The debate surrounding whether kibble or raw dog food is best for your dog is a complicated one. There are many different versions of ‘kibble’ and ‘raw’ so it’s not as simple as one is bad for your dog and the other good, but there are benefits to both. We thought we would outline the positives and negatives of both raw and kibble dog food to explain the discourse and help make choosing a healthy dog food a bit easier.
Raw Dog Food
With the name ‘raw’, it’s easy to presume that this is the healthiest option. For humans, raw diets are on the rise because it is claimed to be the most natural, but, is this the same for dogs?
The main benefits raw food typically provides, are:
- Shiny coats
- Healthy skin
- Higher energy levels.
- Cleaner teeth & better breath
- Smaller and firmer Stools
How healthy is raw dog food?
When looking for the right dog food, there are a few things that you ought to consider. Firstly, raw is typically the most optimal option when it comes to protein being bioavailable. On average, raw has around 13-14% crude protein. Crude protein is the measure of all proteins within dog food. This may seem reasonably low in comparison to other options, but raw is the most bioavailable, thus meaning it can be absorbed more effectively and 13-14% is typically what dogs would be use to in the wild.
If you are choosing to feed your dog pre-mixed raw mince, you will struggle to find a product that is made from only one meat source. Feeding your dog healthy food that contains only one meat is far better for their digestion. If your dog has intolerances, feeding them mixed-meat dog food increases their chances of a flare up. The most common meat allergy occurs in chicken and the second most being beef. But commonly Chicken and salmon are the ones found in most dog foods, as these are two of the cheapest to produce.
When it comes to the ratio of meat to bone, raw food varies. Some are 90% meat, 10% bone; 70% meat, 30% bone; or some recommend 100% meat and no bone at all. Each dog has a different level of tolerance to bone, so it’s a personal choice as to what suits your dog best. However, in most cases, eating too much bone can cause constipation, so it’s best to choose a food with lower bone content to start with.
Not all raw dog food is grain-free, some contain carbohydrates like rice, or potato. So, if you are trying to choose a healthy food that is low on carbohydrates, don’t presume that raw is the way to go.
From a practical perspective, you also need a lot of freezer space for raw dog food, as well as either having a separate fridge for your thawed pack. The alternative is being comfortable keeping it in the refrigerator with your own family's food. Raw can be a challenging choice if you're short on fridge/freezer space. Most raw dog feeders end up with a separate dog fridge/freezer, so this is something you should definitely consider before making your mind up.
Kibble Dog Food
Just like raw food, the difference between types of kibble out there vary considerably, so it’s important that we don’t shine all kibble foods in the same light - for both good and bad.
However, some typical generic advantages to kibble include:
- It’s long-lasting
- It’s more hygienic
- Easier Feed
- More Convenient
- Can use it as treats
- A complete dog food
But we should really dive into the details, to discover additional advantages which certain brands are currently offering.
Is kibble dog food healthy?
Many kibbles on the market use meat meal as their only source of protein, and with this comes the same issue as raw dog food, in that multiple types of meat are harder to digest. Another concern lies with the ambiguousness of the label, as you are unsure of what your dog is eating.
kibble is also often heated at incredibly high temperatures. When protein is exposed to heat, it affects the digestibility of the meat and limits the number of nutrients that the dog can absorb. Different brands heat kibble at different temperatures, so if possible try to find out the rough temperature your dogs food is being cooked at. We don’t go above 240 degrees, but you may find that your dogs food is being cooked as high as 450 degrees in some cases, which dramatically reduces the nutritional value.
The varying types of kibble
There are many different types of kibble. These are categorised into subsections. We thought we would explain a few to look out for and what they mean.
Entry level foods
These will be often filled with cereals such as maize, and ‘meat meal’ would be their only meat course - typically around 18%. These foods contain closed compositions where ingredient sources are grouped in terms such as ‘poultry’, ‘animal derivatives’ or ‘oils’. This allows them to add anything available at the time of production. This is not the mindset of a company that strives to provide dog food for optimum health. This category of kibble contains multiple meat sources in each recipe. If your dog has allergies, you might find it difficult to know what food to eradicate from their diet to solve the problem.
These kibbles are based with rice; over 60% rice and typically 18-23% meat meal, depending on the brand. The protein source will also differ from brand to brand. Proteins will still be mixed in natural dog food, so be careful if your dog has noticeable allergies. These foods often contain high amounts of chicken and salmon to bulk up their protein percentage at a cheap price.
When kibble is labelled as grain-free, they will most likely be using sweet potato as a filler. It is a healthy choice for humans because it is lower on the GI index compared to other carbohydrates. However, dogs’ digestive tracks are completely different - they are designed to digest meat. Sweet potato contains more sugar than regular potato so it is something you should be wary of.
How we approach Kibble vs Raw
At Beco, we approach dog food differently, from how we source our ingredients, to the reasons behind our composition.
For our protein source, we look at bioavailability and digestibility. This is how we determine how much and the type of fresh meat we put into our food. In terms of what protein we use, our food contains an easily digestible single source. Our boar and haddock are both novel protein sources, meaning that they are not used commonly in dog food and your dog is unlikely to have intolerances to them. As mentioned previously, our kibble never reaches the heights of 450 degrees when cooking, as our cap off is 240 degrees. This means that the food maintains its high nutritional value as it is made more bioavailable and avoids any harmful elements.
In regards to hygiene, we always source fresh, human-grade meat that has been transported in cold storage to the point of manufacture, so we start with fresh meat. This is in comparison to the likes of meat meal, which is stored in ‘ambient’ conditions. This means no temperature controls, resulting in meat decomposing before it hits the plant to be turned into dog food.
All the food at Beco is grain-free. Instead of grain, we fill our food with carefully selected vegetables that ferment in the dogs’ stomachs and create good bacteria that boost the immune system. We use white potatoes; perfect for dogs that have sensitive stomachs. We add in field beans to increase the fibre content and peas to balance out the GI index.
It all starts at the source
It’s not just the dogs’ health that determines the meat we use: sustainability is the driver for us in everything we do. This has become ever more prevalent with the recent spike in dog ownership. Our meat sources are either sustainably and ethically farmed or sustainably caught. We were the first to use only Free Range Chicken, MSC Cod and Haddock and single-source wild boar. We source as close to home as possible to minimise transportation emissions for our vegetables and botanicals. We are also the first dog food in Europe to sign the better chicken commitment.
It is clear that when it comes to choosing food for your dog, many conflicting opinions make the notion of having one definitive answer impossible. Ultimately, it is about finding the right food for your dog’s digestion, whilst also bearing in mind practicality and ethics. Look out for dog food with a short ingredients list containing specific meats, fruit, veg and no chemicals. The rest really comes down to personal preference, but hopefully we have done our job right, to make the decision a lot easier for you and your dog.