Is Kibble Bad For Dogs?

If you are a dog owner, chances are you’ve bought kibble in the past, and may currently be doing so. The convenience and price point of dry dog food is difficult to ignore. Yet it’s important to understand that your purchasing decision is the result of millions of advertising dollars and entire government subsidized industries all pushing you towards the checkout aisle. In many ways your choice to feed kibble was not your own, rather a false choice handed down to you by multinational conglomerates with ties to everything from the retail to veterinary industries.

Where Does Kibble Come From?

When you care about what you put in your body it’s important to know where your food comes from. At Acabonac Farms our customers love that they know exactly where and how their beef was raised. Not only is it a delicious product, but they also trust us to provide a high quality steak that falls in line with their purchasing ethos. Concerned pet parents should expect no less from their dog foods. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at who’s making some of the most popular and best-selling kibble on the market.

  • Mars Candy Company – produces over 40 brands of kibble under the name Mars Pet Care. Their brands include: Royal Canin, Evo, Eukanuba, IAMS, and Pedigree. Coincidentally they also own the largest chain of veterinary practices and animal hospitals worldwide under a number of subsidiaries including: Asia Veterinary Diagnostics, Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group and Banfield; just to name a few.
  • Nestlé Purina – produces over 30 brands including: Beneful, Merrick, Beyond, Alpo and of course Purina.
  • M Smuckers – the peanut butter and jelly company produce Milk-Bone, Milo’s Kitchen, and Rachael Ray (among others).
  • Colgate-Palmolive – is responsible for Hills Science Diet
  • General Mills – produces Blue Diamond

To summarize, the most popular kibbles on the market are produced by a candy company, a water & chocolate company, a jelly company, a soap company and a cereal manufacturer. You must wonder, who at the multinational soap company is concerned about the health of dogs? The CEO?

How Is Kibble Made?

At this point it’s important to understand that kibble is an industrial product. Raw resources are fed into gigantic machines and a dry product is spit out at the other end. Let’s look at both sides of the process, starting with the raw resources.

It Starts with A Kernel

According to the Institute For Feed Education And Research, nearly 1 million tons of corn was used in the production of dog food in 2018. A Further 235,000 tons of corn gluten meal was also used. From that same study only 136,000 tons of beef were used in producing dog food; a paltry 13% the amount of corn.  

How did we get here? Dogs don’t naturally gravitate towards a cobb of corn when given dinner options. The answer is simple, since 1995 the United States has spent 116 billion dollars on corn subsidies to farmers. 116 billion dollars buys a lot of corn, and products need to be made to utilize all this excess resource.

Farm subsidies began in 1933 and just over 20 years later dry kibble was first brought to market in 1956. Through a retcon of history, kibble companies would have you believe that dry dog food has always been the standard; when in fact Disney Land has a longer history than dry kibble, first opening in 1955. The reality is that kibble was invented as a solution to a problem of our own making: too much corn production.

It Ends with An Oven

There is no one way to make kibble. Each manufacturer has their own proprietary methods. There are however similarities. At the end of the day manufacturers care about two things: volume and moisture content. Volume is important because to run an industrial operation at scale you must pump out as much product as possible in as little time as possible. Moisture is important because the lack of it is what gives kibble it’s shelf life.

Combining these two needs necessitates a process that will dry food quickly via high temperatures. Thus, high heat extrusion comes in to play. Simply put, high heat extrusion is a modern marvel. A liquid slurry of product is fed through extremely hot pressurized nozzles that “flash cook” the product into solid kibble. Depending on the process the kibble is then further dried in industrial ovens if necessary. The entire process is fast and very hot.

What Are The Health Risks Of Kibble?

We spent so much time looking at what goes into the manufacturing of kibble because both the inputs and the outputs are directly related to the health outcomes of feeding your dog kibble. Everything from the ingredients chosen to the manufacturing process are designed for profit rather than dog health.

Starting with corn, this may seem obvious, but a million tons are used annually in the production of dog food so it’s worth stating: corn is not a suitable staple for dogs!

In many regards, corn is essentially just sugar in a different form (think high fructose corn syrup). So, when the basis of your dog food is corn, it’s essentially sugar. One way to measure this is via the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a way of measuring how specific foods raise the blood sugar level of an animal. The higher the number, the more risk there is of an unhealthy rise in blood sugar.

  • Corn meal (69)
  • Brown rice (55)
  • Corn (53)
  • Oatmeal (49)
  • Wheat (41)
  • Barley (25)
  • Chicken (0)
  • Beef (0)

It does not take much mental math to figure out that corn, being essentially sugar, is an inexpensive source of bulk and calories for kibble manufacturing. This cheap energy is often peddled by pet food manufacturers as being great for working or active dogs. But consider how you feel after eating a candy bar. You may get a burst of sugar-based energy, but does it last? What would your doctor recommend? They would probably tell you that you are on the fast track to obesity and all the health problems that it entails if most of your energy comes from candy bars. Maybe then it does make sense that a candy bar manufacturer is one of the world's largest kibble manufacturers.

The manufacturing of kibble is similarly detrimental to the health outcomes of dogs. High heat processing degrades the nutrient value of ingredients and produces carcinogens like the ones you would find on burnt steak or toast.

According to the National Cancer Institute, using high cooking temperatures creates chemical reactions between amino acids and sugars. Thus, producing dangerous carcinogens and mutagens that impact both humans and pets. 

Meats cooked at high temperatures, especially above 300 ºF, or cooked for a long time tend to form what are called heterocyclic amines. Since the 1970’s studies have shown that exposure to these amines can cause cancer in animals.  Even lower heat levels, like the ones used when browning steak, can form dangerous cancer causing glycotoxins and the neurotoxic chemical acrylamide.

This is not to say that eating one char broiled steak will kill you but consider this: if kibble is 100% of your dog’s diet, they are eating these chemical byproducts all day every day. That is sure to add up over time.

Why Acabonac Pet Is Better

Simply put Acabonac Pet raw dog food is better than kibble because of what it is. We don’t use corn or other high carbohydrate fillers and we don’t cook our food. It’s raw! We’re also not a multinational soap company making dog food. We’re a small family farm practicing regenerative ranching methods that restore Long Island farmland. We pride ourselves on being stewards of both our land and the health of our customers, human and dog.

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