October 2, 2018

"Sidewalk Pitch?"

We often hear the term "elevator pitch" thrown around in discussing marketing terms or ideas. Generally, elevator pitch is used to describe a brief, but informative dialogue concerning a product. As I've mentioned, I'm sure countless times at this point, I spend quite a bit of my time at RAWZ's retail partners meeting and discussing RAWZ with pet parents. While I hope my communication concerning animal nutrition is clear and at least improved given the amount of time I've had to work on it, yes, even I must admit, there's always room for improvement :) With this thought in mind, I'd thought I'd use this as an opportunity to do better.

So why do I use the term sidewalk pitch? While I believe the term "elevator pitch" is great in that it implies the brevity of the interaction, with an emphasis on getting to the heart of the matter quickly and concisely. The fact is that most retail locations are single floors, also, I'm most likely out for a walk with Clooney (yes the Silver Fox himself) when I happen to meet other pets and their people; when of course RAWZ always is one of the first things that comes up. None of these interactions take place in an elevator which is where the term sidewalk pitch comes from.

Just last night while walking Clooney through downtown Portsmouth the thought to write this post occurred to me when our path crossed with a couple visiting from Connecticut. As is usually the case, Clooney's handsomeness prompted a conversation about dogs and their own lab at home. Obviously, I wanted to steer the discussion to the benefits of minimally processed nutrition, when as we approached where we would part, I realized my time was limited. I did my best, and while admittedly not completely prepared (ie. sample and product literature in hand, no orange shirt on!), to explain RAWZ's nutritional philosophy and 100% cause basis. Despite my best effort, I felt I could have done better. I thought to myself, and may have said aloud to Cloon, why not write what I should've said in this month's blog post...here goes!

At RAWZ we believe a raw diet when fed correctly is truly the best way to feed a pet; however, feeding raw involves great expense along with food safety issues. Seeing the huge gap between heavily processed dry foods, containing rendered ingredients, available and a raw diet, we saw an opportunity. After working with a team of fantastic animal nutritionists and pet food formulation experts, RAWZ was born! After both Andy and I had been blessed with wonderful recoveries and enriching experiences post life-changing injuries, our family was filled with gratitude. Recognizing how difficult building some semblance of a life after a serious disability can be, we're blessed to be able to donate 100% of RAWZ's profits to our phenomenal non-profit RAWZ FUND partners!

So in one sentence, built on the foundation of a belief in minimally processed nutrition, RAWZ exists to help people and pets live their best lives!

September 7, 2018

Mass Confusion, RE: "Grain-Free" diets

In early July, the FDA released an alert about a possible connection with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs fed "grain-free" diets. The release understandably caused quite a stir among pet parents who for years have believed such diets were preferable. The following post digs a little deeper surrounding this issue. Clarifying the Confusion: Grain Free Recipes and the Recent FDA Report Why is this an issue? On July 12, 2018, the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert regarding a possible connection with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs fed “grain free” diets. There has been much confusion and second-guessing among pet owners, retailers and various pet food brands that produce and sell these diets. The issue has affected a small population of dogs (less than 100). There has not been a direct link established regarding the cause, but diet is a suspected component along with animal genetics at this point. What should pet food manufacturers consider doing to address this issue? The balance of bioavailable methionine and cysteine are of critical importance. All nutritionists should be evaluating their diets for these key amino acids. Canine diets should have adequate levels of naturally occurring methionine, cysteine and taurine. The RAWZ Recipes (It’s Not Just About the Taurine) Supplementation with taurine may appear to be the easiest approach. However, this may mask the underlying issue of inadequate key amino acids that may ultimately result in other diseases. It is better to remain focused on the root cause and solve the issues with a sound and prudent approach of an encompassing balanced, superior nutritional profiles. RAWZ has high protein efficiency ratios because it is 100% rendered free. Our protein and amino acid profiles are better retained due to less processing. RAWZ is 100% Rendered Free - Dehydrated proteins and real meats contain higher levels of naturally occurring methionine, cysteine and taurine, compared to some excessively processed meals, such as chicken meal or fish meal. Taurine supplementation has always been added to all RAWZ dry recipes-both canine and feline.

