by Ward Johnson
In my ongoing adventures as proprietor of Sojourner Farms, this is one question that I find myself asking people time and time again. Obviously the answer is ‘no,’ but that certainly doesn’t seem to make it an easy concept for most folks to understand. After all, it seems that most pets in this country eat cooked cat and dog food — and it’s my belief that this isn’t the way it was supposed to be.
My belief isn’t just based on common sense. I’ve done plenty of highly scientific studies over the years to prove my theories. Many times I have placed various cats and dogs in front of my stove, and without fail, they don’t know how to work it. In fact, out of 15 dogs and cats tested since my study started, not one of them knew how to turn on the stove! Not only that, but none of my “test animals” knew how to use a microwave either (although I did know a dog once who could fetch me a beer). I would have to guess that these were probably astonishing results to most of this country’s pet food manufacturers. After all, these companies make processed, cooked, pelletized, and preserved pet foods in the form of tiny pellets and canned mishmash that we’re told are perfectly “natural” for pets to eat. When I hear this, I picture undomesticated dogs, killing their prey, and then turning them into kibbled pellets before sitting down for a meal. Or how about your cat building a little bonfire in the backyard to make his newly-killed mouse safe for consumption. Sounds pretty
When I was a young boy, I can remember my dog, Chuggers (named after a cozy little bar in Chattanooga) being diagnosed by a local vet as having a “bad thyroid.” Her coat began to fall out, and she grew sores all over her body in addition to other dog health problems. Her temperament became horrible, and soon she had to be put to sleep. No amount of “prescription diets” or powerful medications could save her. Sometimes I wonder how things would’ve changed had I known then what I know now. When I graduated from college and began work as the manager of a holistic veterinary clinic in Minneapolis, I saw cases like Chuggers every day. Hundreds of dogs and cats came in, time after time, displaying variations on the same mysterious illness. Sometimes it manifested itself in other ways. Some animals had cancer, some had hip displaysia, some F.U.S., leukemia, kidney failure, liver disease, and so on, and so on, and so on. I couldn’t figure out what in the world was going on. Why were our critters suffering from so many chronic and seemingly incurable illnesses? Soon it became clear that a major contributor to these problems was in fact diet. We had been feeding these dogs and cats pelletized, processed pet foods (made of horribly suspect ingredients in many cases) for around 50 years (which was around the time that corporate America figured out that they could profit from the thrown-away waste and by-products by turning it into “pet food”) and it was finally catching up to us. These pets were meant to eat as they would in the wild. They needed fresh, raw foods, that still contained vital enzymes, nutrients, and trace minerals. They needed their owners to take the time to make up fresh food, rather than relying on simply tearing open a bag and pouring its contents into a bowl.
When I think of traditional dog food, I think of what it would be like for me if I had to eat pelletized people food. What if I took all of the things that I normally eat (in the form of by-products and feed deemed “not suitable for human consumption”) and then fused them into a tiny pellet that I could eat everyday and get 100% of the daily nutrition that I need? I’d say life wouldn’t be all that fun. I think of how good-old Chuggers must have felt, when no one could figure out what to do, even though the answer was so obvious.
One thing is for sure, and that is that I will never make that same mistake again. That’s not to say that I won’t ever feed any cooked food to a dog again. There are healthy leftovers as well as all natural dog treats that can be a great addition to a dog’s diet. But I will always continue to tell people my story, to stop them from making that same mistake. Whenever I’m feeling down; whenever I start to think that reeducating this country is too daunting a task; whenever I get the feeling that I’m fighting a losing battle — I just remind myself that every time I talk to someone about this story, I’ve hopefully changed a critter’s life. Perhaps I’ve prevented another case like that of Chuggers. Hopefully that person told someone else their story too, and they told someone, and they told someone and they’ll all switch to a holistic dog food — and I daydream that pretty soon, everyone will realize at once, that they’ve never seen an oven in the wild.
h2. Raw food for thought.
We are often asked if there have been any studies done on animals regarding cooked vs. raw pet food diets. Here are a couple of very interesting ones. Dr. Francis M. Pottenger had some very revealing results on a study he did between the years 1932 and 1942. His study was done on seven generations of a colony of cats. He fed half of the animals an all raw pet food diet, and the other half the same foods except that they were cooked. After only three generations on the cooked caat food, those cats were no longer able to reproduce. Mouth and gum infections, arthritis, bladder problems, heart lesions, irritable bowel syndrome, and thyroid problems also became common in the cats on the cooked cat foods. And many of these health issues are common in todays pets. On the contrary, the cats on the raw cat food remained completely healthy and needed no veterinary attention. Dr. Pottenger then switched the weakened colony of cats back to all raw cat foods and after four generations the cats had a complete recovery from the ill-effects of the cooked pet food. I had an issue as to whether or not to write about a different study because of the sensitive issue of killing laboratory animals. I decided to write about it because the information learned from it is significant to the nutrition debate. Please feel free to bypass this next paragraph if you like.
The study in question was done on more than 1000 rats over 27 months. Dr Robert McCarrison, while stationed in India, became interested in the diet habits of different regions of the earth. In particular he noted the health of the Hunza, Pathan and Sikh peoples. He wondered if comparable diets would produce the same effects for rats. He fed the rats a variety of fresh foods, including bean sprouts, fresh raw carrots, cabbage and raw whole milk. Once-a-week he also mixed in flat bread and meat with bones in them. He provided the rats with sunlight, good air and sanitary living conditions. At the close of the study when the rats were the equivalent of 55 human years in age, he sacrificed them and autopsied them. He was stunned to find no signs of disease. The only deaths that occurred were accidental and not due to degenerative diseases.
We realize the need for more studies to once-and-for-all prove the benefits of raw pet foods. The difficulty is that raw pet food companies such as ours are small, and don’t have the financial resources to fund a long-term study. But recently we have been in contact with other small companies and are working on a way to pool our resources together to sponsor such a study. We will keep you posted.
According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Women who eat their meat well-done had almost a five times greater risk of breast cancer than those who ate meats cooked rare or medium. Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at the University of South Carolina School of Public Health, who was co-author of the study states, “ When meat is cooked at high temperatures it gives off substances called hetrocyclicamines, which have induced tumors in animal studies.” Remember, you lose vitamins and enzymes at only 126 degrees, which is not much warmer than tap water. I find that with many people I talk to, convenience is the only deciding factor in choosing how to feed their pets — regardless of the dog health problems that might occur. I have to stress that convenience has absolutely nothing to do with wellness. What we feed ourselves and our animals should be based on what is best for the body and not what takes the least amount of effort. I feel that the trade off is way too big when we approach health and wellness in this fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the cash machine at the grocery store. I really like the after hours drop-off for the movies I rent. I like the convenience in those win-win situations. The trade-off is definitely worth it. My dad used to have to walk ten miles in the snow to return movies, and I don’t want to do that. But when it comes to my wellness, or the wellness of my animals, convenience isn’t even in the equation.