Ignorance is Bliss ..
When you look at a little piece of kibble, perfectly-formed, and smelling of the roasted-chicken flavor your dog is obsessed with, it is easy to see it as a simple choice for a dog right? It is nothing like what we huumans eat, but it is okay for them. Perhaps it might be something we could eat. It is after all kind of like a famous army colonel chicken nugget, right? Not that we all regularly eat them, but somewhere down the line, you have had your share, right? We do not really know how the “chicken” got formed in that perfect little shape (okay, we know it was shoved through a tube in that shape, but we do not like to think about it), we do not really know what counts as “chicken” by these rules, although we have some guesses, and we do not really know what else is in it. We know we should feel guilty if we eat it, but we cannot help but admit … they’re kind of good if you forget all the logical reasons they’re really, really not.
A chicken nugget is not that different from McKibble. And at the basic level of biology your dog’s digestive system is not that far different from yours … so unless you are okay with a processed “chicken nugget” being a part of your daily diet, why are you okay with your dog eating them? Every day? For their entire life?
Kibble, even the premium, grain-free, organic kibbles, are made with an expanding and extrusion process. Raw meats, and we can debate meat meals and other forms of meat for hours, vegetables (perhaps not fresh), carbs and starches (yes, plenty, as we have to bind the raw materials somehow), and fillers, lots of different kinds of fillers, are mixed together to make a “dough”, which is then placed into a machine. Hot water or steam is applied at extremely high temperatures and pressure, which “cooks” the dough. We all understand how extreme heat and pressure can zap the nutrients in our own food, and the same thing is happening to the “chicken”, or “salmon”, or whichever combo of ingredients makes up the McKibble. By the time it is done, you have something to work with – it is just pretty far removed from the whole ingredients that were started with, those beautiful pictures of real food on that bag of McKibble.
Next, this dough is pushed through tubes to help it get its “shape”. Like the chicken nuggets, there is a bit of forcing here, yet again breaking down any nutrients that may be left. A sharp knife chops off each piece at the end, and the McKibble bits roll along a conveyer belt towards the next step.
Water in our food is an essential source of hydration, an essential nutrient, but that does not help foodstuffs have a long shelf life, right? So the kibble is passed under a heavy-duty “dryer”, which removes any remaining moisture from the McKibbles. Now, you can imagine that the kind of sad, shriveled, brown bits that are rolling along the conveyer belt at this point, and you know even the hungriest of dogs is not going to see, or rather smell, the appeal in this final product. So what could be done to make dogs like it …?
This is when we imagine, someone somewhere had a big, “aha!” moment, not dissimilar to when whoever came up with the idea to use a fire hose to spray the orange cheese powder on Cheetos. Fatty ingredients taste good, and what dogs really want is fatty meat right?
A form or derivative of animals fats are sprayed on the final product, to make them palatable to dogs even after sitting on shelf for years. Vitamins (fragments and synthetic) are also added, to try to make up for what was lost during the cooking process, and artificial colors (such as caramel) are added to make sure it still looks “good” to the huumans buying it. Preservatives are also sprayed on top, and the whole thing is packed in a deliciously looking big bag so that it can be shipped around and eventually arrive at a store near you.
We can probably all agree that the process is not pretty, but meats, veggies, and vitamins? If we overlook the additives, where is the harm in those ingredients?
Again, we recommend you reflect on some huuman food examples to think of the possibilities. You have read the exposés on taco meat and hotdogs, and you know that regulations on what counts as “meat” in your own food are pretty flimsy. Did you really think they would be any better for your four-legged friend? We think they should be, but the world is still catching up.
What counts as a “meat” source in dog food can be anything from an animal source. Anything. Whole, ground carcasses may be used, and animals can include those that are sick, diseased or dying (we refer to these as 4D materials). Animal by-products such as grease and feathers are processed in the same facilities as the meat, and various recipes and even brands are not separated, so do not pay too much more for a major brand’s premium labels – it might be the same as the cheapest offering.
Vegetables are usually limited to whatever is cheapest, and more expensive superfoods are not used. All those antioxidants and omega 3s would not survive the extrusion process anyway.
Carbs that can bulk things up and provide body to the kibble “dough” are used to expand a recipe and are necessary to help the dough bind together. Your dog eats grain-free kibble, you say? Just remember that “grain-free” does not mean carbohydrate free, so it simply means that other carbohydrates such as potatoes or legumes will be used instead, and they will need to be used in large quantities to ensure the dough can bind. Carbs could potentially offer your dog benefits, but excessive carbs simple act as filler. Only a detailed laboratory analysis can really show a breakdown of the ratios of protein to fat to carbohydrates, but this guaranteed analysis is a good place to start.
Another important factor in assessing kibble ingredients regards understanding the types of vitamins included. Vitamins are added to McKibble to compensate for any vitamins lost during cooking, however, not all vitamins can actually be used by your dogs body. Unstated vitamin sources are often a sign that synthetic vitamins are used, typically sourced from Asia. If your dog is fed synthetic vitamins that they are unable to process, the side effects can include malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, as the other ingredients in the diet are not sufficient in providing the nourishment your dog needs.
The scariest thing about McKibble is that it is like an unhealthy diet, even our own – the implications are rarely obvious in the short-term, though undeniable in the long term. When we wonder why so many dogs are suffering from cancer at a young age, or why food allergies and reactions to different kibble are so high, many dog owners rarely look at the one daily factor in their athlete’s life to be able to identify their kibble as the cause.
It is hard to say that, as a whole, if McKibble causes x, y, and z diseases. However, many ingredients in McKibble have been linked to a range of conditions, and research has clearly shown the benefits of alternative diets such as home cooked dog food diets, in reducing the incidence of these.
We explore some of these ingredients for edification purposes. We think dogs deserve to be fooded right like any other member of the family, don’t you?