Category Archives: Messages and General Info

Pack Lunch’s Reading List

On the Pack Lunch page, Books and Websites, I give suggestions for books and websites I’ve read and/or use personally, and think will help others on their journeys with raw feeding and health. With raw diets gaining popularity there are a lot of people who have published books that I haven’t gotten a chance to read myself….. yet. I thought I’d keep a list here so that you can see what I’m interested in, and make suggestions yourself. After I’ve read a book I’ll either do a write-up for the recommended Books and Websites page, or remove the link. Do you have a book or resource you think should be on the ‘Books and Websites’ page? Leave a comment or come over to the Facebook page and let me hear from you.

UNLOCKING THE CANINE ANCESTRAL DIET – HEALTHIER DOG FOOD THE ABC WAY
Steve Brown

RAW AND NATURAL NUTRITION FOR DOGS – THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO HOMEMADE MEALS
Lew Olson

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Thinking and Speaking: Protein

In other posts I have brought up the fact that language can affect one’s understanding of how and what we feed our pets. Here’s an example of a term that everyone probably thinks they know how to apply, but might not: PROTEIN. I hear this word used in so many ways that I think it merits a solid examination of what it actually means, how we as raw feeders use it, and how a good understanding of it can help us feed the best possible diet we are capable of providing. I know it may sound silly, but I’m going to re-introduce you to protein and propose that we as a community endeavor to consider our words for sake of clarity and understanding.

The other day I was spending some time in an online group for raw feeders, and someone was recounting a conversation with a person who said that only ‘one protein’ was needed in a raw diet because ‘all protein is the same’. I felt the proverbial light bulb turn on, as in this one little anecdote is a way to explain a much bigger issue. Let’s start with this one: Referring to meat and animal products as “proteins”. If you don’t frequent online forums and other communities where people discuss raw feeding, perhaps you’ve been spared this misuse of terminology. I know a lot of Pack Lunch readers come to the site through social media, however, so bear with me. I think there’s something for everyone here.

You hear all the time in online groups currently, “Feed at least three proteins”. You run into people wondering about the nutrients in “a protein”, whether some “proteins” are easier to digest than others, and so on. While in a way these questions could make sense, these people are actually talking about animals and/or cuts of meat, not actual protein molecules. This creates confusion that gives rise to questions like, “What is the vitamin content of that protein?” I might be splitting hairs or being too picky (I’ve been accused of being pedantic before, and I’m sure I will again), but I feel that a person who could phrase such a question might be missing out on some key information required for proper meal planning.

Let’s break it down. What is protein? Proteins are molecules that consist of chains of amino acids. [Definitions and more info on molecules and amino acids is readily available on the ‘net. I’ll leave you to explore that on your own if you feel you need further explanation. I don’t want to slip down the rabbit hole where we descend the scale of matter and enter the realm of quantum mechanics with the end result being, “Nevermind feeding the dog, do I even exist?!”] Plants and animals are “made out of” lots of things. Proteins are one ‘ingredient’. Proteins are not all the same. A being’s genes dictate how many of what amino acids are put together in what way to create a certain protein. There is a near infinite combination of amino acid configurations, and different proteins have different functions. A cow doesn’t just have cow genes that make one identifiable cow protein. A dog’s genes don’t make just one protein we call ‘dog’. (source) While science has come to the point that we know some of the protein forms to expect in a type of animal and might be able to identify the tissue of a certain species based on that, well… it’s really complicated. There’s a field of study called structural genomics that is working on it, but it’ll probably be a while before knowledge in this area is advanced to the point that a reliable database exists. A human body has hundreds of thousands of different proteins. (source) I can’t find a citable statement but I’m going to take an educated guess that dogs and cats and most of their food animals do too.

Animals need to ingest other plants and animals to stay alive. Doing so is one of the very things that makes an animal an animal. One of the many things that animals get from their food is protein. Proteins are eaten as food, and as part of the digestive process protein molecules as they existed in the original food item are broken down into smaller units or single constituent amino acids. Then the body takes those and assembles them into the protein forms required by the eater’s body. There are about 20 amino acids that are relevant to a discussion of protein and food, and ten of them are ‘essential‘ for both dogs and cats. These are: Arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. (source) (I’ll mention that taurine is often called an amino acid, though it’s technically not. Taurine is an essential nutrient for cats, but not for dogs or, incidentally, people.)

