Most of us (especially in Vancouver!) are health-conscious and eat minimally processed fresh food whenever we can. At Kafka’s Organic, we follow the philosophy that our pets deserve the same high-quality nutrition. We dug deep into veterinary journals and pet food industry research and concluded that homemade or homemade-style fresh dog food and cat food is the healthiest option for pet food (if it’s nutritionally balanced).
There are several reasons why we think fresh is amazing for both humans and pets alike.
At Kafka’s Organic, we looked for the following main points in a healthy pet food:
- minimally processed
- fresh, human-grade ingredients
- nothing artificial
- nutritionally balanced
- contains quality supplements
- easy to handle & feed.
We simply couldn’t find the right combination in dry food, canned wet food or raw pet food, which is why we made our own fresh food. The following article summarizes some of the research we found, and the key takeaways:
Why processed pet food is not ideal for daily feeding
Dry dog food and cat food such as kibble undergo extreme heat processing using a method called extrusion to mechanically tear ingredients and force the mixture through an opening at high pressure. The extrudate is then dried under high heat to form the kibble base. This process gets rid of all bacteria in the food (good and bad) which is why dry dog food and cat food has a long expiry date, keeping shelf-stable for years. Currently, 95 % of dry dog and cat food in the pet food market is manufactured using extrusion.
Extrusion also changes the molecular structure of natural ingredients and its nutritional content so that so most of the heathy fats, vitamins, antioxidants and heat-sensitive nutrients in the food disappear after high heat processing (1) . That’s why you see a long list of ingredients on pet food labels; the nutrients that were lost need to be added as synthetic vitamins and minerals. This type of processed diet is not ideal for daily feeding because our pets need naturally derived vitamins and antioxidants which come from fresh ingredients to build up a healthy immune system and support their long-term health.
Let’s talk preservatives & additives
The AAFCO also lists 36 preservatives that are legally allowed to be in commercial pet foods, but are technically artificial chemicals . For example, Butylated hydroxyl anisol (BHA), Butylated hydroxyltoluene (BHT), and Ethoxyquin have unknown toxic and carcinogenic properties, meaning that nobody is sure if they are toxic in large amounts or not! . Often these preservatives are found in higher quantities than what appears on the label (yes, mislabeling is a big issue in pet food). So, it’s unclear if we are feeding our pets high amounts of preservatives that build up in their system over time.
Human-grade ingredients can make a big health difference in your pet
The main ingredients in most store-bought pet foods are not fit for humans to eat. The meat used in dry or canned dog and cat food can legally come from 3D meats: dead, dying, or diseased animals . 3D meats and byproducts are contaminated with bacteria and viruses and are low quality in terms of nutrition. For example, salmonella contamination from byproducts is a major problem that pet food suppliers need to battle, and they do so by using high heat processing which comes with its own set of problems (discussed earlier). Human-quality food eliminates a lot of these problems since they meet higher standards for safety and are subject to consumer regulations.
Why does my dog and cat need a balanced diet?
Next, we turned to look at raw food. Regardless of high heat processing and quality of ingredients, most commercial kibble and canned diets are balanced to meet AAFCO nutritional standards. A major drawback we found in raw pet food is that it often doesn’t contain the right combination of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. In other words, it’s not nutritionally balanced. For example, studies have consistently found deficiencies in calcium, copper, zinc, iodine and vitamins A and D in raw pet food (5).
Unless a raw dog food or cat food diet is carefully planned, there is a risk of nutritional imbalance and deficiencies happening. For example, a whole-rabbit raw diet that contained enough taurine when analyzed still caused taurine-deficiency cardiomyopathy in cats after a few months of feeding this diet (6). This could be because of a lack of bioavailability of some of these minerals in raw meat.
Taking all of these into consideration, if you decide to feed raw food to your dog or cat full-time, we recommend diving deep into research to nutritionally balance your raw food diet by adding organ meat, bone meal powder, fresh veggies and quality supplements.
