than, for example, chicken muscle meat, but they are also less digestible for dogs and cats. Pets deficient in high quality protein at the cellular level are often constantly hungry. An inexpensive pet food with by-products doesn’t end up being much of a bargain if you’re feeding twice as much of it to your dog or cat, attempting unsuccessfully to satisfy his hunger.

More Word Confusion

Back to the pet food company scientist’s statement, “The petfood world is very reliant on poultry byproducts. Chicken meal and poultry fat are important ingredients in pet food.”

Chicken meal is not a poultry by-product.

AAFCO definition of chicken meal:

Chicken which has been ground or otherwise reduced in particle size.

Why does the scientist continue to switch back and forth between words describing generally good quality ingredients (chicken fat, chicken meal), and words describing poor quality ingredients (poultry fat, poultry by-products)?

Why would a pet food company’s quality assurance scientist be so imprecise in his discussion of The Importance of Rendered Ingredients in Pet Foods?

Did he mean to say chicken by-product meal, since the thrust of his presentation is the virtue of using rendered by-products?

AAFCO definition of chicken by-product meal:

Chicken by-product meal consists of the dry, ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines — exclusive of feathers except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practices.

Chicken meal is vastly different from chicken by-product meal. The distinction between good/decent pet food ingredients and poor ingredients is a crucially important one. Trying to decipher an ingredient label to determine the quality of a pet food is challenging, to say the least.

One wonders if the word play among industry insiders is deliberate