Saturday, May 9, 2009

Raw Pet Food Deceptions Exposed

The correct and healthy archetypal diet for pets is foods they are genetically adapted to. For carnivores, that would predominantly consist of raw prey. The logic and evidence for this is unassailable and Wysong has been teaching this for the past thirty years. As public awareness of this important concept grows, marketers and producers see a profit opportunity in the competitive edge this concept could bring. But stuck with manufacturing facilities designed to cook pet foods, what are they to do? I asked Dr. Randy Wysong, DVM and founder, owner and CEO of Wysong, here’s his response:

“Where substance does not work, clever words might. So brochures, labels and product names are crafted in such a way as to lead consumers to believe they are getting raw dog and cat products when in fact they are not. Sadly, these deceptive practices mislead consumers away from the true health benefits that raw diets can bring to their companion animals.

It is important to understand that all conventional dry pet foods are either extruded or baked. Baking, though it may sound innocuous, is just like what is done in an oven at home. Extruding squeezes ingredients through a long tube with a screw under hundreds of pounds of pressure and at temperatures above 300 degrees. Canning (retorting) also requires high temperatures. Finally there is freeze-drying that takes frozen foods directly to a dried state. In order to speed this difficult process along, most freeze-dry pet food processors heat the food and apply vacuum. All such cooking methods are done in order to create sterile products that can safely be held in packaging for months and years without risk of conferring illness or even death from food-borne pathogens and toxins.

How then, using these methods, is a manufacturer going to create a raw processed pet food to satisfy an alert consumer’s desire for convenient raw meat-based foods? It can’t be done with the above methods. Cooking negates raw.

Two options remain for consumers, feed raw foods from the grocery or feed Wysong True Non Thermal (TNT) raw cat and dog foods.* The Wysong TNT process can only be done in relatively small batches, requires extremely expensive equipment, is very labor intensive, and requires days to complete if the pet product is never raised above approximate body temperature ……… To get around the problem of having to renovate manufacturing and revert to very slow and labor intensive methods, manufacturers leave things as they are and simply get creative with words. Words are cheap, building innovative new manufacturing plants is not.

For example, there is a wave of “grain-free” products on the market. The idea here is to lead consumers to believe the problem with cooked foods is the grains. So the grains are removed and replaced with other starches such as from rice, potato or tapioca. Then claims are made that the resulting products have all the merits of raw. The truth is that the foods are still extruded at hundreds of degrees. Grains, potatoes, rice and tapioca are all sources of starch, a long carbohydrate chain of sugars. Grains are added to extruded products because their starches (the dough) help create a formed nugget. Replacing the starch of grains with other starchy ingredients does not make a food raw or remove dough!

Another ploy is to dust an extruded product with some raw ingredients and then make claims of raw. For example some raw freeze-dried meat could be powdered and then dusted on the cooked nuggets. But if the end food is 99.999999999+% cooked, that hardly fills the bill for a raw pet food. To sort this out, look at the ingredient listing. Vitamins and minerals are usually at the tail end of the list because they are only needed in micro amounts. For example, vitamin B12 may only be at a level of one ten-millionth of an ounce in a normal meal of a pet food. Now then, if vitamin B12 is 25 ingredients down from the top of the list, and then the raw freeze dried meats are another 25 or so ingredients down from there, what can be concluded? The raw part of the food could be at billionths of an ounce, trillionths, or just a few molecules per twenty-ton truckload? Yet raw is the clarion cry about the merit of the food! (For example, see …..)

Here is how such an ingredient list looks:
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21, 22,23,24 (at one ten-millionths of an ounce per feeding), 25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44, 45,46,47,48 (a raw particle dusted on the outside)

Rather than pay the exorbitant prices for such diets, consumers could buy a cheap generic food and touch a couple of the kibbles with their fingers and get about as much raw protein from their fingerprint (less than one-ten millionth of an ounce) on the food as is evidently present.

The "no-grain" tactic always seems to be a sure winner. Consumers assume the “no” part is bad and that the food that has no something must have a good something instead. In this case, having no grain is meant to imply the food has all the merits of a raw pet diet. Allusions to the “science” that is used to make such products are usually made in an attempt to convince people that cooked is the same thing as raw. Saying something that is cooked is raw is not science, it is science from another dimension! Black is not white, left is not right, up is not down, cooked is not raw.

Further, if these dried and canned foods even hint at being truly raw, dangerous pathogenic organisms such as Clostridium botulinum with its lethal exotoxin could lurk within. Such organisms can flourish in high moisture dried and canned foods if they are not cooked to sterility in processing. (This does not apply to Wysong TNT pet foods because of their extremely low water activity [not the same as % moisture on a label], and other Wysong raw pet food safety precautions - see … and Other Raw Pet Food Safety Innovations at Wysong). In addition, if the foods are truly raw the FDA requires that handling guidelines for safe use be put on the label. If these instructions are not there and the consumer is being led to believe the product is in any way raw, then the product is being sold illegally. (This FDA requirement is on all new Wysong packaging, but not found on any of the cooked foods in the market implying that they are raw.)

