A common misunderstanding is that one can simply feed a single raw protein source to their pet and think the diet is nutritionally sound. Many seem to believe a single protein source will provide all of the necessary nutrients needed to reach optimal health. This is the furthest from the truth and we can follow a few simple reasons to come to the conclusion that raw diets cannot be sustained on a single protein.
…Imagine only eating baked chicken for the rest of your life…
Do you want to eat the exact same thing at every meal for the rest of your life? Likely not; humans prefer variety and humans require variety because a diet on one food source is not nutritionally sound. The same concept applies to feeding our pets a species appropriate diet.
When feeding a dog/cat raw, only feed meat under 100mg sodium per serving.
It should not be enhanced, seasoned, smoked, or cooked in any way.
Based entirely on our human want and need to consume variety of foods is a considerable argument not to feed your pet the exact same thing every day. However, it is best not to humanize our pets, so let’s look at a few key points that will help us determine the need and the way to feed more than one protein in raw feeding.
Wild carnivorous diets consist of multiple proteins
Only red meat proteins are consumed by wild carnivores
Not all proteins are nutritionally equal
Source a bare minimum of 3 proteins
Diet must be at least 50% red meat proteins
Wild game and pasture raised meats are ideal, not required
Wild Carnivores Have Protein Variety
When creating a species appropriate raw diet we always look towards our pet’s wild counterparts when formulating the optimal diet to suit nutritional requirements. Regardless of carnivorous species, each wild animal will not sustain a diet exclusively off of one food source. We know many wild carnivores live off of a variety of food sources native to the location they inhabit.
Timber Wolves diet is dependent on their location but primarily consists of hoofed mammals known as ungulates such as venison, mountain goat, moose, elk, and bison. Smaller prey like beaver and hare is hunted and eaten as well.
Knowing a wild carnivores diet provides the foundation to build and formulate an optimal diet for our pets. It is easy to see that a wild carnivores’ diet consists of different proteins sources throughout their lifetime. Off of that principle alone, we should aim to provide our pets with a variety of proteins to mimic the natural diet.
Wild Carnivores Only Eat Red Meat
Providing a variety of proteins is important in raw feeding but ensuring you are using enough red meat proteins it is just as important. Red meat proteins are nutritionally more dense than white meat options. This directly relates to the muscle movements the animal had during its life.
Defining Red Meat
The classification of red and white meat has to do with the muscle spasms of the animal when they move. There are slow twitch (red meat) and fast twitch (white meat) muscle fibers. Red meat is darker due to the amounts of myoglobin present in the muscle tissue which directly relates to the muscle movement of the animal. Animals who sustain frequent movement develop red meat muscle tissues.
White Meat Proteins
Red Meat Proteins
It is important to know all wild carnivores, regardless of species, sustains their whole diet on red meat protein sources. All wild game is red meat, even small prey items such as rabbits, rodents, and small birds. All wild animals have to physically move to find food, water, and shelter therefore their muscles are more developed and provides red meat muscle tissue.
Not all proteins are nutritionally equal
Each protein item will have a different nutrient profile from the next. Some proteins will provide valuable nutrients, fats, and vitamins where others are lacking.
Darks meat are more nutrient dense than white meat
Dark meat is a sub classification within “White Meat.” This is because dark meat is harder working muscles and contains a higher concentration of myoglobin than other muscles within white meat proteins. Even though these cuts contain higher amounts of myoglobin does not classify it as red meat.
Chicken = White Meat
Overall chicken is classified as a white meat protein.
Breast = White Meat
Breast meat lacks myoglobin which makes it light in color.
Thigh = Dark Meat
Thigh meat is higher in myoglobin which gives it a darker color.
Red meat is more nutrient dense than white meat
Harder working muscles contain more nutrients which is directly related to its muscle activity. What makes red meat more nutritionally favorable than white meat is the higher concentrations of fat and vitamins.
We now know red meats are from hard working muscle tissues which have high myoglobin present in comparison to white meats. Myoglobin is an iron and oxygen-binding protein found in the muscle tissue of vertebrates in general and in almost all mammals. Higher concentration of this protein provides a higher nutritional profile.
A common misconception among society is “Red meat is bad because it is high in saturated fats.” Do not be fooled by this, fat is good especially for our carnivorous pets! Carnivores thrive off of animal based fats and metabolize fat into energy. Although red meat contains higher levels of fat, but they also contain higher levels of vitamins like iron, zinc and B vitamins! The iron present in red meat is called heme iron, which is easily absorbed by the body compared to iron found from plant sources.
Certain proteins are fattier than others
While we already know red meat is traditionally fattier than white meat, however this depends on the protein option and the cut. There are cuts within the same animal that yields higher fat content than others.
