3 Pet Food Industry “buzz words” that Spell T.R.O.U.B.L.E.–and what does “freeze-dried” mean?

I know most of you will scroll right by this blog because you have blinders on when it comes to your pet food. You’d still feed it to your dog even if it had a recall. Even if it means putting your dogs on medications because of the side effects from the ingredients. Why do I say this? Because I see pet parents do this every day. They’d rather see their pet suffer, pay their veterinarian hundreds of dollars and shell out even more on prescription meds than really learn about what makes a good food good, and a bad food bad. It boggles my mind. My reason for thinking this: Americans don’t know how to eat healthy themselves, let alone know what is species-appropriate for their pets. Sorry…ugh…not sorry.

Why do I blog so often about canine nutrition? Because what is going on in the industry is downright SCANDELOUS…the recent B***shit Award mentioned article about BLUE BUFFALO saying they “don’t have room on their bags to list the carbs” is just one example…and they are not even sorry.

  • The processed pet food industry wants a piece of the action when it comes to freeze-dried foods and raw, which means pet owners must stay alert for the introduction of lesser-quality products into a market segment that has traditionally been known for excellent-quality pet food (I know—it happened to me and I didn’t even look at the label of my old dog food until it had rendered my entire kennel infertile!) I was going broke as a breeder and I was facing the possibility of losing every dog I owned.
  • Freeze-dried diets are a good alternative to actual raw, but not an ideal replacement for nutritionally balanced raw or gently cooked homemade diets. They ARE good if traveling. No refrigeration is needed.

Freeze-dried pet food, which is a pretty recent trend, is becoming more and more popular. In 2011 freeze-dried full meal sales were $10.4 million, and freeze-dried treat sales came in at $12.3 million, according to Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, Mercola Healthy Pets. Just three years later in 2014, those numbers jumped to $51.3 million in full meals and $22.6 million in treats.

I witnessed this shift myself when I attended SuperZoo and Global Pet Expo that year. I literally could not get through every single booth in the 3 days I spent there!

In case you’re wondering how food is freeze-dried, the meat or fish arrives frozen and is “tempered” (thawed slightly) so it can be diced. Dr. Becker explains, “The diced meat is placed on trays and the trays are placed on carts that are rolled into a blast freezer.

Once the blast freezing is complete, the trays of meat are rolled into a freeze-drying chamber. Once the freeze-drying is complete, the trays are rolled to a packaging area where the meat is packaged, tested for salmonella and other potential pathogens like e coli that could affect human health, and then shipped.”

Processed Pet Food Producers Want a Piece of the Growing Freeze-Dried Market—and the Raw food market.

In response to the increasing demand from pet parents for freeze-dried diets and raw diets, processed pet food producers are getting creative, and not in a good way. As John Milne of Canature Processing Ltd explains to PetfoodIndustry.com:

“Freeze-drying technology was applied to pure meats, typically the ubiquitous beef liver freeze-dried treat, but we’re now seeing freeze-dry technology being applied to freeze-dried + kibble (FD+K) pet food formulations. We’re seeing that accelerated velocity going into the market, and these seem to be fusion diets.

We’re taking raw meats — a single muscle meat like beef heart or pork heart, or an amalgam of red meats or poultry meats or fish meats — and those products are processed and put through the freeze-drying process. And we’re coming out with freeze-dried cubes being added to the kibble.”

As I walked the many city blocks of various pet food booths at the pet expos, I found one thing to be true—and very disheartening…in their hurry to get a piece of the action, each dog food company was making a “raw” diet. But what I found is that most were simply taking their kibble ingredients, softening them, and calling it “raw.” I was SHOCKED. I knew the consumer would be “duped” and continue to suffer the health issues caused by commercial kibble. I even witnessed “raw” diet in box store freezers loaded with SUGAR, carbs and starches—all I could think is, “What’s the point??”