The concept of feeding according to genetic context is the most important idea people can embrace if they are concerned about their pet’s health (and their own). With this understanding people are led to raw natural foods and away from the disease-producing mainstay of cooked sugars and starches. For producers to superficially take the words of this idea and run to market with it presenting cooked products containing starches as if they are raw and natural is a travesty and perversion of the healthful concept.

The deception is like the ad offering a sculpted bust of Abraham Lincoln, commissioned and manufactured by the U.S. government, made of certified pure copper alloy and delivered to your home by the U.S. government. Price is only $49.95. When, as promised, the U.S. postal service arrives, it delivers a small envelope. Inside is a penny. The only difference between this and the raw ruses is that here people are only out some money. The raw deception is robbing pets of a tremendous health opportunity.

Consumers should be up in arms, stores and distributors promoting the deception should be embarrassed and the government should be stepping in. Are we at Wysong disappointed? Most certainly. First off, the idea of raw is to bring health back to pets and spare them disease and suffering. It's not just an opportunity to profiteer. (And no, Wysong does not fall in that group because if people were to follow our instructions to a tee, no packaged products would need to be purchased - even Wysong’s.) When consumers submit to gullibility and believe producers will be honest with them there is a double tragedy. People are duped and pets suffer.

Additionally, while fake raw pet products are cheaply spit out of the end of extruders and retorters at tons per hour, we (Wysong) must carefully deep freeze meats (less than -20° F) over extended time to kill potential parasites, spend years developing natural preservatives to help make raw products safe from food-borne pathogens, create a natural antioxidant to preserve fragile fatty acids (such as omega-3’s), hand batch ingredients, install huge specially designed stainless steel machines to draw extremely high levels of vacuum to convert frozen products into shelf stable dry ones (at a rate of a few hundred pounds over several days, not tons per hour), tend these machines 24 hours a day, pay the high utility and maintenance bills to run large compressors and vacuum pumps, wait for days for a batch to be properly dried, and then hand package in oxygen - and light-barrier bags. These products are then sold below their cost (see explanation below) just to give people an affordable option and to educate them on the value of true real food. After all this, when we then tell consumers this is a proper option for raw food feeding, they say something like, “Thanks but we’re already feeding grain-free foods that are just like raw,” referring to the above mentioned pretender products.

Consumers must beware. Anyone can say anything. Walking the walk and building manufacturing facilities that actually produce a pet product that emulates the health-giving natural diet is quite another matter. That is why practically no one is doing it. Pet food producers who are promoting "no grains" as the solution to providing raw diets are merely substituting starches. Raw meats do not equal cooked potato, cooked tapioca, yams, plantains or any other cooked starch. (Neither do such diets qualify as low carb as is also promoted by companies. Starch is carbohydrate whether it is from corn, wheat, rice, potatoes or tapioca.) One must also wonder how producers who make claims about science, nutritionists, veterinary designed, and the like (as nearly all of them do), do not understand the most simple of nutritional and food concepts: cooked is not raw and starch is not no- or low-carbohydrate. They either do understand and are purposely misleading trusting consumers, or, even more unthinkable, they don’t understand.

To protect themselves, consumers must ask the skeptical and hard questions of producers to flush the truth out. Do not believe claims at face value. Be a thinking person. On the other hand, distributors, retailers and veterinarians have a special responsibility. Customers come to them expecting expertise and honesty. Such pet owners are not just buying the cheapest brand at the grocery but are seeking health and quality. Specialty retailers are always looking for a sales edge but they must not be too quick to latch on to the latest marketing gimmick. If that ‘edge’ turns out to be deception and incompetence nobody wins: The customer is not getting what they are paying for, pets are not getting health, and the specialty pet market jeopardizes their reputation and the credibility of their business. Merchandizing does not have to be deceptive. Customers need to be given what they want and need. They deserve the truth, not myths and scams.

The truth is simple. Humans are the only creatures on the planet that cook food. Does nature really have it all wrong? Not likely. Pets need their raw archetypal diet and a variety of honest foods. Some grains and starch in the diet here and there is perfectly fine, but just not meal after meal. Cooked oet foods are fine here and there too, but not day after day, or exclusively. The poorest quality starches are refined dehydrated starches used in pet foods such as from potato and tapioca since they can have almost no nutritional value. They can be fine as well, but not at every meal and certainly not as a substitute for raw.

Raw cat and dog food advantages go way beyond the absence of grains. Cooking, extruding, canning, baking, and freeze drying all create hundreds of changes to the natural food matrix including destroying many nutrients and turning components into dozens of toxins. That’s the issue, not no-grains, or low-carbs, or pretending to be just like raw. Pet owners need to learn how to feed fresh whole foods purchased at the grocery. They also deserve honest products designed and made by competent pet product producers (not marketers) that truly embrace health-first design and offer true non-thermal processing options. Such variety of truly healthy foods is what pets are designed for and the only way for them to achieve long-term optimal health.”

*Comment: …or other raw food products like any of the ones offered in our store for example
Note: Contribution by Dr. R.L.Wysong of
Wysong Corporation.

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