Local organic worries?

This came up on Straits Times on the 6th of April, 2013.

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We’ve replied (albeit a really, really abbreviated version, since we were only allowed 400 words. However, the original title had been cut and the contents shortened even more. Well…okay, never mind! ), and the Straits Times people kindly published our reply today on the 12th of April in the Life! Section:

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We feel that our reply is a poor explanation at best, but we had no choice because of the word limit. So please stay tuned to our category ‘Facts and Myths of Raw Diets‘ as we examine issues in raw diets in greater depth with the help of a number of very sweet, very kind international holistic vets and associations whom we’ve approached to help us understand this issue better. Since there aren’t many local vets well-versed in this area, we’ll just have to ask for international help. These guys are waaaaaay more experienced in feeding raw and the study of raw nutrition–some up to 20-30 years! Hats off to you guys–we’ve got A LOT to catch up on!

You may also want to read up on the problems with commercial pet foods!

[Edit: Some of you have suggested that we put our original article here. So here it is!]

Title: Why homemade food is not necessarily bad 

I refer to your article on Saturday, April 4, 2013, ‘Pets go vegetarian and organic’. I wish to provide some balance to the article. I come from the Singaporean raw-feeding community–you will find us in places like PetsChannel.com or The Raw Explorer–and I am a long-time raw-feeder. 

Raw feeding is not as dangerous as portrayed by the article, nor is commercial food as safe as implied. In fact, the numerous recalls done by pet food companies over salmonella poisoning goes to show that commercially prepared pet food may not be any ‘better’ or ‘safer’. In 2013 alone, the FDA has already had a record of 17 of pet food recalls each consisting of several products. In fact, any commercial food has the risk of being recalled. That danger is no less than that of overdosing pets with vitamins. Worse, it cannot be controlled by consumers. Pets have indeed fallen ill from improper raw-feeding, but this can be minimised by using veterinarian-recommended supplements and tried-and-tested recipes.

Moreover, many ingredients found in commercial pet foods are dangerous. Soy, corn and cellulose are harmful. What about toxic preservatives such as BPA and ethoxyqin? Tetra sodium pyrophosphate for enhanced food palatability? The list is endless.  

Next, Pet Lovers Centre (PLC) was quoted as an expert, saying that animals have fine-tuned nutritional needs that may not be met in home-prepared meals even if supplements are included. Quoting PLC as evidence is logically unsound because it is in the business of selling commercial pet food and it is unlikely that they will support homemade food. It also failed to address why supplements are inadequate. Given that respected vets such as Dr. Lisa Pierson, one of the pioneers in pet raw nutrition with over twenty years of experience has recommended complete supplements and recipes for raw-feeding, the claim that supplements are not enough must be questioned.

Thirdly, the article gave only generic reasons from pet owners about homemade benefits. In making a throwaway statement that handing raw food improperly could be dangerous for both pet and owner, it also failed to point out the difference between pet and human anatomies, and that many pet owners handle homemade pet food with the same standards that they use for themselves.

As a conclusion, raw has its risks but so does feeding commercial kibble. Going raw is a fine way to go if one educates himself properly.



Here is an easier-to-read format for the first print article ‘Pets Go Vegetarian And Organic’:

Section: Life! Pets
Publication: The Straits Times 06/04/2013

Health-conscious owners are putting their pets on raw food diets and organic foods

Daisy, a 10-year-old papillon, dines on organic vegetables and fresh meats twice a day. They are prepared by her owner, Mr Timothy Loh, 49, a public relations consultant, who started her on a fresh food, mostly organic diet when he adopted her last year. “The kind of food that we feed our dogs is a hot topic, especially when it is elderly. Your primary concern is cancer. You ask, do you want to feed it food with hormones and additives?” he says. These days, health-conscious pet owners are tailoring nutritious or organic diets for their animals.

Mr Loh spends about $200 a month on fresh meat, organic vegetables, vitamin supplements and antioxidants for Daisy. He is conscious about his own health and diet too, and feeding the dog tasty, healthy meals is a priority. “If you are healthy, you tend to feed your dog healthily too. It rubs off,” he says.

Ms Melissa Lim, 37, a committee member of the Cat Welfare Society, put her seven rescue cats on a raw food diet of primarily raw meat mixed with vegetables and grains last year.

She has been a vegetarian and on-off vegan for the last 21 years, and the switch from commercially produced kibble to raw food was related to her interest in holistic, healthy and conscious eating.

“I was getting freaked out by the many food recalls of commercial premium food brands. I did some research and realised that many pet food brands use rendered meat and meat by-products, and I did not feel comfortable feeding such items to my cats.”

She did research online and spoke to vets before putting her cats on a raw diet of antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken or premium beef, pork, or lamb, which she mixes with a raw food vitamin mix such as Alnutrin, and freezes into portions to feed. She thaws the food when needed and feeds her pets twice a day.

She says she spends about $150 a month and an hour a week preparing the food. Feeding her cats a raw diet costs just as much as feeding them premium canned cat food, she says, but with added benefits. “I have noticed a huge improvement in their health. More vitality, no more overweight pets and in the case of one cat, it cured him of his chronic constipation,” she says.

Self-employed trader Paresh K. Kamani, 51, feeds his family’s 10-month-old golden retriever Argo a mix of Natural Balance vegetarian formula kibble and vegetarian canned food.

He spent hours researching the dog’s nutrition requirement online and speaking with vets before committing to the vegetarian diet for the dog. Argo also gets vitamins, and health and bone supplements with every meal.

However, some vets remain sceptical of home-made food and of raw food, in particular.

Their primary concerns are that the meal may not contain all the necessary nutrients for good health and that handling raw food improperly may cause the pet and its owner to fall ill.

Pet experts tell Life! that animals have finely tuned nutritional needs which may not be met by home-made meals, even if they include supplements. A spokesman for Pet Lover’s Centre says that vitamin deficiencies are a problem as much as vitamin over-loads.

“Vitamin A deficiencies have been known to cause eye problems, lack of coat and skin quality, poor growth and a reduced ability to ward off infections, but too much vitamin A can cause your dog to have muscle weakness and bone problems,” she says.

Likewise, too much or too little calcium during a dog’s early years can lead to as many problems for bone health too, says Dr Vanessa Lin, a vet at My Family Vet Clinic and Surgery in Bukit Batok.

Experts point out that the animal’s physiology, age and energy requirements should be considered when selecting their diet. What you serve your pets will depend on the animal and its stage in life, and should be determined with the help of a vet.

There may be a bridge across the divide, however, as more organic, sustainable and vegetarian commercial pet-food options enter the market.

Pet accessory and grooming shops, including Doll House Pets in Kampong Bahru, sell Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (Barf). These are pre-packaged, commercially developed raw food meals sold in packs which can be defrosted and served. They are on sale in stores and online at the Barf Singapore website, at $60 for 12 individual 8oz patties.

Alternatively, there is Fish4Dogs, a range of premium dog foods and treats made primarily from sustainably farmed, hormone- and antibiotic-free Norwegian salmon, which is available at Pet Lovers Centre at $27.75 for 1.5kg.

Commercial pet foods such as Natural Balance should meet the nutritional requirements for pets in order to be sold in stores, though buyers should research online and check with their vet to be sure.

Dr Ong also reminds owners not to serve pets leftovers from the table. “We have seen pets come in for vomiting, diarrhoea or life-threatening issues such as pancreatitis, resulting from being fed table scraps by their owners.”


Please be reminded that cats do not need grains, they are obligate carnivores!


Categories: Pet Food In The News

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