Raw pet food handling
Another drawback with raw dog food and cat food is the time required for careful handling. Although most raw pet food is minimally processed with limited ingredients, raw pet products also regularly exceed normal hygiene levels for Enterobacteria (2). Enterobacteria family members include nasties such as E-Coli, Salmonella, Shigella and Klebsiella. One Canadian study analyzed 166 different raw food samples from local pet stores in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto, and found that 21% of samples had antibiotic-resistant Salmonella (3). Yikes. And that doesn’t include the species that were not antibiotic resistant. Another recent study done in the Netherlands found E.Coli in 80% of samples from 35 different raw food brands (4). Keeping in mind that the EU has stricter regulations for pet food than does North America, that’s cause for concern.
Not only can these bacteria cause stomach sensitivities and GI issues in pets, they can also pass from pets to humans. Especially for immunocompromised people in the household, the consequences from feeding raw pet food can be high.
No time to fuss: Healthy, worry-free pet food
Many busy pawparents choose to feed kibble because it’s fast and convenient. We’re with you; convenience is important to us at Kafka’s too (these bills don’t pay themselves!). Feeding raw can be time-consuming because of the safe handling and sanitation process to make sure nobody gets sick. A complicated feeding routine is hard to follow for everyone and does not benefit anyone.
Fresh cooked food is not only healthier than kibble, it also takes less time to prepare and feed compared to raw. That’s the best of both worlds!
Supplements for pets?
Alongside minimally processed ingredients and balanced nutrition, we believe that the best dog food and the best cat food should contain carefully selected supplements suitable for each species. Supplements can be super beneficial for a pet’s overall health and longevity over their lifetime.
Omega-3,-6 and -9 fatty acids are important for maintaining a healthy skin and coat in cats and dogs. Most pets eating processed food such as kibble get an excessive amount of omega-6 fats from inexpensive grain, corn, chicken-meal and meat. In order to correct this imbalance, the best essential fatty acid for most dogs and cats is an omega-3 supplement made from marine oils – krill oil or fish oil, including salmon, sardine, squid and anchovy.
A less well-known but equally important supplement for pets is CoQ10, an enzyme that is produced naturally in the liver. As pets get older their bodies have less ability to convert CoQ10 to its active form, ubiquinol. Ubiquinol works in the mitochondria of cells to produce energy and support growth. Certain cell types such as heart, intestinal and immune cells, have a high energy requirement and need higher levels of CoQ10. Organ meats such as liver naturally provide CoQ10 to support healthy circulation, immune function, and overall heart health.
Finally, iodine is an important trace mineral in a healthy diet for thyroid function, without which dogs (and humans!) can develop hypothyroidism. Instead of salt, Kafka’s uses an organic kelp powder ground from dried Atlantic kelp to provide enough iodine as well minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Kafka’s Organic also includes a human-grade Omega-3 fish oil derived from anchovies with 18% EPA and 12% DHA to give maximum benefit for skin and coat. Depending on the recipe, we’ve also added organic safflower oil or organic flaxseed oil (high source of linoleic acid) in order to balance the overall blend of omega-6 and omega-3s.
These supplements are intended to benefit most healthy dogs and cats. If your pet has a specific health condition, we encourage you to visit a holistic or integrative veterinarian to get advice on ways you can support their health through natural supplements.
How gentle cooking makes nutrients more bioavailable
Nutrient bioavailability refers to the proportion of a nutrient that is absorbed from the diet and used in the body (7,8). Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are usually highly bioavailable, and more than 90% is absorbed by the body. But the bioavailability of micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants can vary widely.
Low-temperature cooking makes certain nutrients more bioavailable than when raw. For example, gentle cooking breaks down the tough cell wall of vegetables such as sweet potatoes, kale, spinach and carrots, making nutrients more readily available (9). This increased bioavailability means that your favourite cat and dog can get the maximum benefit from the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants naturally present in their fresh food.