Usually the sum of the amino acids as “protein” is the focus of nutrition talks, but really it’s about the combinations of amino acids that make up that protein content that is most important, as each essential amino acid needs to be fed in certain amounts for good health. We don’t really need to concern ourselves with individual amino acid content as a daily thing, and you really don’t need to have a thorough understanding of it to feed a raw diet properly. The fact is that most diets with adequate protein will provide the essential amino acids, but the concept is worth considering and filing away in the foundation knowledge that supports your understanding of nutrition and the diet you feed your pets (and eat yourself).

The types and amounts of proteins in a food item depend on what that food item is. Plants can contribute protein, and so can animals, of course. From the info presented above we know that each plant/animal consumed contributes it’s own proteins, which are made up of various combinations of amino acids. In this we can start to examine the quality of the protein. Protein quality from a nutritional perspective is defined by its amino acid profile — how completely and efficiently the food provides the essential amino acids required by the animal eating it. You might very well be familiar with this concept. Many people who come to raw feeding do so after learning about the short-comings of kibble and other processed food diets that get some or even all of their protein content from grains and legumes. We learn that while technically grains and other plant sources can deliver ‘complete’ and even ‘balanced’ nutrition (when carefully processed, formulated, and combined with other ingredients and supplements), it’s just not the greatest way to achieve it. Carnivores — our dogs and cats — are best suited to derive their required nutrients from animal sources. With meat you get complete proteins (a good amino acid profile) without a lot of additional stuff like excessive carbohydrates or fiber.

This table shows that while all plants and animals have proteins to contribute, the food sources are not equal, and the proteins are not all the same. Plants contain less overall protein than animal products, and the amino acids are distributed differently from plant to plant, and differently than they are in meat. Most raw feeders have firmly grasped the nutritional superiority of a species-appropriate diet and only use plant matter as “functional foods“, supplemental matter, and/or treats — if at all — but I think it helps with the ‘big picture’.

Concluding this thought, a raw diet is going to be meat and animal products, not just some vague concept of a protein. Going back to the beginning of the article where we had a person saying that feeding more than ‘one protein’ (by which they meant animal) wasn’t important because “all protein is the same”, well, to summarize: No way. No how. It’s totally not. Not even close.

A source of protein …and more! This brings us to the terms “meat” and “animal products”. If protein is actually just little intangible chains of things you can’t even see, then what’s that hunk of stuff you just gave the dog for dinner? That’s meat. Meat is the proverbial “bread and butter” of a raw diet. (I’m sorry, that’s awful but I couldn’t resist.) One of the first things you learn as a raw feeder is that meat, bones, and organs are all important, but in a certain proportion. Meat should make up between 70% and 80% of the overall diet — a significant amount. Meat is the flesh of animals, and in culinary terms can also mean the whole animal — bones and organs included. For our purposes in talking about raw feeding, when we say “meat” we generally mean the muscle-meat parts of an animal, which includes skeletal muscle (what most people associate with the word ‘meat’), smooth muscle (like the stomach), and the heart. In addition to actual muscle fibers, meat also includes connective tissue, intramuscular fat, and water. A lot of water, actually.

Fresh meat can contain up to about 75% water. Factors like how fatty the meat is and how the cut or animal has been handled between slaughter and serving — among other things — can affect overall moisture content. (source) The next largest component of meat is …. wait for it…… protein, with most fresh/frozen raw muscle-meat on average consisting of about 20% protein. The next most prevalent nutrient in meat is fat. Fat content is highly variable, but exists in pretty much all meat. (Fat has been unfairly demonized as the cause of many human afflictions in the last couple decades, but it’s actually a very important source of energy and contains crucial micronutrients.) Finally, meat contains vitamins and minerals, again, in various amounts depending on species, cut, and other factors.

The term “animal product” is also one you’ll see and/or use when discussing raw feeding, as it is a little more expansive than “meat”, and can mean anything from part of an animal, to the whole animal, to a substance created by an animal, i.e. milk or eggs. Animal products such as eggs can be a very useful item in a raw diet, and — as you’ll see in the charts and text of next post — very healthful.

So there you have it: You are now familiar with protein, and the difference between protein and meat. I implore you to choose the right terms when discussing food and feeding as a small gesture in promoting informed actions.

Next we’ll expand upon the quality of protein, and the importance of feeding a varied diet illustrated by the nutrient contents of different foods.

