Previously viewed in Fido Friendly Magazine - "Diary of a Dog Chef" column:
Why Are We Feeding Our Dogs Like Chickens?
How To Choose A Better Commercial Dog Food
by Master Dog Chef Micki
Tell me - how similar is your dog to a chicken? As far as I can tell there is nothing they would have in common. Except that your dog, if left running free, would be making a feast of eating that chicken.
Chickens are prey - dogs are predators. The eyes of prey animals are located on the sides of their head. This gives them a chance of seeing predators around them. Horses, cows, pigs, rabbits all share that distinction with the chicken.
Predators have eyes that face forward and are closer together - think of hawks, cougars, cats, wolves, coyotes and dogs. The digestive system of a predator animal is made for them to swallow prey in large gulps and digest quickly so the predator can resume his hunt.
That’s about all of the biology you might want to know except that with just that bit of information of the differences between prey and predators, it is obvious that you would be feeding them different food.
When I go to my sister’s mini-farm and help feed her chickens, we give them lots of green scraps and chicken scratch. Chicken scratch is made primarily of corn, wheat and rye. Occasionally my sister will throw in leftover rice. A free-range chicken eats a lot of bugs as they peck along, that's their main protein source.
If you think of a predator like a wolf, their diet primarily consists of eating the whole prey animal. That includes the stomach and intestines of that animal and what that animal consumed prior to being killed. A coyote might eat some other grasses or seeds to stay alive until his next kill but he is a meat eater.
As difficult as it is for us to comprehend a predator animal killing his prey, it is what it is. And your sweet little “Bubba” sleeping beneath your feet can go that way if left on his own. For now, Bubba, depends on you to feed him daily. The choices that you make are important ones.
As a Dog Chef I have met thousands of people who made the decision to improve their dog’s diet for various reasons - the dog was sick, old or the dog owner wanted to understand what would be better food for their dog that would keep them vitally healthy.
My specialty is teaching people how to share the right food with their dog and to feed more of a natural diet such as raw or slightly cooked meat and some vegetables. Although I would prefer that someone feed their dog a natural diet, free of commercial dog food, I also am aware of individual lifestyles. Sometimes that involves feeding commercial pet food - on occasion.
If you travel outside of the United States and ask people what they feed their dogs, commercial dog food is fed here and there. But only Americans and Canadians feed their dogs commercial dog food on a daily basis!
If this is your situation, ask yourself how long can you maintain a healthy,
vital body with glossy hair and clear eyes, just eating processed food from a bag or a can? Unfortunately, we are already seeing the results of that way of eating in many of our fellow humans here in the USA. People make those unfortunate food choices in the name of convenience. But we are also doing the same nutritional destruction with our pets.
When you’re choosing a quality commercial pet food keep these important facts in mind:
Dogs are predators. They need more meat than is being offered in poor quality dog food.
Don’t just look at the front and back of the dog food bag and get drawn in by the millions of marketing dollars that are spent to appeal to the consumer with the most appealing dog photo or color on the bag. Go right to the ingredient list!
As you probably already noticed, the ingredient list has the smallest
print on the whole bag! And understanding what’s in the list requires more time and energy than you have in a day. But JUST READ THE FIRST FIVE INGREDIENTS!
What you’re looking for in that first five ingredients is REAL FOOD! If you’re not aware of what “real food” is than I can’t help you there. But, for dogs, we want to see something like meat (not meat by-products!), one grain and a vegetable in some form. Turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, herring or another fish like salmon. Or it might say chicken meal, turkey meal, fish meal. The meat needs to be clarified - if it just says animal meat - that can mean anything.
Real food would also denote the food like “rice”, not hulled rice.” When there are too many words before or after what ever the real food is - don’t buy the product. Chicken by products, meat by-products are not what you want to see. By-products are not the whole meat but parts like beaks, feathers or worse.
We NEVER want to see the first five ingredients began with “ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, rice flour, soy flour, sugar, sorbital...” Does that sound like you’re feeding a predator or a chicken?
After a period of time, if your dog’s diet is made up of corn, soy or wheat, he will eventually experience health issues. These products promote skin allergy problems.
A grocery or big box store is not a great place to buy a better form of commercial dog food. And don’t be fooled by food sold by many vets! Check those ingredients too!
Specialty feed stores or online are the best places to purchase better pet food products - just be sure to review the ingredients!
Learning good eating habits for yourself and not getting caught up in the “convenience trap” will help you make better choices for your dog! No matter who is trying to sell you pet food, check the ingredients - your dog’s health depends on it!
