May 14, 2018

Scary subject

Past recalls among pet food companies and suspicion of business entities in general have led many consumers to wonder about the products they choose to feed to their four-legged family members. This general uneasiness is only intensified by a number of news stories appearing of late that detail traces of the chemicals used for euthanizing animals being found in some pet foods. These test results have alarmed many pet owners and led to some legislative initiatives.

This scary subject highlights something that, we at RAWZ, don't really discuss often. As written, labeling laws allow for quite a bit of variance and ambiguity in listing pet food ingredients. While it is fairly well understood that "animal" meal can contain just about any animal, being a rendered meal allows much more variance; yes, even for named specie meals (i.e.. chicken/turkey/fish meals). So while being named, this species specific meal still allows for large variances when it comes to the ingredient quality. Due to the extreme temperatures and long time duration of the rendering process; animals that are not fit for human consumption, however humanely raised they may be, can be used in meals. Commonly referred to as the 4 D's (Dead, Diseased, Dying, or Disabled) when speaking of rendered meals, these animals often are considered waste in the human food supply and, rather than discarded, rendered.

So while we hope that all pet food companies use only top quality protein sources; although economics and the number of financial investors in the animal nutrition space lead to obvious doubt (not to mention reported past quality/safety issues). For the sake of discussion, let's just go with the supposition that only top-quality, human-grade animals are used in the production of a foods rendered ingredients. Well then, you may ask, doesn't that really lessen the appeal of RAWZ's rendered-free nutritional platform?

If RAWZ were simply stating that it's the wide variance possibility of the less than desirable aforementioned ingredients in rendered meals that made the RAWZ difference, then an altruistic movement in pet food formulation would present a real challenge. However, this would be missing the point of what we believe is the true RAWZ difference and why we're THE NEXT BEST THING TO FEEDING RAW!! While in itself, the questionable quality of meals and sometimes scary possibilities of what is legally allowed provide concern, at least as powerful a reason for our commitment to being rendered-free is the damage done to a protein source by high heat processing. I don't want to get overly technical, but it's all about protein efficiency (PER or protein efficiency ratio).

PER is simply a measure of how effectively an animal uses a protein to build new tissue, or to be even simpler, protein quality. Ranging from 100%, or completely used by the animal, to 0% or useless; the PER values of dehydrated chicken vs. even a high quality chicken meal (derived of healthy, humanely raised chickens), truly illustrates the RAWZ difference: 98% vs. 58%! You read that right, independent testing done by acclaimed animal nutritionist Dr. Greg Aldrich of Kansas State University found this huge discrepancy in the qualities of proteins! I'm no math whiz, but even I can appreciate such a gap in quality. In fact, to reap the same tissue building benefits of eating 100g's of protein from our dehydrated chicken, a pet would need to consume around 169 g's of protein from even a high quality chicken meal, almost 70% more!

In summation, we're not trying to scare you with alarming news stories or the variance in quality allowed in labeling laws of meals: RAWZ simply believes that when it comes to processing, less is more in animal nutrition!

April 17, 2018

Limited, simple, basic...

I'm lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time visiting independent retail stores; whether to hold a demo or just check in with members of the RAWZ family. Whenever I walk in to a store it never fails to amaze me to see the vast array of product offerings! It seems that brands produce new lines or "tweak" existing ones almost weekly. It often appears that the aim of such line extensions is the seeming nutritional customization for pets.

While true that some pets have specific food allergies or sensitivities, and because of life stage or activity level benefit from some dietary tweaks; in almost all cases any such adjustment is most effectively made through supplementation. RAWZ is carefully formulated to be nutritionally complete for pets of all life stages and all breeds! The relative instability of supplemental health ingredients (see our post on Pre and Probiotics 7/17) actually limits their effectiveness when added to a foods' formula by the time of consumption.

This lack in effectiveness of packing pet food recipes with added ingredients is just one of the things that gets me about these products; now about their names...Keeping in mind that I'm not a food nutritionist or medically trained professional, I have a hard time of seeing the number of ingredients on some of these diets designed for sensitive pets be labeled with names indicating simplicity! This is when I'm reminded by my father (which I often interpret as "being told I'm wrong") that the idea behind such formulas is to limit the animal protein to a single source and most of the listed ingredients are microlevels of vitamins and minerals needed to make a complete diet. In actuality, while grains can cause skin irritation and GI problems, a true allergy occurs because a pets' digestive system misidentifies a protein as a harmful invader rather than a food source, responding with protective measures: Such measures while intended to protect the animal manifest as adverse conditions such as GI distress or dry, itchy skin.

