Is Dog Food Good For Dogs? The Good, Bad, & Disturbing

If you already have a dog, you know how important food is to them. 

Having two pitbulls who eat practically anything, I never thought too much about dog food until one day I decided to read The Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein.

This book is life changing and I would recommend it to every dog and cat owner as mandatory reading. 

After reading about the adverse effects of generic medicine, over vaccination, and damaging environmental factors, the biggest shock for me was learning how dog food is made and where it really comes from. 

I know for a fact it will shock you too, but for your dog’s health, keep reading!

Spratts PupCakes

Where Did Dog Food Come From?

The first form of dog food was made in 1860 by an American electrician named James Spratt.

Spratt had originally arrived in the UK to sell lighting rods. But when he got there he noticed stray dogs along the riverbanks of Northern London eating leftover hardtack; a dry biscuit sailors ate on long journeys at sea. 

Spratt’s Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes contained a mix of blended wheat, vegetables, beetroot, and “the dried unsalted gelatinous parts of Prairie Beef”.

To this day, the specific kind of meat that Spratt put in his biscuits remains a mystery. 

Even with vague ingredients, Spratt’s biscuits were expensive. One 50lb. bag costed the equivalent of an entire day’s work for a skilled craftsman! 

Spratt employed an aggressive advertising strategy by targeting wealthy, health conscious pet owners and dog show participants.

He also bought the full front cover of the first American Kennel Club journal in January 1889. 

The American public was quickly hooked and traded the table scraps they had been feeding their dogs for Spratt’s biscuits. 

In the 1950’s, General Mills acquired Spratt’s US business, and The Ralston Purina Company began experimenting with the machines they were using for their breakfast cereal to create a more palatable dog food. 

In 1964, a group of pet food industry lobbyists called The Pet Food Institute launched a huge series of ad campaigns.

These campaigns convinced consumers that commercially prepared dog food was the only option to feed. 

They were hugely successful in convincing the American public that their dog’s diet should be kibble-based, much like the early marketing strategies employed by James Spratt 100 years before.

how is dog food kibble preserved

How is the Kibble Preserved?

In 1956, General Mills made the first dry kibble that was produced through a process called extrusion. 

Extrusion is a method used for manufacturing large quantities of shelf-stable foods (like sugary breakfast cereals). 

Wet and dry ingredients are first mixed together to form a dough-like consistency, which is then fed into a machine called an expander. 

The dough is then cooked under extreme, pressurized steam and high temperatures before being extruded (or pushed) through a dye-cut machine which forms the small shapes we recognize as kibble today. 

The use of extrusion for commercial kibble production gained momentum throughout the 1960s and 1970s as companies used the technology to create new flavors and varieties. 

Today, extrusion is still the most widely used way to preserve dog food.

Unfortunately, this extreme heating method cooks out a majority of the nutrients your dog needs, and can cause a variety of health problems. 

How to Read Dog Food Labels

When reading a nutrition label, the ingredients that are listed first are of higher quantity than the ingredients that follow them. 

Companies that make dog food do not have to follow FDA rules. They are not required to list the exact amount of each ingredient in their food. 

For example, let’s look at the ingredient list of a common dog food brand sold in most stores:

dog food ingredients

This company’s selling point for this dog food is that it’s #1 ingredient is real lamb. 

Shouldn’t everything be real? 

Even so, lamb is mostly what this kibble is made of. What percentage? We’re not sure. 

The next 3 ingredients that make up most of this kibble are rice flour, whole grain corn, and whole grain wheat, which don’t particularly give much nutrition to your dog. 

These ingredients are essentially to “bulk up” the food and make it more appetizing to your pup. 

The 5th ingredient is chicken by-product meal. Which is a whole discussion on it’s own that I’ll discuss in the next section.

After the chicken by-product, there are some more fillers, artificial liver flavoring, artificial caramel coloring (which is put in to make the food look more appetizing to humans), and a sprinkle of real dried peas and carrots. 

