What is good pet food?
Good pet food consists of high-quality ingredients and has optimal nutritional content
Feeling full and eating optimally are two different things
When you buy fruit and vegetables in the supermarket or make pasta with minced meat sauce in the evening, do you think about how much protein or polyunsaturated fatty acids you eat? Most likely not. And that's perfectly fine, as long as you eat a varied diet with sufficient quality. On the other hand, if you eat one-sided or highly processed foods, it looks quite different. Yes, this person will also be full, but is certainly not optimal: too much fat, too much sugar, too few vitamins.
Even if you eat a balanced diet, however, it needs support. For example, the soils in Germany are iodine deficient, which is why all plants that grow in these soils and the meat of the animals that are fed with it, also contain little iodine. To ensure that people do not get iodine deficiency and get sick, table salt is mixed with iodine in Germany and many other countries in order to provide the population with sufficient supplies. The German Society for Nutrition e. V. expressly recommends using such iodized table salt, as does the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. If you are interested in more detail, then take a look at the ministry’s own study, but also from our own Dr. Gregor Berg, in a video you can watch here:
What distinguishes your food from pet food
Now imagine that you want to achieve certain goals with your diet. Losing weight, building muscle mass or alleviating the symptoms of a disease; all will require you to go into detail and see what energy and nutrients are actually involved in your daily diet. You must be just as conscientious when designing an animal feed. Our dogs and cats do not just want to be full, but need nutrients in optimal amounts (not too much, not too little) to stay healthy and efficient. And the nutritional requirements of our animals sometimes deviate significantly from what we as humans need and intuitively consider to be right.
To see this more clearly, just think about how long it takes children to be fully grown: almost twenty years. Our pets need to do that in a year or less! Not surprising that the calcium requirement of a puppy is almost three times higher than that of a teenager, right? But even an adult dog still needs about twice the amount of calcium of an adult. There are also big differences in other minerals, as well as proteins, fats or vitamins, because dogs, for example, cannot produce arachidonic acid and cats also use proteins for energy. The requirements for dog food and cat food – especially for a complete food – are therefore comparable to those of a nutrition plan for humans tailored to specific life situations!
Everything used to be easier (but not so good)
Do you remember how easy it was to feed dogs and cats fifteen, twenty years ago? In the specialist trade there were three feed brands, in the supermarket perhaps two. Fighting terms such as "high-quality", "meat content" or "grain-free" had not yet been invented. Pet food was made by people who were familiar with the nutritional needs of our pets, so they knew how much protein, fats and vitamins dogs and cats need. These experts then combined meat, carrots and minerals in such a way that the respective nutrient requirements are covered by the feed.
Unfortunately, the manufacturers were less concerned about the quality of the raw materials, i.e. what exactly goes into the feed. For example, they ensured the crude fiber content through cellulose fibers instead of using carrots or parsnips. And to achieve a certain protein value, they used biologically inferior connective tissue sections instead of high-quality meat proteins. On the one hand, the result was professionally designed food that contained all the nutrients that dogs or cats need. This is the reason why the animals used to grow old with these foods. Don't let fairy tales tell you here that it was different, that's just not true!
On the other hand, however, the quality of the raw materials used was moderate. And what that means, you can imagine something like if you were to eat fast food day in and day out. You get full from it and even get a few vitamins, but you don't really feel comfortable with it, do you? And so they were on the shelves: these cans and bags full of beet dry chips and vegetable protein extracts. But with optimal mineral and vitamin contents. Anyway.
Then came the attack of the quality warriors
About fifteen years ago, the first feed companies and hobbyist nutrition experts discovered the enemy image of "poor quality". Suddenly, it was no longer important how many nutrients were in the feed, but only whether fillet pieces, gluten-free carbohydrates and superfood were processed. Instead of nutrition experts, there were suddenly marketing hipsters at the wheel, who told us the fairy tale of the wolf (A dog is not a wolf! Feel free to read our blog post on the topic of "Grain-free feed"). Yes, the quality of the feed available until then was largely poor. And that's why it was right to make feed with better raw materials and to raise awareness of the topic. But what is often forgotten is that a food must first and foremost provide the animals with the optimal nutrients they need. So it does not matter which raw materials the feed is made of, but which nutrients are in it. This is an important difference that is worth thinking about for a moment. Raw materials are lamb, potatoes, salmon oil, etc. So all the ingredients that many manufacturers like to advertise with because they look and sound good and you should therefore think: "Wow, so many good things in it, that must be a good food." And that's exactly why you are shown all the pictures or told: "Our food is with bananas, that's what makes it so special.". Nutrients are the vital substances that are IN the raw materials – or not (e. g. proteins, fats, the various minerals, etc.). Your dog or cat has a need for these nutrients, not raw materials. It is important that you make this clear to yourself again! For example, if a cat food contains too little taurine, then your cat will get sick from this malnutrition, regardless of whether there is only the finest fish fillet in it and meat from the happiest chickens. Of course, the same applies to dogs.
