Now this is something that’s currently getting allot of controversy recently between Nutritional/Veterinary Professionals.
But what do I think? (Again my view, please do your research, this is basic to remove confusion, if you want an advanced answer please contact me)
Do the guidelines apply to Fresh Foods?
Nope they do not apply in respect of “Balance” and “Complete” meals, you cannot apply the same Nutritional minimums/maximums set by the NRC, FEDIAF and AAFCO to fresh raw foods, this is due to the bioavailability of the foods, the guidelines set have been done in respect of what I’d call the “Fake Foods Industry” , they’re based on processed ingredients and synthetic vitamins and minerals which have a differ bioavailability to fresh foods and achieving balances is entirely different as nutrients all effect one and other , kind of a harmonious symphony! All premade raw meals MUST be fed as “Part Of A Balanced Diet“, regardless of the labelling, there’s no such thing as “Complete” and “Balanced” in the fresh food world when it comes to mass production in respect of the individual dog.
What about premade raw meals that adhere to the FEDIAF/AAFCO guidelines?
Those that claim they do, only do on paper/spreadsheet, as the ingredients they use WILL contain plant matter/oils of, this is to help them hit those numbers set however, as dogs are Facultative Carnivores, each dog depending on their Ancestral line will handle plant matter differently, some are borderline Omnivorous (I’ve established this through allot of experience of feeding different dogs *rescues*). Although that doesn’t mean you should feed them as an Omnivore like the Pet Food Industry wants, I’d advocate 10-15% of the diet as plant matter maximum). Some Manufacturers will also use synthetic blend of Vitamins and Minerals knowns as a preblend (cutting corners and saving money by buying poor quality whole foods).
Why does this matter?
Well if for example a Manufacturer is using plant based Omega 3’s to balance out the Meat Based Omega 6, then this needs to be addressed as dogs can only convert up to 10% of the ALA(Omega 3 Fatty Acid, High in Seeds and Plants) to EPA/DHA (Omega 3 Fatty Acids that can actually be utilised by a Carnivore). This is important to know because a diet that is unbalanced in respect of Essential Fatty Acids it can have a detrimental impact, commonly the Omega 6’s outweigh the Omega 3’s which is why many dogs are suffering. Algae oils are a great source for Omega 3’s , although plant based , and the same conversion rate, the levels of are higher, Algae also comes with many benefits, many are opting for Algae oils now as it’s cutting out the middle man, many use fish oils such as cod liver or krill, but these fish don’t produce omega 3s themselves it’s obtain from sea plant life like algae and stored in the body! Fish oils have a tendency to go rancid but you’ll never know as it just goes fishy??
Some Manufacturers tend to label a similar Omega ratio of 4(6):1(3) as that’s what their ingredients provide but Bioavailability/Conversion doesn’t seem to be taken into account. If you do then in reality the ratio would be more like 4(6):0.1(3) , this can cause a whole heap of issues and Excell most especially arthritis as Omega 6 is inflammatory, the most common is Atopy which causes very itchy dogs!
*This is why whole food supplements can be benefiting if your feeding premade completes especially*
Let’s talk more about the premix! As ALL dry food manufacturers couldn’t hit their figures without the chemical premixes due to the level of processing that goes into their products, reducing allot/all of the natural bioavailability) but again these chemical premixes may not be bioavailable to your dog and could result in malnutrition long term. (Which is why you’ll see many owners going from brand to brand to find what works) The premixes are typically made up of all those long and complex words you can’t pronounce on the labeling, the more of those, the poorer their whole food ingredients!
When “Foods” are created this way, they are “Balanced to a T” for a specific criteria (Which is easily unbalanced by table scraps) for example: Senior Large Breed Dogs. Now this isn’t a tailored approach, this is a Category approach, it’s very vague but hits nutritonal figures within that category, therefore if your dog falls within that category it’s generically “Balanced and Complete“, If Labelled to reflect so.
The only flaw with this method is that every dog is different, therefore what is “Balanced and Complete” for one, isn’t for the other and this is why some dogs are suffering on commercial pet foods (and premade raw, 80/10/10 alone isn’t Balanced and Complete) as their individual needs, take them out of the Generic category the forumlated foods are aimed it. Make sense?
As times gone on, these formulated categories have extended quite allot from the basic of puppy, adult and senior meals, we now have things like breed specific formulas, formulas catering for specific conditions such as “Joint Support“. This is because they know full well that their initial formulas weren’t going to suit every dog, so they’re trying to improve this, don’t forget commercial pet foods haven’t been around for ever, allot of their data for reformulating comes from the issues your pets have as a result of their initial forumulations, yes they under go basic feeding trials which give a “Law of Averages” result therefore approved but your pets are still guinea pigs unfortunately. Roll on insect protein wahooo (I hope you read the sarcasm) .
If you want to check out the guidelines check the links below, it’s worth noting that the AAFCO and FEDIAF have both adopted the NRC guidelines and tweaked them for their own benefit as guess who has direct links to the board of these? The Pet Food Industry, it’s largely biased. I’d personally check out the studies compiled in the NRC first hand before looking at AAFCO or FEDIAF. Never the less, understanding these guidelines will put you in good stead for creating DIY meals at home or adding foods into premade products to help achieve variety!
So relax, take it easy! Sign up to courses, attended seminars but importantly keep an eye on DogRisk, The Raw Feeding Veterinary Society and Dogs First . I believe these guys will make big movements for the better within the niche that is Fresh Foods for Pets!
Is the data completely useless?
In my opinion , No! yes the guidelines in place are in respect of dry foods/ tinned meat, you know your typical pet “food” isle products! Your dogs individual nutritonal requirements how ever, are great to know, this helps you get a better understanding of what your feeding and why and can help tailor your dogs diet! The issue is when fresh food manufacturers use these guidelines and a regulated the same way as commercial pet foods, we need a separate governing entity!
It’s also important to remember that the above bodies that set the requirements recommend nutrients, they don’t recommend food per say, they just set the nutritional guidelines, they don’t enforce formulations however, they do give a guidance on foods they will allow to be used in respect of formulas, other than that the manufacturers have free reign!
Michael K A Bennett- BCCSDip.HthNut
Remember Stay Alert or Stay at Home and Protect