According to Dr. Becker, there are some buzzwords here we need to be wary of:

  • Freeze-dried + kibble (FD+K). This is a gimmick used by the processed pet food industry to try to make dry diets appear more species-appropriate and therefore healthier. Sometimes marketed as raw kibble, don’t be taken in by these bags of food. They’re primarily kibble, with a few chunks of freeze-dried raw meat of unknown quality thrown in.
  • Fusion diets.I’m assuming these are blends of different kinds of pet food (typically kibble plus something else) into a single product. Sounds really trendy and healthy, but most likely is anything but.
  • Amalgam of red meats or poultry meats or fish meats.Beware of all unnamed meats. You want to know exactly which animal produced the meat you feed your dog or cat. In addition, an amalgam (mixture) of meats can run the gamut from highly nutritious to non-nutritious (or worse) depending on the source of the meat in the mixture.

Buyer Beware: Just Because a Pet Food Is Freeze-Dried or Dehydrated Doesn’t Mean It’s Good-Quality (and remember, its still COOKED which saps the food of its nutrients)

The processed pet food industry is planning to use freeze-dried technology to mix “multiple proteins and/or carbohydrates,” as well as “functional ingredients.” My guess is they’ll find a way to freeze-dry all their favorite inexpensive, biologically inappropriate, starchy ingredients and ride the coattails of quality pet food manufacturers who’ve been producing excellent freeze-dried diets for years.

This is really a shame because the freeze-dried segment of the pet food market has historically been reliably high-quality. If you’re a pet parent and like the idea of freeze-dried meals for your dog or cat, be sure to do your homework and stick with high-quality pet food companies like BARF World, Inc. And make sure the brand you select is nutritionally balanced for all life stages. Use BARF,  a 40-year-old trusted product by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, DVM whose recipe sprouted from his 40 years of research concerning raw feeding for canines.

 (Comes in Beef, Chicken, Lamb, or combo recipe)

A Step Up From Freeze Dried Pet Food

While I have nothing against excellent-quality freeze-dried (or dehydrated) diets like BARF World, Inc limited products in this area, it’s important to realize they aren’t the same as fresh raw diets, despite marketing gimmicks. My issue is that many freeze-dried brands are trying to cash in on the popularity of raw food diets, deceptively labeling them as raw food when they aren’t. I would recommend feeding your pet the real “raw” multi mix BARF patties, and saving the freeze-dried for traveling or when your pet is boarded.

       

Freeze-dried food is NOT raw food; one is fresh (i.e., it will rot if left at room temperature) and one is shelf-stable (meaning not fresh). Dr. Becker further explains that freeze-dried foods haven’t been processed at high temperatures like processed dry food diets, which is good, and in many cases, the nutrient value has been retained minus a balanced fatty acid profile.

They’re also an option for pet parents who can’t or don’t want to feed fresh raw food, however, I still recommend nutritionally balanced, homemade or commercially prepared, veterinarian formulated raw diet, like BARF…a true fresh food diet for optimal nutrition.

3 Comments

  1. Sage, EML’s Brody/Mercy is fed Barf’s raw patties and loves them. After losing two labs to cancer, and the latest loss earlier this year, having severe allergies requiring allergy shots every month, raw is a
    must for Sage. The food might be a little more expensive than processed food, but it really turns into a savings, compared to paying vet bills and MY DOG IS HEALTHIER AND HAPPIER! Thank you Donna
    for all the research you do.

  2. I have three labs – 2 of which are 13 years old. I am on board with the raw diet, but simply cannot justify the cost for all three to eat raw. Do you suggest an alternative kind of food that is better than kibble but less expensive than raw? Or should I alternate raw and kibble? Your thoughts are appreciated.

  3. Good morning
    Just got a 2 month old choc lab
    What should I feed her ?
    She was given Health Extensions food
    N my husband just purchased it .
    When I look at all the options it’s overwhelming .
    Help!

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