Monday, July 6, 2015

KIBBLE - What is it and what to do with it

Kibble - we here at Busch Pet Products say that word many times throughout the day, but do you really know what kibble is, why we feed it, and how to properly store it?

Kibble is the blanket term for dry dog and cat food.  It's defined by as "coarse-ground meal or prepared dry dog food."  GAH!  I'll hop on my soap box about that definition later...

Here's a super-good history of dog food spanning back as far as ancient Roman times:

But to catch you up to the introduction of "kibble" rewind back to the mid 19th century.  The first "commercial" dog food was actually repurposed people food.  These calorie-dense "biscuits" were made specifically food created for sailors on long voyages.  To counteract the problem of scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), the flour, water, and salt recipe was supplemented with fats, meat, oatmeal, and vegetables  Shipyard dogs quickly realized how good these biscuits were, and an American man by the name of James Spratt did too!  Spratt didn't invent the biscuit, but he did see a money-making opportunity.  He patented his idea and his company was profitable for decades.  The modern day Milk-Bone is an example of his ingenuity.

The Industrial Revolution brought about more changes, including the addition of more meat and animal by-products, as well as the technology to preserve food.  Massive commercial slaughterhouses were the sources for these meats, including, but not limited to organs, bones, heads, hooves, etc.  The idea that using the entire animal was better for the dogs, better for the environment, and better for those making all the money.  With the preservation methods, came canning.  And with canning came some, by today's standards, unethical practices in regards to the manufacturing process.  (That's for another blog, but in the meantime, read this and be prepared for what you read:

Jump ahead to the 1950's and the process known as extrusion (kibbling) had been developed and is still used today.  Kibbling involves taking a combination of ingredients (the things you see on the ingredient panel), grinding them together, steaming that mixture at high temperatures, then pushing (extruding) the mixture through a die cut machine to create the little shapes we know as kibble...stars, squares, fish shapes, you name it...anything to make the kibble pieces appeal to HUMANS!  After the food dries in giant dryers (400 degrees in most cases), it is usually sprayed with a mixture of fats, flavors, and vitamins to make the product tastier and more nutritious.  Then the kibble dries again, and finally it is ready to be bagged.

*photo courtesy the Pet Food Institute

So, are you still willing to feed kibble?  For most pet owners, kibble is still the easiest way to feed their pets.  In today's busy world, kibble is convenient.  You open the bag and pour.  The other advantage is a relatively long shelf life, due to the high heat and preservatives that were applied during the manufacturing process.

But, in our opinion, the downsides far outweigh the advantages.  Kibble does not contain any naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.  They were all destroyed during the cooking process.  The synthetic nutrients that companies put back into the food are not as easily absorbed by the body and even these synthetic nutrients can be destroyed during storage or shipping.  Some of the artificial preservatives can cause health problems in dogs and cats as well.

Dogs and cats both live in a state of almost constant dehydration.  Dry pet food doesn't help.  Even if you see your pet drinking from the water bowl, or the sink, or the pond, or the probably isn't enough.

If you still choose to feed kibble, there are some things you can do to help it be easier to digest and healthier for your pet.  Simple...add water to the kibble.  Don't think for one minute that kibble helps to clean teeth.  That was some grand marketing idea from a dry food company to sell more food.  Have you ever watched your pet (most especially your dog) eat?  Most of the kibble is swallowed whole without a single crunch.  We chew and the enzymes in our mouth help to break down food.  Pets also make enzymes in their mouths, but the food passes through so quickly that the enzymes don't have room to work.  By adding water to the kibble, you are helping with the breakdown of the food so the body can process it more efficiently.  The pancreas and liver shouldn't have to work overtime to convert the food.

Adding canned food is also a great option...with water.  Canned food is low in fat and often doesn't have the fillers or additives that the dry food does.  Canned food digests better than dry food and won't hurt the teeth (as commonly thought).  Just remember that canned food is FOOD and you should always subtract a bit of dry out of the equation or you'll be feeding too much.

Finally, if kibble is the best option for your family, here are some tips to make it last and stay fresher. Exposure to air, light, and moisture can wreak havoc on dry kibble, despite the preservatives.  To limit the effects, keep kibble in its original packaging.  High quality foods (like the ones we sell!) have bags that are designed to keep out the elements.  Store the bag off the floor in a cool, dry location.  Roll the bag closed and secure with a clip.  Some companies are now selling their food in resealable bags too.  You can store the bag in one of those rolling bins.  Once a bag is open, it's best to finish off a bag of food within 30-45 days for max freshness.  If you open a new bag and the look or smell of the food isn't right, DON'T FEED IT!  Return it immediately to your retailer.  And if you are one of those folks who lets their pets graze (leaves the dry food out in the bowl), make sure there's no more than what can be consumed within 24 hours.  It's also a good idea to wash the bowls once a week with warm, soapy water.

Safe and proper food storage will go a long way to keep your furry family member happy, healthy and safe!  Be sure to check out our website, and like our Facebook page for cool links and tips!

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