NEXT:  Spicing Up Life: The Importance Of Variety


More reading and additional sources:

http://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/nutrition-small-animals/nutritional-requirements-and-related-diseases-of-small-animals

http://www.fao.org/ag/humannutrition/35978-02317b979a686a57aa4593304ffc17f06.pdf

http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/ai407e/AI407E03.htm

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Video: “Science Death Experiment” from Dr. Tom Lonsdale

Great title, greater video! Tom Lonsdale is an Australian veterinarian and one of the more recognized names in raw-feeding advocacy. He and his clinic, Bligh Park Pet Health Centre, are working on a study to determine the changes that take place when a dog who has been on a raw food diet starts eating processed food. As of February 2015 I believe we are still awaiting the outcome of the blood panels and a more complete report from Dr. Lonsdale, but this video is a start and worth four minutes of your time — promise. Following is an embedded link to the video, which is on the Bligh Park Pet Health Centre Facebook page. If it doesn’t work here, you can click over to the clinic’s page and watch it. For more from Dr. Lonsdale you can check out his (totally amazing) website, rawmeatybones.com and/or pick up his books, Raw Meaty Bones and Work Wonders

 

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Science Death Experiment, a video from Dr. Tom Lonsdale

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Graphics: Pack Lunch Moved!

Pack Lunch got its own URL in December of 2014. Copy, paste, and share these fun graphics with friends and pet groups who may have missed the announcement! (Also available as pins on the PL Pinterest page.)

Pack Lunch Moved

 

 

Pack Lunch Moved And Took The Spreadsheet!

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Glossary of Terms

When reading the posts here on Pack Lunch you may come across terms you’re not familiar with, or maybe would like a refresher. If you clicked a hotlink in an article and this page opened it’s because the word is here in the glossary. Click on the ‘+’ to get the definition. If you have a recommendation for the glossary please use the comments or contact me. Listings are alphabetical.

80/10/10 rule

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The commonly subscribed-to theory that the edible part of a natural prey animal is 80% muscle, fat, and connective tissue, 10% edible bone, and 10% organs, and that this proportion is how an appropriate raw diet should be formulated. 

Bioavailability

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“The degree and rate at which a substance is absorbed into a living system or is made available at the site of physiological activity.”
Source: Merriam-Webster

Biomagnification 

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The increase in concentration of a substance that occurs in a food chain. 

Carnivore

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An animal that derives most or all of its essential nutrients from animal sources. Canids (dogs, wolves, foxes, coyotes), felids (housecats, lions, tigers, lynxes, cougars), and mustelids (ferrets, weasels, badgers, wolverines) are carnivores. 

Corticosteriod

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A class of pharmaceutical drug that imitates a naturally occurring hormone produced in the body. (Not to be confused with anabolic steroids, the hormone that athletes take as a performance enhancer.) Corticosteroids are used in drug form to reduce inflammation and decrease immune response, and have a wide variety of applications in conventional medicine, from skin problems to cancer. Common corticosteroid drugs are cortisone, prednisone, and prednisolone. Corticosteroid use comes with many side-effects, both short and long term, notably liver and kidney damage. Corticosteroids are not used so much to “cure” diseases or conditions, but used in the maintenance of disease and can have a snow-ball effect on declining health. 

Essential & Non-Essential nutrients

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Essential nutrients cannot be synthesized in the body, or not in amounts high enough to meet requisite amounts for good health. These nutrients must come from food, and include certain vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids.

A non-essential nutrient can be synthesized in the body. It’s important to note, however, that the right ‘building blocks’ must be present. These might be sufficient amounts of essential nutrients, or another outside source. Often non-essential nutrients are still very important to the diet as a more efficient way to ingest what the body needs for growth and maintenence.

Interesting note: Essential nutrients are not absolute! i.e., Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for humans, but it is not for dogs or cats. Arginine is an essential amino acid for dogs and cats, but not humans. Taurine is essential for cats, but not dogs or humans.

Functional Food

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A food that is endowed with attributes beyond nutrition. Usually foods that contain substantial amounts of substances linked with preventing or curing disease states. Synonymous with “nutraceutical”.

Herbivore

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An animal that eats mostly or only vegetation for sustenance. Bovids (cattle, bison, oxen) and cervids (deer, elk, moose) are herbivores. 

Omega 6 Essential Fatty Acid (EFA)

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A polyunsaturated fat that is essential to the diet, as it’s not manufactured in the body. The significant dietary O-6 EFAs are “linoleic acid” and “gamma linoleic acid”. O-6 is abundant in grains and vegetable oils. Humans and pets eat these things directly, and indirectly in the form of meat that was fed grain instead of grass, which is also very high in O-6 EFAs. O-6 EFAs are overrepresented in the average North American diet both in quantity and in balance to O-3 EFAs. A 1 : 1 O-6 to O-3 ratio is thought to be ideal.

Medicine

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a: “A substance or preparation used in treating disease”
b :”Something that affects well-being.”
(source: Merriam-Webster)

Omnivore

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An animal that is designed to utilize both animal sources and vegetation for sustenance. Examples of omnivores are humans, bears, and pigs. 