Fat Content Difference in a Singular Protein
Skinless turkey breast meat is lower in fat content than skinless turkey thigh meat; and beef brisket is higher in fat content than beef tenderloin.
Fat Content Difference in Different Proteins
Domesticated/farmed rabbit is considered a white meat like chicken, however chicken is much more fattier in comparison to rabbit. In fact, rabbit has little to no fat content. Goat meat is one of the leanest red meats on the market in comparison to all other farmed red meat proteins.
The skin of all animals will contain a substantial amount of fat content, regardless of the protein it comes from (of course, the amount of fat actually present is relative to the protein in question). Wild game and pasture/grass-finished proteins are much leaner in comparison to commercially farmed meats that have been grain fed and finished.
Steps to Achieve Variety in Your Pet’s Raw Diet
When creating your pet’s optimal diet there is three simple steps you can follow on your path to providing your furry companion an optimal species appropriate diet.
Step 1: Rotate between a minimum of 3 proteins
When we look at the natural diet of our pet’s wild ancestors and cousins, we are able to conclude their diet consists of at least three proteins when food is not scarce. The three basic proteins in raw feeding consist of chicken, pork, and beef which are easily accessible. Although three proteins is the minimum guideline, it is always best to provide as many proteins as possible.
Step 2: Diet must be at least 50% red meat proteins
Red meat is considerably more nutrient dense than white meat which is the main reason for ensuring the diet contains a minimum of 50% red meat proteins. Additionally, white meat is a product of commercialized farming and they are not natural to carnivores since their diet is entirely red meat in the wild.
How do I feed a raw diet with mostly red meat? What do should I use for bone sources?
There are many safe edible raw meaty bones in red meat proteins!
- All duck bones
- Pork ribs, trotters, tails
- Beef brisket bones, Ox tails
- Lamb ribs, tails
I have a small dog/cat under 10lbs (4.5kg). How do I safely feed red meat bones?
Small dogs and cats will not be able to consume most red meat RMBs because they are too dense. Duck RMBs, necks and feet, are suitable for smaller dogs and cats.
All other RMBs will need to come from smaller prey animals which inevitably is white meat. In these instances, it is best to use white meat proteins for RMB and primarily source red meat proteins to complete the muscle meat ratio.
Step 3: Wild game & pasture/grass-finished proteins are ideal but not required
Pasture raised/grass-finished meats are higher quality than grain-fed/finished meats as they are nutritionally more dense in comparison. One major difference is the balance of fatty acids, grass-fed meats have a balanced omega 6:3 ratio whereas commercially farmed meats are considerably high in omega 6 with very low omega 3.
Wild game is even higher in nutrients and omega 3 fatty acids which makes wild game superior and the most natural meat source anyone can provide. Sourcing wild game proteins may prove difficult due to resource availability but there is a few ways to take when trying to source wild game.
Family & Friends Who Hunt
Having friends and family who hunt is a goldmine to getting free wild game scraps and prey.
Join Local Facebook Hunting Groups
Branch out and network hunters in your local area to expand access to unwanted parts from wild game.
Wild Game Processors
Processing facilities have unusable scraps and bones perfect to add variety.
Resource availability and budget simply may not allow for the inclusion of wild game and pasture raised meat within a raw diet…WHICH IS TOTALLY OK… Wild game and pasture/grass-finished meats are wonderful additions to raw diets; but they are not required! Feeding grain-fed/finished proteins is fine as long as omega 3 is supplemented in to bring balance to the fatty acids present in commercially farmed meats.
Feed the Meats
Using a wild carnivore’s natural diet is a great way to provide the foundation when feeding pets a raw diet. It is not natural for any animal species to sustain an ideal diet on one food source alone. Pairing information known on wild carnivorous diets with nutritional data concludes the optimal species appropriate diet consists of a variety of different proteins (3+), consists of primarily red meat, and includes wild game/pasture meats when available.
- “Hunting & Feeding Behavior.” International Wolf Center
- “The Scottish Wildcat: Diet and Hunting.” The Scottish WildCat
- “Muscles – Fast & Slow Twitch.” BBC Science & Nature
- “What gives meat its color?” The Accidental Scientist – Science of Cooking
- “What is the difference between heme and non-heme iron?” The World’s Healthiest Foods
- “Search Results: Raw Chicken.” USDA Food Composition Databases
- “Search Results: Raw Turkey” USDA Food Composition Databases
- “Search Results: Raw Rabbit” USDA Food Composition Databases
- “Search Results: Raw Duck” USDA Food Composition Databases
- “Search Results: Raw Pork” USDA Food Composition Databases
- “Search Results: Raw Beef” USDA Food Composition Databases
- “Search Results: Raw Goat” USDA Food Composition Databases
- “Search Results: Raw Lamb” USDA Food Composition Databases