Nice outside, but ugly inside
Today, the pet food market is flooded with "marketing food, made by people who know how to take beautiful photos” Why is that? The advantage of a feed that focuses on the quality of the raw materials, e. g. raw materials from food production, meat in organic quality, no inferior connective tissue proteins or that wants to stand out by using special ingredients, for example "fish from the North Sea", "with bananas", "from free-range farming" is that you trust yourself as an experienced layman to evaluate this feed. If you do not know what a certain mineral content is and when it is important to adhere to a certain value, then you just direct the customer's gaze - your attention - to these catchier aspects, even if they are more or less irrelevant. For example, there are some foods that have a melodious formula, but whose calcium or crude fiber content is hidden, because it is now often only important to have criteria that are unimportant from a nutritional point of view! For example, grain is usually not a problem for your dog at all, but in the marketing pet food scene, a food that contains grain is almost unsaleable. We once made a blog post with a video in which Gregor deals exactly with this topic. Take a look!
Would you rather cook yourself?
This uncertainty of pet owners, caused by the manufacturers and partly resulting lack of trust in commercial ready-made food, the self-cooking movement has developed. And many BARFers also have this motivational background. Of course, if you no longer know who to believe and if dog and cat feeding is only about a few keywords anyway ("no grain", "maximum meat", "superfood is mandatory"), then you can do it yourself. That makes sense for now. But does it work so smoothly? No, not at all!
From time to time, the University of Munich collects questionnaires in which pet owners answer what their dogs and cats get to eat. Then the university evaluates whether the dogs and cats to whom these compiled diets are fed are sufficiently supplied with vitamins, minerals, energy, etc. What do you think comes out of it regularly? Only a third of the self-compiled rations are correctly designed. Only a third!
As a veterinarian, I can only confirm such incorrect care through my own experience. Again and again people come to us in Cham, whose dogs already have a visual deficiency. Raw material quality is important, but only one part of a complete diet. The best pieces of meat are of little use if the food does not contain enough iodine, manganese or B vitamins. Therefore, do not let yourself be completely absorbed by the beautiful stories and great pictures that some manufacturers present to you, but also ask for actual competence.
Good food: summarized again!
First of all, it is not important which raw materials it is made of, but that the nutrients are in such a quantity that it optimally covers the nutritional needs of your dogs and cats. High-quality raw materials are often richer in nutrients, but some of the food that has been made from them still contains far too little of some minerals or vitamins and far too much of others. Such food will make your pets sick in the long run, even if it is of good quality. That's why we say: "Nutrients before raw materials"!
The fact that the nutrients are so important, is also the reason why some feeds, which consist of rather inferior components, still finish well in feed tests. There, almost exclusively the nutrient contents are checked. However, such tests do not say anything about the fact that the overall quality of the feed is not right. But of course, the quality of the raw materials is also important, i. e. the meat and other ingredients used. But it's not so easy to say what quality really is. If you want to know more about it, then take a look at our page "Dog and cat food from Dr. Berg". We have written down exactly what we mean by that.
However, one can certainly agree that a good feed should receive as much nutrients as possible from the natural raw materials. And this is only possible with nutrient-rich, high-quality raw materials. But beware: Quality does not mean that a few beautiful pictures are depicted on the label or pseudo-features are written on it! Also beware of "modern" manufacturers who lack the competence to assess the most important criterion of a good feed – the supply of nutrients. They can mix together a food whose recipe they haven't developed and can't judge, and then focus on telling you a story that sounds good. Remain skeptical of such "marketing manufacturers".