If you have been researching a raw food diet or natural food diets for dogs and cats you may have come across the Prey Model Raw (P.M.R.) or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (B.A.R.F.) diets both of which market themselves as the natural diet for our canine companions. They have significant differences but both have their proponents who argue each is the natural model. In this chapter, we will look at both and compare them to nature to see what best mimics the natural diet. If you have dug further you may have come across Rotational Monofeeding (R.M.F) which is closer to the natural model, but still strays from nature on a few points, we will discuss the pros and cons of this model as well.
If you venture into social media groups of P.M.R. and B.A.R.F. feeders you will find post after post of people having issues with their dog’s health and looking for recommendations for treatments to deal with these issues. Their digestion, healing from serious conditions and chronic disease, allergies, itchy skin, and eye discharge all lead pet parents to seek out treatments that ultimately will lead to less-than-ideal health.
While both P.M.R. and B.A.R.F. are huge improvements over kibble and canned foods and they get a lot of things right, it is the small mistakes in observing nature that lead to health issues over the long term and digestion issues over the short term.
While they are one of the closest marketed diets to a natural feeding model both make fairly significant errors which over time lead to symptoms of disease. First, let us lay out the basics of each model and then we can discuss where they have gone astray from nature.
Prey Model Raw focuses on feeding a rotation of raw meats, excluding all plant foods. The B.A.R.F. feeding model is similar to P.M.R. however they also include some plant foods. R.M.F is a lesser-known model which stands for Rotational Monofeeding and is built on the concept of feeding plants and meats separately and in closer alignment with the natural model.
According to Perfectlyrawsome.com, “the Prey Model Raw (PMR) diet eliminates processed foods and provides dogs with a natural diet that mimics what their ancestors and wild cousins consumed. A complete PMR diet is based on whole, wild prey animals and does not include plant ingredients.”
WHAT DO THEY GET RIGHT?
The PMR model encourages whole prey, raw meat, and bone. They eliminate all grains, cooked foods, and processed foods and for the most part, they seem to stay away from oils, although some adherents include fish oils. The model has done a good job of eliminating a large number of burdens that commercial dog foods supply. Since disease conditions grow relative to the burden the body is under, switching from kibble or canned foods to a PMR model diet will for many dogs result in a relative increase in health. However, there is still an excess burden in this diet compared to what we observe in nature and full and complete health will not be achieved with this excess burden.
WHAT DOESN’T ALIGN WITH NATURE?
When we look at wild dogs, coyotes, and wolves we see that they all consume between 20 and 80% fruits and other plant matter. (See “Evidence that Canids eat Fruit in the Wild” https://www.therawkey.com/evidence-that-canids-eat-fruit-in-the-wild/) Fruits are a large part of the wild canid diet. Removing this important source of nutrition leads to a burden of excess protein on the PMR diet or protein poisoning. Unfortunately, at some point, humans simply assumed that wolves and coyotes are exclusive meat eaters and that information has led to the idea that our dogs should feed exclusively on meat. In the short term, taking a dog from a kibble diet to an all raw proteins diet will alleviate a considerable burden and allow for improvements to overall health, but long term that excess of protein is going to catch up with our pets and their health will begin to slide downhill again.
According to Perfectlyrawsome.com “the recommended guidelines for a BARF diet consists of 70% muscle meat, 10% raw edible bone, 7% vegetables, 5% liver, 5% other secreting organ, 2% seeds or nuts, and 1% fruit.”
WHAT DO THEY GET RIGHT?
The B.A.R.F model also promotes a fully raw diet with raw meat being the predominant food. They eliminate all grains, cooked foods, and processed foods. They incorporate some plant materials, predominantly vegetables using the rationale that the only plant matter that would be eaten in nature by dogs is the stomach contents of their prey, which would be predominantly grasses and vegetable matter. The B.A.R.F. model has also done a good job of eliminating a large number of burdens that commercial dog foods supply. Switching from kibble or canned foods to a B.A.R.F model diet will for many dogs result in a relative increase in health in the short term due to the burden they are lifting. However, just like the P.M.R. model there is still an excess burden in this diet compared to what we observe in nature.
