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Why Raw Meat?
Is feeding raw meat safe? Is it necessary? What's wrong with cooked meat?
If you have ever had the 'raw meat conversation' with your vet, you probably came away believing that the 'raw meat fad' is dangerous to both you and your pet. Your vet may have had you convinced that feeding raw meat is a seriously flawed nutritional approach, and that you are incapable of balancing such a meal plan. Or that your cat will become ill due to contamination.
Well-meaning but seriously misguided information abounds, both on the internet, and in veterinary literature. Keep in mind that veterinarians are well educated with regard to the care of injured, sick animals, or those animals who require surgery of one form or another. They are not, however, well schooled with regard to the nutritional requirements of our domestic felines. Veterinary schooling around dietary practices are arranged and funded by the very large and affluent commercial pet food companies, who teach that the biologically correct practice of feeding raw meat to cats is somehow dangerous. The commercial pet food companies teach that nutritional imbalances and food poisoning are common among the advocates of the homemade raw diets. In actual fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Illness or death due to contamination are rare in the extreme, with regard to both felines and their human companions. With regard to nutritional deficiencies, there is copious and accurate information, both on the internet, and in hard copy literature, which defines the correct balance on the carnivorous feline diet. If it is a choice between feeding cereal-based dry cat kibble, and a quality raw meat diet, there is no question that the ultimate choice must be the latter.
Meat that is tainted with bacteria will not be readily accepted by a cat. The cat is not particularly fussy about scavenging anything that is not fresh kill, and will reject meat that is not fresh. Even in a case where there is bacterial contamination, the intestinal system of the feline is such that it has evolved to resist food poisoning of the type that most critics of raw meat feeding are so concerned about.
An article in the Washington Post on May 21,2008 - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/15/AR2008051502363.html?sub=AR
states that a salmonella infection has been traced to contaminated dry pet food, the first time such a link has been uncovered, according to U.S. officials.
Opponents of raw and cooked meat homemade pet food, including some members of the Veterinary community, have long touted the dangers of this type of feeding and promoted dry food as being safe. One form of Salmonella is an airborne pathogen that grows in the warm, moist environments found in most homes. Bags of dry food left at room temperature in an opened bag for weeks at a time attract moisture and can be an excellent breeding media for salmonella. Handling this dry food and not washing properly can be the source of contamination and illness.
The best option as always is feeding your feline friend fresh food prepared and handled with care.
It must be concluded that the benefits of the raw, biologically correct diet far outweigh the assumed associated risks, as long as the food handler is as rigorous about handling the dietary ingredients for their pet, as they are about handling their own food for their own personal consumption. Cleaning hands, utensils and work surfaces is essential. Bacterial growth can be kept to a minimum by utilizing fresh or fresh frozen meats, and maintaining their chilled temperature during processing. Excess food must be refrigerated or frozen for future use.
The proponents of raw meat diets for cats have been criticized for failing to provide adequate and balanced nutrition, as there is no 'proof' which can only be gleaned from feeding trials, outlined by AAFCO. Feeding trials should necessarily be for the duration of the cat's normal lifespan, but AAFCO standards are flawed in that they only require the feeding trials for a six month period, far too limited a time frame for the observation of possible dietary deficiencies. Veterinarians are under the mistaken assumption that AAFCO feeding trials are reliable and long-term. Essentially, our cats have been acting as lab animals for the past several decades. When a deficiency is discovered, commercial pet food companies respond, usually with some sort of alteration in the 'formula', whether it is supplemental or a tweak in the recipe. Unfortunately, the result has been a dismal failure on the part of these companies to take responsibility, and our cats have been paying the price in terms of obesity, diabetes, urinary tract infections, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.
The holistic veterinary community has made some strides in regard to educating themselves and their clients, as it is through their eyes that we may witness some of the successes with the raw feeding regimen. Almost all of the chronic health issues of today are caused by wrong feeding, and invariably these health issues can be corrected by proper diet. Nutritional deficiencies can be avoided by implementing a balanced raw meat diet.
To cook or not to cook?
Meat is essentially protein and fat. Animal protein is made up of amino acids - long chain amino acids. These amino acids are essential to the diet of the obligate carnivore. The cat metabolizes these amino acids, and does a straight protein-to-glucose conversion in order to produce energy and the keep the cells alive and functioning. This is accomplished by the liver, it is an enzyme function, and it is called gluconeogenesis.
When a protein is cooked, the long chain amino acids which make up the protein, become short chain amino acids, and at this point they become much more difficult for the stomach to digest and the liver to metabolize into energy. Digestive enzymes are also essential for the conversion of protein to energy, and these digestive enzymes are present in food in its raw form. They are destroyed in the presence of high heat or various other forms of processing. When digestive enzymes are destroyed, the body is called upon to find them in various other organs, particularly the liver until enough enzymes are rallied to digest the food, in the stomach and turn it into energy. This puts constant strain on the liver.
It must be argued that protein amino acids in their raw form are far superior in quality and function than processed, short chain amino acids. The cat's specialized and highly evolved energy system is more in tune with the unadulterated protein source of fresh raw meat.
Click Here - To learn more about a balanced raw meat diet.