Physiology

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The organic processes and phenomena of an organism or any of its parts or of a particular bodily process. In other words, how a body’s systems work to produce functionality of the whole being. (source: Merriam Webster)

Process(ed)

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To alter the raw natural state of food either physically or chemically. This can be an everyday technique like puréeing or baking, or more complex handling and manipulating, e.g., hydrolysis. Goals of food processing are usually preservation, palatability, and/or increased nutrient availability. The term ‘processed’ can refer to actions on single ingredients, or food items made from many ingredients. Some food items are processed in many ways before a final product is finished. This gives rise to terms like “minimally processed” and “highly processed”. 

Ruminant

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A classification of herbivorous animal that has a chambered stomach including a “rumen” where grasses and other roughage are fermented. The fermented mass is called a “cud” and is usually brought back to the mouth and chewed before being formally digested. Ruminants include cattle, sheep, goat, deer, and bison, among other animals, and make up the mainstay of prey animals for wolves and other apex predators.

Supplement

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Something that is added to something else in order to make it complete.
(source: Merriam-Webster)


 

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What Is Raw Feeding?

Raw feeding is just what it sounds like: Feeding biologically carnivorous animals (which includes the domestic dog, cat, and ferret) a species-appropriate diet of meat, bones, and organs, and — as the name implies — not cooked or heavily processed.

Why Feed Raw? Commercially prepared dry and wet pet foods are processed, and have the same pit falls of processed food for humans. Commercial kibbles and wet food have to be formulated for not only the nutrition of the animal eating it, but also ease of transport, shelf-stability, function, profit, and palatability. (You can’t sell something a pet won’t eat!) To achieve these qualities they must (or simply do) include ingredients that are unnatural to the pets eating them. Sourcing of ingredients is often done in a way to maximize cost efficiency for the producer meaning low-quality protein and fat sources, industry by-products, and inappropriate use of plant-based foods. All of this can contribute to a range of health problems over time, including but very much not limited to rapid tooth decay, highly fluctuating blood sugar levels (leading to hypoglycemia and diabetes), kidney trouble including “stones”, food allergies and intolerance, cancer, obesity, and behavioral problems.

A fresh/frozen raw food diet reduces and/or eliminates the processing and the need for unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients. In addition, when pets are allowed to eat food in a more natural form (which includes chewing meat off bone and crunching bone-in hunks of meat) they are getting a more complete experience whereby food not only delivers nutrition, but a work-out for muscles and brain.

What Is Raw Feeding? (image: Meridian eats chicken)What?  Raw fed carnivores eat a combination of meat, bones, and organs. All of these elements must be present in the diet for complete nutrition. The short and sweet (and not entirely complete) explanation is that meat delivers protein and fat and associated vitamins, organs confer essential vitamins and minerals in concentrations muscle meat does not have, and edible bone is crucial for it’s calcium content. (For more read Terminology: The Prey Model.)

How? In the process of becoming domestic carnivores, our pets traded hunting and scavenging for a place in our lives and homes and it became our responsibility to procure food for them. Somewhere along the line (in North America this was the 1950’s) the trend became for this food to be the processed pet foods we rely on today. Raw feeding can take on several different forms. The author adheres to a do-it-yourself type of diet, consisting of chunks, parts, and pieces of meat, bone, and organ that can come from the plain old meat section of the grocery store. Of course there are as many potential meat sources as you can dream up — farm-direct, 4-H club, wild game, restaurant suppliers, reptile feeder producers, etc. While one of the beauties of raw feeding is getting away from commercially prepared formulas, there are a number of frozen raw foods on the market. These meet the pet owner half-way with the benefits of a fresh/frozen diet of minimally processed food, but with the “convenience” of pre-formulated meals. These foods are usually ground and come in patties or medallions. There are pros and cons to these products, but they are there, and a reasonably viable way to feed a raw diet.

Sounds great, how do I start feeding raw to my pets? Reading more about the specifics of the diet and “how to’s” written by vets and other experienced raw feeders is a great place to start. Concurrently you can donate that last bag of kibble to your local animal shelter or wildlife sanctuary, go shopping for “real food”, and get on the road to better health for your pet and more conscious consumerism overall. There is a vast amount of information in books and on the internet. I don’t presume to write a “how to” guide for beginners as part of Pack Lunch (yet), but my favorite resources for learning more about how to start feeding raw are listed in the Books and Websites page. There’s also a page of Frequently Asked Questions.

*** Update Fall 2017 — The time has come for a Pack Lunch how-to guide, and the work has been started. Keep your eye on the website and social media for updates and announcements! ***

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