WHAT DOESN’T ALIGN WITH NATURE?
The B.A.R.F. model has many of the same issues as the P.M.R. model and a few issues unique to their model. As mentioned above, wild dogs, coyotes, and wolves consume between 20 and 80% fruits and other plant matter. That means the average dog in the wild is eating a meat meal once every 3 to 7 days, not every day. They are grazing upon fruits and other plants between their prey meals. While B.A.R.F incorporates plant matter into the diet they do not incorporate it on a scale that matches the natural model. The reasoning behind incorporating plant matter is to stimulate the stomach contents of the prey animal which would be a very small fraction of the plant matter eaten in the wild. Additionally, this plant matter in the stomach and digestive tract would be predigested. In nature, wild dogs, coyotes, and wolves are eating fruits directly from trees, bushes, and vines in large quantities.
The next issue we run into with the B.A.R.F. diet is food combining. Dogs, like humans, only have one stomach. This means that their stomach is only capable of digesting one type of food at a time. All foods require digestive enzymes to be broken down and assimilated by our bodies. Different types of foods – starches, proteins, fats, sweet fruits, acid fruits – all have different enzymes that break the material down into its usable parts. Some of these enzymes also neutralize other enzymes. If we combine two food types that have enzymes that neutralize each other we end up with neither of the food types in the stomach getting properly digested. Instead, the food either ferments (fruits/carbs/starches) or putrefies (meat). When this occurs the body is not getting full use or benefit from the meal and as a result, the body may need to expel the food rapidly through an expulsion process like diarrhea or vomiting to get the putrefying or fermenting substances out of the system. This is because the ferment creates alcohol a cellular poison and the putrefaction creates ammonia an even stronger cellular poison. While the B.A.R.F model adds in a small amount of plant matter, they are not taking into account the natural physiological processes of digestion and therefore they are creating more burden on the body than simply feeding the proteins alone.
The next issue is in the bone ratios. B.A.R.F. recommends 10% raw edible bone, the problem with this is when we look to the natural prey animals our dogs would be hunting if left to their own devices we often find that the ratio of bone to meat is much higher than 10%. Small birds like cornish hens are roughly 39% bone, chickens are roughly 32% bone. Feeding a whole cornish hen or a whole chicken with intact organs is going to be a much closer approximation to nature than trying to recreate that piecemeal. Wild prey has a wide range of bone content so our dogs are built for some variety meaning this is a relatively minor issue, but one worth noting as we look at the whole picture of each feeding model. Rigid adherence to a specific bone percentage is not in alignment with the variety found in nature.
Cornish Game Hen (cleaned)…39%
Rabbit Whole (cleaned)…28%
Rabbit Whole prey, unprocessed, with fur…10%
Turkey whole (cleaned)…21%
Whole duck (cleaned)…28%
The last issue we find with the B.A.R.F model is 7% vegetables, 2% seeds or nuts, and 1% fruit.” Since evidence from the Voyageurs Wolf Project shows us wolves eating up to 83% of their diet from fruits during heavy fruiting periods (See: https://youtu.be/0-QzCFs6-SY) and Coyote feeding studies confirm seasonal fruit consumption ranging from 20% to 60% (See for example: Seasonal Coyote Diet Composition at a Low-Productivity Site Morgan B. Swingen, Christopher S. DePerno and Christopher E. Moorman https://bioone.org/journals/southeastern-naturalist/volume-14/issue-2/058.014.0219/Seasonal-Coyote-Diet-Composition-at-a-Low-Productivity-Site/10.1656/058.014.0219.short ) we can be confident that fruits are both a suitable food and necessary to maintain the health of our dogs.
