Throughout history, humans have shared their lives with dogs. A companion animal’s diet consisted of food left over from its caretaker’s diet. If a dog’s family was wealthy, then the dog ate better – remember, dogs were a luxury item primarily owned by the rich. The concept of domesticating an animal really took hold in the late 1800’s with the birth of veterinary medicine – the idea being that dogs had to lose their ‘taste’ for blood in order to live with people. Wild animals ate fresh meat and thus domesticated dogs should not. Not science, but the concept took hold. Little by little there was a shift from pets eating natural foods to packaged ‘pet food,’ and then things really took a turn – here’s how World War II changed pet food.
More Pet Food History
Through the ages, humans have explored the world – looking for new places. One barrier to exploration was food. No different than if you were camping out in the boondocks. While you might get dirty without a shower, and have to be creative with your bathroom activity, you could only stay out in the middle of nowhere until you ran out of food and water… Or you’d die. Same was true for world exploration. Thus ‘packaged’ food was created – think Neil Armstrong and the astronauts.
Explorers traveled by boat that, unlike today, required ‘man-power’ to travel across oceans. Man-power required food that would not spoil – and so they were fed things that lacked fresh produce and proteins (as these items would rot), and as a result lacked nutrition. But what they were fed filled them up. A typical sailor’s meal consisted of compressed flower, water, and salt, baked until dried and hard – these were called a ‘ship biscuit.’
Yes indeed… An entrepreneurial soul saw the ship biscuit and soon Spratt’s Patent Meal Fibrine Dog Cakes were on the market. Spratt’s creation was a direct response to the expanse of the middle-class, who had slowly begun to own dogs – expanding pet ownership from a wealthy few to a fast growing population. The pet food flood gates opened and then came the masses:
- A.C. Daniel’s Medicated Dog Bread – late 1800’s
- F.H. Benner Biscuit Company – early 1900’s
- Ken-L-Ration, made from horsemeat, and sponsored Rin-Tin-Tin – 1920’s
- National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) purchased Benner and started Milkbones – 1930’s
How World War II Changed Dog Food
Up until this time, dog food marketing was primarily regional and Ken-L-Ration was the big player – breeding and slaughtering horses in the tens of thousands to keep up with demand. Nabisco and Ken-L-Ration could be found in grocery stores, but there wasn’t really competition – pet food just wasn’t on the radar in terms of return on investment in the commercial food market. World War II changed this concept and a new breed of marketing set in. Patriotism and ‘the world of tomorrow’ were the norm – and advertisement went from radio to television with national ads, where people could see things all made easy for them in neat, tidy and efficient ways. And, if you didn’t follow suit – well, you were just unpatriotic!
The world of tomorrow marketing focused on ease and convenience and a few key companies created products with elongated shelf-lives. Purina was one of those companies. Starting with breakfast cereal, Purina’s use of extruding brought a whole new line of pet food to the masses. Extruded foods were highly compressed, moisture free and marketed as nutritious and fantastical due to the newly developed extruding process – and thus Purina Dog Food was formed.
The Science of Nutrition
Extruding is a process still used today. Ingredients are cooked and pushed through a tube under high pressure and puffed up with air to remove all moisture. This process makes food stay ‘fresh’ longer because there is no fat. But, your body and a dog’s body need fat. Fat is a key essential ingredient to life, a pet’s body cannot make fats. So, pet food makers add a bit of oil to their extruded dog food and things are a-okay. But not really. There are two things going on here: quality of resulting product and the chemical change due to extruding.
Fat and extended shelf-life are an oxymoron – they can’t co-exist with quality… Fat goes rancid. It’s a fact of life. Plus, your dog needs a variety of fats – Omega-3 and Omega-6 are primarily important. These yummy fats naturally come from lean protein, including fish. And while extruding is pretty space-agey, the problem is that the process employs methods that result in nutrient-poor foods – no different than if you were to steam your broccoli for an hour. It might taste like broccoli but the vitamins and minerals have been cooked out. In order to meet the nutritional requirements for your pet, dog food companies add the cooked out good stuff back in through powder form – the final extruded result is dry little kibble pellets. This would be like humans eating cereal at every meal, every day, 365 days a year.
Extruded foods are a risk factor for diabetes, increasing propensity for tooth decay, significantly increases the availability of carbohydrates, and destroys the natural chemical structure of proteins. As human’s health has gone, increased obesity, high blood-pressure, and diabetes, so go our pets…. We need to return to the diets of our ancestors: fresh and whole.
What ‘Pet’ Food Should Look Like!
How You Can Feed Your Dog Nutrition
Dog food can be just that, food… Real food. There are a number of ways you can include naturally occurring nutrition in your dog’s diet. Start by adding more proteins and lightly steamed veggies in your dog’s meals. We began by giving our dogs a little bit of the foods we prepared – lean ground beef and a few pieces of kale along with a blueberry or two goes a long way! It doesn’t have to be complicated and it isn’t dangerous… Back in the 60’s, to help increase sales of prepackaged pet food, the Pet Food Industry released ads about the dangers of feeding human food to pets – again, this stuck. It’s hype… of course any living creature will benefit from pure, whole foods in their natural state. Now we purchase our dog’s food through a raw food pet co-op, as well as pre-made raw dog food.
Resources we use to make our pet’s food:
Products from Amazon.com
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You might also like to read some of our other homemade doggo food articles:
- How to Save Money Making Homemade Dog Treats
- How to Make Sweet Potato Ice Cream for Your Dog
- 10 Must Have Tools When You Cook For Your Dog!
It’s pretty amazing to think that dog food has come full circle – except now fresh, healthy and nutritious dog food isn’t just for the elite. It’s easily accessible to all budgets, including mine! Real food is so important, it has all of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fats, proteins, and other good things that ‘feed’ your dog and keep him in optimal health. Start with what you can – typically it’s some of the dog-friendly food that you make for yourself: meat, de-boned fish, chicken breast, and a few pieces of steamed veggies. After you get comfortable you can explore – just look for raw or home cooked dog food books. Your dog will thank you!