Additional Information

Has there ever been a similar situation with DCM and dogs? Yes. In late 1990’s there were a number of dogs in a few breeds reported with DCM in which diet may have been associated. In these cases, the suspected diet type was based on lamb meal and rice and formulated for maintenance. The dogs were generally large breeds (e.g. Newfoundlands). It was postulated that low circulating taurine may be due to inadequate taurine syntheses in the liver and this may serve as an early indicator of shortcomings in sulfur amino acid supply (methionine and cysteine) for this and other metabolic functions (Backus et al., 2006). Was there something inherent in the lamb meal and rice diets from these studies that would suggest a similar issue for the current FDA alert? It was demonstrated by Johnson et al. (1998) that the cysteine availability in lamb meal can be quite low (<50% bioavailable). This may be attributed to the heat associated with the rendering process or the high concentration of structural proteins (wool and tendons) which are poorly digested. For the rice and rice co-products such as rice bran, it was demonstrated that these ingredients can decrease whole-blood taurine in cats (Stratton-Phelps et al., 2002), and this may be the result of the greater bile acid binding properties of rice bran (Kahlon and Woodruff, 2003) versus the other fibers.

Is there something inherently problematic with grain free diets? First it must be understood that taurine is synthesized from sulfur amino acids methionine and cysteine in the liver. If there is an inadequate supply of these amino acids, then taurine may be depleted. Legume seeds like peas, lentils and chickpeas have low levels of methionine and cysteine and plants do not produce taurine. Thus, these ingredients must be paired with complementary proteins like those from animal sources, or plant sources with offsetting concentrations of these key amino acids or supplemented with synthetic amino acids. There are no reports in the literature evaluating the pulses or tubers on canine or feline taurine levels. However, in a study reported form 1995 (Kim et al.) there was some indication that soybean (a legume seed) protein decreased taurine in feline plasma. This was thought to result from increased fecal excretion of taurine and bile acids and was not considered to work outside the effect of fermentation on deconjugation of taurocholate in the colon. Although soluble/fermentable fibers may have a detrimental effect on taurine levels in the gastrointestinal tract (Ko and Fascetti, 2016). As it turns out, legume seeds can be rich in oligosaccharides which could at higher levels lead to more fermentation and ultimately lower taurine. What should we consider doing to address this issue? First, the diets and dogs identified in these alerts are very few. There may be some common aspects to the previous issues in the 1990’s that have been overlooked in recent times. It is unlikely that all grain free diets are implicated. Possibly only a few and for only dogs predisposed to the condition. Further, the balance of bioavailable methionine and cysteine are of more importance. Nutritionists should be evaluating the diets for these key amino acids.

References: FDA. July 12, 2018. FDA Investigating Potential Connection Between Diet and Cases of Canine Heart Diseasehttps://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/newsevents/cvmupdates/ucm613305.htm acce ssed 27Aug2018 Backus, R.C., Kwang, S.K., Fascetti, A.J., Kittleson, M.D., MacDonald, K.A., Maggs, D.J., Berg, J.R., Rogers, Q.R. Low plasma taurine concentration in newfoundland dogs is associated with low plasma methionine and cyst(e)ine concentrations and low taurine synthesis (2006) Journal of Nutrition, 136 (10), pp. 2525-2533. Johnson, M.L., Parsons, C.M., Fahey, G.C., Jr., Merchen, N.R., and Aldrich, C.G. 1998. Effects of species raw material sources, ash content, and processing temperature on amino acid digestibility of animal by-product meals by cecectomized roosters and ileally cannulated dogs. J. Anim. Sci. 76:1112-1122 Stratton-Phelps, M. Backus, R.C, Rogers, Q.R., and Fascetti, A.J. 2002 Dietary rice bran decreases plasma and whole-blood taurine in cats. J. Nutr 132:1745S-1747S. Kahlon, T.S, Woodruff. C.L. 2003 In vitro binding of bile acids by rice bran, oat bran, barley, and B-glucan enriched barley. Cereal Chem 80:260-263. Kim S.W., Morris, J.G., and Rogers, Q.R. 1995. Dietary soybean protein decreases plasma taurine in cats. J. Nutr 125:2831-2837. Ko, K.S., Fascetti, A.J. 2016. Dietary beet pulp decreases taurine status in dogs fed low protein diet. J. Ainm Sci Technol. 58:29-39.