What we do not have support for though is the evidence of vegetables. Vegetables are the fare of herbivorous animals which have flat molars for grinding and breaking down the tough cellulose found in vegetables. Dogs are not equipped with grinding teeth and they lack the starch-digesting enzymes that would be necessary in lieu of those teeth to allow for proper digestion. Cooking of vegetables breaks down the starches into sugars and weakens the cellulose allowing for some increase in digestibility, however, we are then returning to the same question “Who has ever seen a dog turn on the stove?” Cooking also damages foods, so any benefit in digestibility is countered by the loss of nutrition and the alteration of the food as well as the creation of carcinogens such as acrylamide that increases based upon the cooking temperature. (For more on why cooked foods cause disease see: “The Folly of Cookery: https://www.therawkey.com/the-folly-of-cookery/ ) Based upon our observations of nature and our knowledge of physiology and chemistry we should therefore rule out vegetables as a source of food for dogs but significantly increase fruit consumption to better match the natural model.
WHERE BOTH P.M.R. AND B.A.R.F MISS THE MARK
Where both diets missed the mark is again in fat content . The raw meats available to us in the grocery store come from commercially raised animals. These animals are fed an unnatural diet which creates excess fat on the body of the prey animal so even if you feed raw the meat you’re getting from the grocery store is going to be far higher in fat than natural wild-raised prey.
As we can see in the photo below, the wild rabbit (right), eating its natural foods, has almost no visible fat. Compare this to the commercially raised rabbit (left) with its large deposits of fat at the bottom end and also a coating of fat on the ribs.
In nature, eating their wild prey, our dogs would be consuming very little fat. Most of us however require to get our meat from the local grocery and as such we are left with a product that has an excess of fat. Over time this excess fat that our companions are consuming will overwhelm the body and slowly lead to less ideal health and eventually into chronic disease as our companion’s age.
When we buy commercially prepared raw foods there is often even more fat being supplied as the meat is first trimmed for sale to humans and then the leftover carcass of mostly bone and fat is what is ground into raw prepackaged foods for dogs and cats. Whether you are preparing the food at home from the grocery store or buying a pre-made PMR or BARF model raw food product the fat issue is going to cause issues in the long term.
According to RMFPets.com, “RMF diet is based mostly on the wild model and partly on what has been observed to work in domestic dogs. It essentially involves the feeding of raw meat and bones on some days and plant-based meals (some cooked, some raw) on other days. The dog owner determines how many days of each, based on the dog’s age and other factors.”
WHAT DO THEY GET RIGHT?
The R.M.F. model is far and away the closest to a natural model. They incorporate plant meals that are both separate from the meat meals as they would be found in nature and they incorporate plants in a high enough rotation to mimic nature. R.M.F. also recognizes the issue with fat consumption, saying on the RMFpets.com website that “The high animal fat content of commercial dog foods and even some home prepped diets is the most common cause of the health problems that dogs experience.”
R.M.F.’s focus on raw meat and bone alternated with plant meals eliminates a significant amount of burden on the body of our animals, far more than the P.M.R. and B.A.R.F. models thanks to the reduction of meat meals in exchange for low burden plant meals. However, there is still an excess burden in this diet compared to what we observe in nature.
WHAT DOESN’T ALIGN WITH NATURE?
No animal in nature cooks its food. Over 700,000 species exist on this planet and only the chronically ill human species cooks our foods.
Humans are the only species capable of creating fire and setting fire to our food and the consequences of that decision have led to the epidemics of chronic disease we humans experience and now put on to our pets. The RMF model continues this tradition by including cooked foods including cooked sweet potatoes, cooked quinoa, and certain cooked vegetables. While these are not absolute requirements of the diet, it is evidenced in the online support group that these cooked foods are used heavily, often in lieu of fruits. To learn more about why feeding cooked foods is harmful see “The Folly of Cookery” https://www.therawkey.com/the-folly-of-cookery/
Are you ready to switch your companion to the natural diet and watch them thrive? Get our free feeding guide here: https://www.therawkey.com/the-animals-key/ and join our Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/700078481585631/
Have more questions? Need one on one help getting started or troubleshooting feeding or healing issues? Need help with a serious health condition? I offer consultations here: https://www.therawkey.com/consultations/