When considering pre-made (or commercial) raw food meals for your pack, be sure to do your homework on your supplier(s). There are many unregistered manufacturers, and it is important for you to understand WHY we only work with registered manufacturers.
Furthermore, it is extremely important that your supplier have clearly labelled offerings, and make sure you read the labels and look closely at the foods available to you and your pack, so that you know exactly what you are fooding your mutts, pups, nobles and masters.
As a consumer, and concerned pet parent or guardian, you want to ensure that the highest grade of materials are used in the food you purchase. Within the South African legislative context, this means that the supplier / manufacturer should be registered with the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, following the guidelines published through Act 36 / 1947 (as amended). It also means that the majority of the manufacturers’ offerings should carry a V-registration number, and that this registration number is present and clearly visible on the packaging.
V-registrations apply when a formula is present or used to manufacture the meals, for example, a Complete and Balanced meal based on the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) principles that was set forth by Dr Billinghurst. To obtain a V-registration number, the formula is laboratory tested to comply with the minimum nutritional guidelines for “Complete and Balanced” profile set forth by the National Research Council (NRC) in the United States for canine and feline nutritional needs. Therefore, the meal status should clearly indicate whether it is a “Complete and Balanced” or “Complementary” meal on the label.
There are exceptions that apply, and this is when the raw bits are used in totality – in other words – the whole prey is ground or minced for ease of fooding, and there are no supplements or other items added to this meal base. Essentially, you can mimic the concept of prey model fooding using fine grind offerings, provided that the meal is “unadulterated“.
When the manufacturer is registered with the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, it means that they are frequently inspected and audited by the Dept to ensure compliance with hygiene, validated and traceable sourcing of raw materials and ingredients, used in the production of the meals.
More importantly for you, it means that the manufacturer is not allowed to use 4D materials in the making of the meals – so no deceased, decayed, dead (road kill) or dying livestock.
Quality is an important priority for you, since it is the largest component of the raw meal, along with raw bone content. You want to be able to confirm the amount of lean muscle meat found in the food. Some manufacturers, unfortunately, use very little lean muscle meat. This will typically result in a visibly higher fat content of the meal, but if you’re not sure, check the nutritional analysis of the meal offering. For all the manufacturers that we represent, these values are available online with each meal (refer to the Specification section of the offering). Depending on the protein source, the fat content could be anywhere from two to 13 percent, but if it is much more than this, it may be made solely from trim.
You want to ensure you are providing lean muscle meat and bones as the base of the diet, no matter which brand you choose. If there is no nutritional analysis or the manufacturer cannot provide you with the exact formula, so you can work it out yourself, we highly recommend that you switch brands and look at what we have to offer under the food section of the portal. You cannot formulate a balanced diet for your pack if you have no idea what you are fooding.
A good balance of bone and meat is important in the dietary framework for your mutts, pups, nobles and masters. Some offerings use whole prey in the formulation of the meal, which means that the bone content will be balanced in a natural way. It is, however, important to note that bone content is equally as important as protein content in the formulation of the meal. Some manufacturers might use a higher proportion of bone to cut costs, and if not registered, you will not be able to validate the offering.
Conversely, some pre-made raw meals are boneless. Fooding exclusively on boneless raw meals, in the long term, will result in calcium and other trace mineral deficiencies for your pack! The easy solution is to food a variety of consumable whole raw meaty bones (such as knuckles, necks and femurs) in addition to your boneless raw formula.
If fooding raw meaty bones is not convenient, you can alternate both bone-in and boneless pre-made raw foods. Boneless meals should not be fed for more than three days a week, and give your pack bone-in meals (meat with bone ground into it) the other four or five days of the week.
You want to ensure you are providing lean muscle meat and bones as the base of the diet, no matter which brand you choose.
Protein content should ideally be between 12 and 20 percent, as fed. Note, this value is different when you perform a dry matter (DM) analysis of the meals, and is specific to raw formulated meals. Organ meats should also be added to the formula, if based on BARF, so look for brands using this formulation approach, or offer formulas based on whole animal choices.
Heart meat is considered a muscle meat; liver and kidney contain important trace minerals and vitamins in a natural form. Ideally, heart meat can make up 10 to 15 percent of the total diet and the organ meats should be from 5 to 10 percent.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course.
There are two kinds of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fat comes from the white fat that you see in meat. It is what gives it that marbled look. It also can be found in high concentration in poultry skin. Unsaturated fats are present in meat and vegetables, but they can also be added in the form of cold-pressed oils from plant sources. Fifteen percent fat or higher is suspicious, unless you’re feeding duck, which is naturally high in fat even in its whole state.
If the meal feels greasy, or results in greasy stools or diarrhea, you want to either add more muscle meat or change brands to those manufacturers that we represent. Too much fat in the meal is a serious concern for animals who suffer from hepatic and pancreatic issues and could be at risk of becoming ill as a result.
Carbs and Vegs
Carbohydrate in the meal should be low, but should be present in small amounts if the meal contains vegetables as defined through the BARF framework. Vegetables helps regulate blood sugar, as well as vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients and antioxidants.
The finer the meal grind, the more your mutts, pups and nobles will absorb the vegetable nutrients. If vegetables are visible in large chunks, they may not be fully digestible. If the meal formula complies with the BARF framework, then there should be a good variety of vegetables present in the meal.
If there isn’t, consider adding some lightly steamed or pureed veggies to the meal yourself (for digestibility), or choosing a different raw diet brand, such as the manufacturers that we represent. Which veggies you ask?
- Greens: kale, broccoli, raab, mustard, beet, romain, greens mix – NO spinach or iceburg lettuce (not an exhaustive list);
- Seasonal: carrot, beet, turnip, sweet potato, burdock or other root, squash, zucchini (not an exhaustive list).
Avoid raw meals with grains added to them! They are not digestible in a raw form and, if cooked, could cause digestive complications when fed with raw meats.
Most of our meals include some form of supplements, through the use of herbs and other natural items. Look for whole food based supplements rather than synthetic vitamins and minerals (the ones with chemical sounding names). Some basic supplements you will see include kelp, spirulina, apple cider vinegar and essential fatty acid (EFA) oils. All of these are fine unless one of your pack has suspected food allergies.