Taste is a huge factor in cat and dog food!
We all love to see our cats and dogs excited over their food! The best cat and dog food should be incredibly tasty! Instead of artificial palate enhancers, that’s why at Kafka’s Organic we infuse our recipes with bone broth. Not only does bone broth boost the flavour profile, but it adds a bunch of trace minerals and immune-boosting antioxidants. Best of all, cats and dogs go crazy for their fresh food!
This was a lot of information! Let’s peek at a cheeky comparison chart to see the differences between Kafka’s and other pet food options out there. Keep in mind that this is no accident, we set out to correct industry standards in our food.
We believe in our pet food, or we wouldn’t offer it to our community. But our unbiased recommendation is summarized by Dr. Karen Becker’s statement here:
“Feed yourself and your pet as much unprocessed, fresh food as you can afford. If you can't afford to feed an entirely fresh, living, raw or gently cooked diet, offer fresh food snacks instead. Research shows that providing any amount of healthy foods to dogs and cats is better than no healthy food at all.”
Whatever you choose to feed your pet, we support your journey and are here to help. If you have any questions you would like answered, reach out to Kafka’s through our social channels or contact form. We’ll put it to our vet nutritionist if needed and get back to you.
Kafka’s Organic is an online pet store based in Vancouver, Canada. Kafka’s mission is to protect and care for pets by rethinking the status quo in the pet food industry and innovating the highest-quality, safest products for animal friends and their guardians. Kafka’s currently offers a range of homemade style fresh dog food and cat food for home delivery or pickup at local retailers.
- Refuse This Ruined Food That Snips Away Your Pet’s Life One Bite at a Time [Internet]. Mercola.com. [cited 2020 Jan 12]. Available from: http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2018/10/20/pet-food-extrusion.aspx
- Davis N. Scientists criticise trend for raw meat pet food after analysis finds pathogens. The Guardian [Internet]. 2018 Jan 12 [cited 2020 Jan 11]; Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jan/12/scientists-criticise-trend-for-raw-meat-pet-food-after-analysis-finds-pathogens
- Finley R, Reid-Smith R, Ribble C, Popa M, Vandermeer M, Aramini J. The occurrence and antimicrobial susceptibility of salmonellae isolated from commercially available canine raw food diets in three Canadian cities. Zoonoses Public Health. 2008 Oct;55(8–10):462–9.
- van Bree FPJ, Bokken GCAM, Mineur R, Franssen F, Opsteegh M, van der Giessen JWB, et al. Zoonotic bacteria and parasites found in raw meat-based diets for cats and dogs. Vet Rec. 2018 13;182(2):50.
- Kölle P, Schmidt M. [Raw-meat-based diets (RMBD) as a feeding principle for dogs]. Tierarztl Prax Ausg K Klientiere Heimtiere. 2015;43(6):409–19; quiz 420.
- Davies RH, Lawes JR, Wales AD. Raw diets for dogs and cats: a review, with particular reference to microbiological hazards. J Small Anim Pract. 2019 Jun;60(6):329–39.
- Population Reference Intakes and Micronutrient Bioavailability: A European Perspective - PubMed [Internet]. [cited 2020 Jan 12]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20200266-population-reference-intakes-and-micronutrient-bioavailability-a-european-perspective/
- Heaney RP. Factors influencing the measurement of bioavailability, taking calcium as a model. J Nutr. 2001;131(4 Suppl):1344S-8S.
- Miglio C, Chiavaro E, Visconti A, Fogliano V, Pellegrini N. Effects of Different Cooking Methods on Nutritional and Physicochemical Characteristics of Selected Vegetables. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Jan 1;56(1):139–47.
- Muñoz SS. What to Feed Your Pet Now. Wall Street Journal [Internet]. 2007 Apr 12 [cited 2020 Jan 11]; Available from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB117633723626967090