It´s lunch time and you go to your trusted take away delivery point to have a meal and try to enjoy a small break from a hectic day of pursuing rodents, scratching furniture or taking naps. You arrive to your table thinking about a big, juice and tasteful steak just to discover that the only option in the menu is an ultra-processed, tasteless canned meat. Wouldn’t that meal be frustrating after a ruff day?
That´s how you four-legged friends have felt so long but, luckily for them, HPP offers the possibility to enjoy yummy, natural and safe meals must like their wild ancestors did.
A bit of History
The key to understand pet health is to analyze our common history, and how their evolution went from before and after taming.
In the case of dogs, archaeological record shows that domestication and first dogs appeared at least 17,000 years ago as the first undisputed dog remains were found buried beside humans 14,700 years ago. This means dogs became our companions back in our hunter-gatherer days and then they went with us through the First agricultural revolution.
When it comes to cats, things are a bit different since they have never been “semi-domesticated” and their journey with us started only 9,000 years ago, after the first agricultural revolution.
Theories suggest that cats were attracted to human settlements as they were a cradle for rodents, thus offering increased opportunities of survival. Humans also benefited from this feral companions which helped to control plagues and thus began to take care of them. This symbiosis lead to a selection in felines genepool, which benefited linked to memory, fear-conditioning, and stimulus-reward learning – which are all related to the evolution of tameness.
At a digestive level, studies suggest that cats evolved in a different way than dogs and genes related to an improved lipid-metabolism were selected over generations to improve their survival in their new hyper carnivorous and detritivore diet.
So…Why Raw Pet food? – Lack of adaptation to highly-processed pet food
Defenders of Raw Pet feeding or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) commonly state that thousands of years is enough time for a species to develop adaptation to a new environment, but complete adaptation requires hundreds of thousands of years. Mainly, because it requires a much deeper effect on the species genome and adaptation response to new diets.
As with humans, it seems that this adaptation to agrarian societies could have been good for overall survival of species through increase of available calories but not so good when it comes individual health as living standards are worse in terms of stress, exposure to diseases or quality of nutrients.
It is strongly suggested that getting back to a diet closer to their primal diet based on raw meat could be beneficial for dogs and cats, especially if those products are preservative-free.
Typical commercial dog foods are based in low quality cuts that are not suitable for human consumption mixed with starches, flours and other cheap bulking agents and enriched with supplements.
Use of preservatives
Additives used in Pet food such as diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), several types of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) seem to be partly responsible for decline of fertility in dogs and there are reasons to think that this problem could also occur in cats.
If we add that mostly pet foods are preserved through thermal dehydration or retort, we can think that they are missing all the beneficial compounds founds on raw diets while getting a lot of new compounds that may not be so.
Benefits of raw diets
We can identify 5 commonly identified benefits from Raw Pet Diets:
- Improved Nutrition: Raw food diets keeps the original nutritional integrity of the ingredients. This avoids the addition of synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements as it is done in processed commercial foods to overcome the loss of nutrients during cooking.
- Healthier/Regular Digestion: Both dogs and cats have short digestive systems which limits their ability to digest fibrous plant foods. A raw food diet for dogs is largely meat-based because it is easy for your dog to digest. Because less energy is wasted digesting plant materials, your dog’s digestive system will work more smoothly and more regularly – this also results in fewer, firmer stools.
- Cleaner Teeth: An estimated ¾ of dogs and cats will suffer some degree of periodontal disease by the time they reach 3 years of age. Kibbled foods provide some limited dental benefits by helping to scrape plaque off the surface of your dog’s teeth, but the process of chewing raw meats and raw bones is much more beneficial for this purpose. The chewing process also massages your dog’s gums, increasing circulation.
- Shinier Coat: A diet that consists of fresh, natural foods will provide your dog with the nutrients he needs to maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat. Essential fatty acids are the key to optimal skin and coat health and these ingredients are abundant in a raw food diet.
- Relief from Food Allergies/Sensitivities: The more dogs are exposed to potential allergens like corn, wheat, and soy ingredients, the more likely they are to develop a reaction. Raw food diets are typically grain-free and gluten-free which significantly reduces the risk for allergic reactions. The high nutritional value of a raw food diet for dogs may also help to resolve issues with environmental allergies.
Risks of raw diets
Veterinaries are concerned about two risks when it comes to Raw diets: to incur in an imbalance of nutrients and/or a higher probability of food poisoning. Both issues that are leaked to homemade foods but can easily overcome by raw pet food brands through formulation and preservation techniques such as HPP.
Unbalanced diets can lead to problems in pet’s health such as poor coats, bad skin, or weak bones. Raw diets tend to have a higher fat content that conventional pet food diets, and this leads to a shinier coat. However, an excess of fat and not enough protein can cause mild anaemia, which is one of the reasons why you should look for solutions supervised by a nutritionist certified by the or equivalents institutions outside the US such as EFSA in European Union.
FDA published a guidance document back in 2004 which suggests manufacturers to address typical nutrition problems in a raw-meat diet, including making sure it contains enough calcium and phosphorous, important for bone health.
Besides nutritional quality, The FDA, under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, also requires that food for animals, like food for people, be safe to eat; produced under sanitary conditions; free of harmful substances; and truthfully labelled. Pathogenic microorganisms are food-borne hazards not only for pets but pet owners are in risk when pet food is manipulated
High pressure processing is well recognized as a technology that delivers:
Taste of foods is not modified by high pressure processing, thus the same taste the product has before HPP, the same it will have after HPP: no need to reformulate or complex developments.
HPP effectively kills the main bacteria commonly associated to Raw Pet Foods recalls and outbreaks such as Listeria, E.coli or Salmonella. In addition, HPP Pet food products on the market have undergone an exhaustive validation study as required by . Most of food safety authorities consider 5-log pathogen reduction as the minimum level of pathogen “kill” by a processing step as a Critical Control Point for pertinent pathogens such as Listeria, E.coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. HPP technology is able to achieve that performance objective for being an acceptable Lethality Treatment.
High Pressure Processing does not affect nutritional value from foods, but has been recognized to be the preservative technique that keeps them the closer to the raw one while it kills harmful and spoilage microorganisms. In addition, recent studies have shown high pressure-processed raw meat could increase protein digestibility in terms of free-amino-nitrogen release.
Many companies have entered into this market in the last decade, yet many of them are facing safety issues as they do not use preservative techniques because of their raw status. This is the reason why many brands such as Stella & Chewy´s, Stewart, Primal Pet Foods, Nature´s Variety or Chow for now are using High Pressure Processing as a preservative technique.
They then sell frozen or dehydrate by freeze-drying (also known as sublimation) to reduce water content and achieve shelf stable products.
So far all those brands used tolling services to access High Pressure Processing but recently the sector hit a new milestone with the installation of the world´s first two HPP system dedicated to PET FOOD. Hiperbaric has been granted with such honor by two of its newest customers, who recently purchased and installed a Hiperbaric HPP system to control harmful bacteria and protect their furry customers.