Previously viewed in Fido Friendly Magazine - “Diary Of A Dog Chef” column.
Feeding Your Dog Naturally - It’s Not A Recipe,
It’s A Lifestyle!
by Master Dog Chef Micki
The most common email I receive is a request for a recipe. I’m more than happy to share recipes but I always remind people that feeding our dogs naturally is more of a flow and less of a creation of a recipe.
Learning that flow most often allows someone to keep up the natural feeding schedule since it’s less of a burden in their life. Feeding ourselves or our families is an everyday adventure in scheduling and juggling our time. To ask people to drive 60 miles to buy organic chicken for their dog is really stretching it. Most of the people I talk with would be happy to do such an ordeal for their beloved pal but fitting it into their lifestyle just doesn’t jive. A week later they're back to the old way - opening a bag of convenience food for themselves and their dog. The cost of gas for our vehicles to drive
somewhere to buy special food is now prohibitive, and also not very green-thinking.
What are a few ways to “feed in the flow”?
1. Buy food seasonally. If you buy food that is grown in your area and your country than that food can be found pretty close to your home. Do an Internet search for sustainable farmers near your zip code. Most of these farmers offer weekly boxes of packaged seasonal vegetables that you can pick up at nearby drop points.There are also the “u-pick-it” farms that are sprouting
up in the most unusual locations. Added to that are the goat farms, the beef ranches, mostly organic- and your neighborhood chicken farms selling fresh eggs and chickens ready to cook and eat.
2. Buy at Farmers Markets. If you don’t believe that you have any of the luxuries of nearby farms and ranches than there are always the Farmers Markets that come to one location at least once a week. Those are everywhere and in my travels I have found them in the most off the wall places. Many of these markets sell ostrich and emu meat, plus chicken, beef, buffalo,
turkey and salmon.
3. Share with a neighbor. Many people remind me that they work during the week when Farmers Markets are more plentiful. I remind them that most markets even operate on Saturdays or Sundays. Or make a deal with your neighbor or another dog owner - if they go to the Farmers Market with your list, you will pick up their items at the grocery store.
4. Create your own community. As Americans we haven’t been good about creating communities. We still like to get in our own car and drive at our own pace to our destinations. We will have to change our ways here soon. In your lifetime, have you ever seen the price of anything go down? A gallon of gas in Europe commonly goes for over $6 - no wonder they have the community
thing down pat! We are headed in that direction. Make friends with other people who are pursuing the same natural feeding ideas and share your resources.
5. Grow your own food! Wow, what a concept! No matter if you live in an apartment or on a ranch, dirt is dirt and the sun is free - so get growing. Take some gardening classes and bring your kids - one day it may
save their lives!
6. Buy online. Even though buying food online usually involves shipping it from some distant point, if you share that expense with other people you are making a big savings all around. Many online beef ranches sell large
boxes of raw bones for your dog.
7. Feed your dog and your family variety. Often when I do a consultation at someone’s house and we talk about their food choices I’m invariably shocked at the few foods people eat and feed their dog. Variety is the spice of life and adhering to that thinking is the best way to stay nutritionally balanced.
8. Get intimate with your kitchen. This is amazing but true. I see the inside of many people’s homes. The kitchens are beautiful and full of the best appliances - but no one uses them! They're for show. Or storage! I recently did a consultation at a home where the kitchen had a door at each end and the couple used it for storage. The only appliance they commonly used was
their coffee maker which they kept in their bedroom to wake them up in the morning. The incredible thing was they wanted to learn to feed their dogs naturally without using the kitchen! I told them that I’m a Dog Chef not a Magician!
9. Break your own rules. Americans have a lot of rules when it comes to feeding our dogs. The rules I hear, are never-ending. But while traveling around the country it becomes apparent that somewhere and at sometime we lost our independent thinking. Mr. and Mrs. “They” have become the illusion that someone with more authority than us needs to approve of what we are doing. Most of that thinking is to keep you believing that fresh food can be harmful and processed food is best. Processed foods are the most expensive items in a store and totally devoid of nutrition.
10. Make it an adventure! Food has been the one thing that we have lived side by side with for the entire existence of human or animal. It’s our most familiar friend. To travel the world and follow the origins of food for humans and dogs, gives one hope. Everyone needs food. It becomes our decision to spend our life in the never-ending pursuit of the fuel that gives us and our
dogs a life of health and happiness or one plagued with pain. It’s our choice, our lifestyle!