So while an allergy test sent to a lab and usually run by a vet is the only way to 100% accurately identify a food allergy, more commonly the elimination diet is a preferred method. The elimination method consists of isolating the protein eaten by an pet to a single animal source while being sure to stop the intake of any other. This can take up to 3 months per trial, but usually the symptomatic improvements are rapid when the allergy causing protein is removed from the diet. With chicken being found to be one of the most frequent allergic protein, RAWZ's Limited recipe Salmon and Duck formulas make rendered-free nutrition an option for more dogs!

March 15, 2018

Evolving pet food market!

It doesn't take a rocket scientist, which I am certainly not, to see the rapid changes in the animal nutrition market. While I've only officially worked in the space for about 3 years since the launch of RAWZ, the recent trend of raw inclusion and less processing being recognized as beneficial to pets only continue a focus on total pet health by pet parents. I can still remember the idea of "Grain-Free" being a huge step while now it makes more than half of total sales according to Pet Food Institute.

The evolution, or changes for the better, in the nutritional quality and makeup of foods on the market aren't the only aspects of feeding pets that have changed. In fact, even the way consumers shop for their four-legged family members food has changed. What may have started as part of the endless quest for efficiency, or to simplify our ever quickening lives in a rapidly changing world, has truly become a different buying experience. Whether it is the auto-ship function on many e-commerce sites or an online quiz that uses pet owners answers about their pet to generate a food recommendation, one may come to the conclusion that the independent pet specialty retailer no longer is practical.

We at RAWZ wholeheartedly disagree with this assertion! As with many of the modern movements focused on convenience centered in internet-based activity, the ecommerce boom has seen tremendous growth (estimated to be nearly a third of total sales). So why, you ask is RAWZ sold only through authorized independent pet specialty retailers, excluding any retail partner lacking a physical (brick and mortar) location? First, we don't have the marketing money to push a mass media marketing campaign out to educate consumers about the unique attributes that make RAWZ THE NEXT BEST THING TO FEEDING RAW. Second, unfortunately we'll never meet many of our valued customers, but think that a personal connection between RAWZ and you, the guardian of your pet's health, is paramount to improving the lives of your pets. Ultimately in this pursuit we've chosen to work with select independent partners to communicate our When Only the Best Will Do nutritional philosophy!

I recently held a demo at RAWZ's hometown independent retail partner's beautiful new store, Ann-imals in York, ME. The great new location right on Rte. 1, really displays the value of a good independent pet specialty store in that it is nicely laid out, has a quality product mix, and customers receive personalized advice from a fellow pet lover. Ann, owner/operator, is a true animal lover who's not only a pet owner herself, but also a supporter and foster parent of area rescues. It was great explaining the benefits of RAWZ at a retailer who strongly supports and educates her clients on the benefits of Raw feeding!

February 8, 2018

Transitioning: A common concern...

I don't like to go on and on ad-nauseum about how great it is to spend time with our fantastic retail partners and fellow pet lovers at RAWZ demos; for two reasons. I mean to be honest, as the middle child I don't usually get that much air-time, and, my dad might make me pay him an hourly rate to work if he thinks I'm having too much fun! However, it is talking with the extended RAWZ community at these events that gives me direction for most of my posts. That said, one concern I often hear from pet parents is that that diet changes cause digestion distress, usually emphasized by recounting a recent challenging experience!

So why is it you may ask would moving to a superior diet like RAWZ pose any challenges, isn't a better food supposed to be easier? I can really identify with these concerns, not just in regards to difficulty with change myself (Mom calls it stubbornness, while I prefer "difficulty with change"), but with some understanding of an animal's GI systems.

There are a few important factors that make changing a pets' diet particularly challenging. First and perhaps most obvious is that because pets typically eat the same exact diet exclusively for great periods of time the GI tract becomes conditioned. Like human's, pets GI systems, while adaptable, become conditioned to the macronutrient breakdown of their eating pattern. However; for pets who eat the same meal so consistently, any change or transition to something new will take time to adjust. Common difficulties are loose stools or diarrhea, which while messy and inconvenient, generally don't indicate serious problems. Prolonged vomiting should not occur and your veterinarian's assistance can be sought.

We can all probably relate to sitting down to a unique meal or treat and having it seemingly disappear from our plate. With pets shifting to a new diet this phenomenon is referred to as the novelty factor. When a pet gobbles a food down faster than usual some digestive strain can occur.

Lastly, RAWZ's high meat content and minimally processed ingredients can take time for a pet's system to adjust to, which is to be expected. Generally, pets on raw diets see almost no intestinal distress when incorporating RAWZ, and those on grain-free, higher meat diets transition quite smoothly. With these factors in mind, we recommended transitioning to feeding 100% RAWZ in 5-7 days. An addition of a 20% portion of RAWZ (to the total food fed each day) usually yields good results.