July 9, 2018

Perfect for Independence Day!

First off, all of us here at RAWZ hope you had a happy and safe 4th of July holiday! This time of year brings not only warm weather, but quite a bit of traffic to Seacoast New England. Believe me when I mention this that I'm not looking for any sympathy, as I certainly recognize how blessed I am to live in a place so many people choose to vacation! In fact, I actually like the energy in town as well as the reminder to count my blessings: Not only for living in this beautiful area, but to be able to travel around quite a bit like many of the summer visitors I see.

Being the NEXT BEST THING TO FEEDING RAW, raises the obvious question of "why not just feed raw?" We primarily refer to the cost as being prohibitive, with RAWZ costing only about a third of a prepared frozen raw diet to feed a 50 lb dog a day. But for some who aren't as price sensitive or have the time, knowledge, and funds to prepare meals for their pet(s) at home, why not raw?

In a recent digital dialogue I had with RAWZ teammate Bill Wilson, he raised a great point! During the Summer months we seem to meet many people traveling with their pets. As any raw feeder knows, road trips present extremely challenging circumstances for feeding routines; shortage of time, lack of space, HEAT. So what are pet's nutritional guardians to do?

For just these loving, nutrition-conscious individuals RAWZ offers a fantastic option: RAWZ 100% Human Grade Freeze Dried Dinners! Consisting of all human grade ingredients and carefully freeze-dried in human kitchens preserving the proteins' maximum efficiency, these dinners allow for the convenience of a ready to eat, safe option! So while traveling you can give your pet the best, and of course, all of the profits will help improve the lives of people living with disability!

June 5, 2018

Way Beyond Disability...

For me and many other competitors, the warm weather of early summer brings not only outdoor activity, but also the sporting event that I'm perhaps most proud of to be a participant: The Robie Pierce One-Design Regatta! The 2018 Robie was graciously hosted by the beautiful Larchmont Yacht Club located on the waters of Long Island Sound. Now in it's 10th annual edition, The Robie was began with the goal of bringing competitive sailing to those living with physical disability. Who is this Robie Pierce you ask?

Robie often joked that it wasn't the Robie Pierce "Memorial" Regatta because "I'm not dead yet!" Unfortunately, the sailing community said goodbye to a great man when on 7/12/17 Robie passed away after having lived with MS and confined to a wheelchair since December of 1985. An accomplished sailor, Robie wasn't one to let his diagnosis keep him on land; becoming a renowned disabled-sailor winning the 1993 World Disabled Sailing Championship and the Japanese Match Racing Championship a year after! Later as an advocate of adaptive sailors, Robie worked with others to see US Disabled sailing receive national recognition with the sport ultimately becoming a Paralympic event in 2000.

I thought I'd take a detour from the usual blog post focused on the nutritional features and benefits of our minimally processed RAWZ products this month. Partly, because I'm still filled with joy from the four races we got in despite uncooperative winds, but mostly to share my appreciation for experiencing genuine fun even after a life-altering injury. First off, a huge thank you to everyone that makes the Robie happen; from sponsors, race committee, volunteers, and the generous American YC/Larchmont YCs and their members: And of course, Robie himself for his vision and commitment to bringing sailing to us all!

In addition to my post-regatta joy, I've also had my motivation to provide pets with the next best thing to feeding raw recharged! With that seemingly unrelated statement you may be asking yourself if my mind has yet returned from Long Island Sound? So how do I make that leap? It's simple, first and foremost RAWZ is committed to providing pets with amazing nutritional products! After that we give 100% of our profits to improve the lives of those living with brain or spinal cord injury. The RAWZ FUND supports rehabilitation services through Spaulding Hospital, Northeast Passage's therapeutic recreation program, and also promotes the use of service dogs through wonderful organizations. At this year's Robie I experienced, and witnessed, just how fortunate all of us are to be a part of this mission!