Raw pet food Q&A

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10 July 2024
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The essential questions about raw feeding answered

Definition: RAW — feeding pets a diet of uncooked meats, bones, and organs. Raw pet food is where there has been no processing of the ingredients except for chilling or freezing.

Why do owners feed raw food?

Raw diets are seen as pets’ ancestral diets. Our pets have descended from ancestors that would have had to hunt their food and fed directly on their prey. So, there is a belief that feeding raw meat is the most natural diet for our pets and that it brings benefits that cats and dogs gained before the invention of manufactured dog food.

What are the reported benefits? 

Many owners report that feeding a raw diet has been a revelation for their pet. The reported potential benefits include:

● Cleaner teeth and healthier gums.

● Better skin and coat.

● Improved behaviour.

● Improved and more balanced energy levels.

● Better weight control.

● Stronger immune system.

● More enjoyment of food.

● Less faeces (and less smelly!)

The benefits of raw feeding have not been backed up yet with official studies but feeding raw has undoubtedly has become a huge movement with pet ownership, with many advocates.

Is raw dog food safe?

There are concerns surrounding feeding raw, as raw meat can contain pathogens that can pose a risk to pet and human health, such as E.coli and salmonella. These are usually killed off during the cooking process which doesn’t happen with raw food. Good hygiene (cleanliness, washings hands, and washing utensils) is crucial when you’re handling raw meat. UK Pet Food, the association for pet food manufacturers, has many resources including free guides and educational posters on how to handle raw pet food. Visit: https://www.ukpetfood.org/resource/raw-feeding-factsheet.html

It is recommended that owners feed professionally prepared raw food, as there is a danger with homemade diets that they won’t provide all the nutrition pets need. They have a level of expertise in pet food and are subject to legislation. Manufacturers can also choose to take part in certification schemes, such as the UK Pet Food Raw Pet Food Certification Scheme and RawSafe, to underline their credentials of producing raw food in the safest possible way.

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What formats do commercial raw pet foods comes in?

Raw pet food comes in both complete and complementary varieties, in a range of different formats. These can include frozen minces, nuggets, treats, and meals, as well as freeze dried recipes. The meats provided in raw pet foods can include chicken, beef, turkey, duck, rabbit, lamb, venison, and white fish.

Where to buy raw pet food

Selling raw pet food requires retailers to have freezers to be able to stock commercially prepared raw diets. Many specialist pet retailers will have this capability (often many of them are advocates of raw feeding after seeing the benefit to their pet) and can usually offer advice. 

Brands will also sell direct to customers and you can have it delivered to you door. 

How to switch to a raw diet and how much to feed?

There is conflicting advice. Some brands recommend pets going ‘cold turkey’ and just providing the raw food immediately. Other brands suggest making a slow transition over a period of around 10 days from their previous diet to raw food. It is possibly best to follow each manufacturer’s guidelines or come to a decision after further research.

Each brand will provide feeding guidelines that explain how much to feed a pet. 

Where can I find out more about how raw pet food is produced and brands?

Visiting the UK Pet Food website is a good starting point. You can find a list of their members (https://www.ukpetfood.org/membership/members-of-ukpetfood.html) who have signed a charter and code of practice. Their membership is a sign of commitment to certain standards and knowledge. There are over 15 raw pet food manufacturers who are members. UK Pet Food also runs its world-leading Raw Pet Food Certification Scheme of which six brands are officially certified through.

The Pet Industry Federation is an association for all types of businesses in the pet industry. Many raw pet food manufacturers are members and have signed up a charter to commit to best practice when it comes to animal welfare and customer service. Visit https://petfederation.co.uk to search their membership database.

You can also widen the net by searching on Google, visiting other pet stores, or getting recommendations in the trade — perhaps some customers have got recommendations or you could speak to your wholesaler.

Useful resources

Responsible raw feeding for cats and dogs: https://www.ukpetfood.org/resource/raw-feeding-factsheet.html

Handling commercial raw pet food safely poster (downloaded PDF): https://www.ukpetfood.org/resource/handling-commercial-raw-pet-food-safely-poster.html

Educational poster about Raw Pet Food certification:

https://www.ukpetfood.org/resource/educational-poster-from-uk-pet-food-highlights-how-the-new-raw-pet-food-certification-scheme-works-and-what-it-means-for-pet-owners.html

RawSAFE: https://rawsafe.com/