With the veggies so far down the ingredient list there’s probably only one handful of them mixed into an entire 30 lb bag!

Last on the ingredient list is vitamins. If companies made their dog kibble with real food, they wouldn’t have to add vitamins in at the end.

Colors and Preservatives

You will also find many popular brands at additional food colorings like red 40. Artificial colorings are known to cause a plethora of health issues. And the only reason they’re in dog food is so humans will see a meaty red color and buy more of it! 

In addition, many brands use a variety of preservatives to make their food last forever. 

One of the most disturbing preservatives I’ve found in food and rawhide bones is formaldehyde. Which is used to preserve dead bodies! 

Why is it in our dog’s food?!

What Are By-Products?

Getting back to the chicken by-product.

By definition, by-products are “animal parts not used for human consumption”.

It’s a vague definition, and there’s a reason for that.

Many believe that these animal parts are things like bones, intestines, organs, etc.

But there is a much darker truth as to what goes into by-product plants. 

Here are some “animal parts not used for human consumption” that are allowed to be sent to by-product plants to be made into dog and cat food:

  • Euthanized/dead zoo animals
  • Road kill
  • 4-D livestock (dead, diseased, disabled, dying)
  • Euthanized dogs & cats (aka cannibalism) 

What is Meat Meal?

In addition to by-products, there are “meat-meal” products on labels. 

You usually see them as chicken-meal or beef-meal.

But meat meal by definition is “the rendered product from mammal tissues exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.” 

Though they don’t have to specify what amount of these things is beyond good processing practices. 

Processing plants are messy places, and many times hair, manure, and hooves get mixed in with the meat. 

If you think about it, you hear all the time on the news how there are food shortages and there isn’t enough meat to go around. 

If there’s not enough meat for humans, do you really think they’re giving real meat to our pets? 

On the flipside, thousands of animals die everyday from disease, old age, car accidents, etc. Where did you think those animals went after they passed? 

It’s too expensive to cremate them all. And why waste the meat when it can be made into dog and cat food? Even if it is cannibalism? 

It’s shocking that with PETA and all of the animal activists out there that this isn’t common knowledge to the American public. Why aren’t they talking about this? 

dog food choosing the right food

Why Choosing the Right Food is Important

Choosing the right food for your dog is important because it is the foundation for their overall health. 

High quality food can come at a slightly higher price than average brands. But it can literally save you thousands of dollars in future vet bills by preventing disorders and illnesses. 

While the ideal diet of human-grade-food only is definitely possible, it’s often expensive, time consuming, and difficult to include all aspects of your dog’s nutrition. 

This is why choosing the right kibble for your dog is crucial to their health and lifespan. 

For Archie and Cali, I get Farmina N&D Ancestral Grain Chicken & Pomegranate for Large Breeds

As you can see, the ingredient list for this kibble is much different than the previous brand. 

The first ingredients are fresh free range boneless chicken, dehydrated chicken, whole spelt, whole oats, chicken fat, dried whole eggs, fresh herring, etc. 

Notice that there are no byproducts or food colorings.   

In addition, this kibble is freeze dried instead of being preserved through extrusion. So it maintains all of its original nutrition.   

Though the price point of this food is slightly higher than typical brands, the reasons why are obvious.

Spending that extra $20 every month can prevent future digestive problems, food intolerances, cancers, and other illnesses for your dog down the line. 

dog food Conclusion


I hope this article gave you some clarity on how to pick the right food for your dog. 

There are hundreds of dog food brands out there. It can be overwhelming trying to find the right one for your dog. 

In many ways, the dog food industry has stayed the same as it was when James Spratt made the first dog biscuits 150 years ago. 

Only a handful of companies genuinely care about your dog more than their profits. So be sure to take the time to seek them out and give them your business! 

Want more great articles on dog health? Check out my article on Why You Should Make Your Dog’s Shampoo

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