Gently Cooked vs. Raw Food: What is the Difference?
We all know that a real, whole food diet is superior to commercially processed kibble. But with so many new diets hitting the market these days, owners can feel like they’re chasing their own tails trying to select the best option.
So, today, we are dishing out the answer to one of the questions we get asked the most: what’s the difference between cooked and raw food? Spoiler alert: we believe gently cooked is best.
What is raw dog food?
Raw food enthusiasts argue that this is how dogs ate historically. While dogs are descendants of wolves and their wild canine ancestors survived off uncooked foods, dogs have been domesticated by humans for over 15,000 years. As such, their nutritional needs and GI systems have changed over time.
Claims that dogs are carnivores because of their taxonomy, Carnivora, may be true; however, their feeding behaviours are more omnivorous than carnivorous since dogs are able to digest and utilize carbohydrates and plants. That is why dogs are considered obligate carnivores, meaning: yes, dogs do need meat to survive, but they also highly benefit from plants in their diet.
Raw dog food diets usually include a combination of uncooked meats from different animal sources. It is important to be aware of the sources of these ingredients. Due to limited regulation on pet food, poor quality ingredients have made their way into our pets’ bowls. This is why we believe it is important to use foods that are made with human grade ingredients that are fit for human consumption. Some other things to consider when feeding your dog a raw diet:
- Raw diets include ground up meat and carcass. It is important to ensure that these diets are nutritional balanced properly specifically with Calcium/Phosphorus ratios. Too much or too little calcium can be very dangerous for our pets. A number of studies have revealed important concerns about nutritional imbalances when raw diets (even homemade diets) are not formulated properly. A notable 2001 study showed improper Calcium/Phosphorus ratios, and deficiencies in various important vitamins, including vitamin E.
- Risk of contamination of harmful bacteria and pathogens like Salmonella or E.coli when handling and feeding your dog raw meats so it is important to ensure proper handling and sanitizing when handling raw food.
- Dogs have the ability to get rid of harmful bacteria faster than humans due to their short GI tract however it is important to also consider the risk of feeder infection through dog feces. Some raw feeders may not realize that dogs infected with foodborne illnesses can shed bacteria that can infect people, including Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp. and T enterocolitica, through their feces, even when a dog is not showing any clinical signs.
- Some raw enthusiast suggest that wolves never hunted for plants in the wild. This may be true however numerous studies have shown that adding coloured vegetables and leafy greens can decrease your pets’ risk of cancer by 70%
Why choose a gently cooked diet?
In general, gently cooking kills off any bacteria that may be present in raw meats while still maintaining the food’s nutrients and, in some cases, increasing the nutrients. A properly formulated cooked diet provides your pup with the proper nutrition they need to thrive while also increasing the digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Don’t just take our word for it – science proves it! A study done in Belgium from 1998 to 2002, which collected data from more than 500 dogs, concluded that dogs fed a home-cooked diet lived an average of three years longer.
Other benefits of feeding a fresh, cooked diet include:
- Increased energy by fuelling the body with proper nutrition from the inside out;
- Healthier skin and coat thanks to nutrients that are rich in essential fatty acids;
- Improved digestion and nutrient absorption through natural ingredients; and a;
- Boosted immune system through foods loaded with antioxidants to help fight diseases.
Will there still be nutrients in the food after it's cooked?
One of the biggest myths proposed about a gently cooked diet is that cooking destroys all of the nutrients in the food. If this were true, why do we as human cook our food? What we should be considering is not whether or not cooking kills nutrients in food, but how does cooking change the nutrient compositions of the food we feed our dogs.
A study conducted by Susan Thixton, a pet food safety advocate from the Truth About Pet Food, shares in Nutrient Difference between Raw and Cooked Foods that “the nutrient content of foods does change when cooked – BUT it depends on the food and the specific nutrient as to what that change is. Sometimes cooking increases a nutrient, sometimes it decreases.”
For example, you can see that some nutrient values between cooked and raw beef actually increased with cooking, specifically the amino acid profiles, the building blocks of protein and the most essential macronutrient for your dog.
Now let’s take a look at broccoli:
Vitamin A almost doubles when broccoli is cooked.
The important thing to consider when selecting a diet for your dog is that every dog is different and what may work for one dog may not work for another. When comparing raw with cooked, we have found that nutritional loss is minimal when properly prepared, and that there was no significant difference in the digestibility of cooked vs. raw. However, we strongly believe the advantages of cooking outweigh some of the risks associated with raw.
At Juno, we are nutrition obsessed. Our food is formulated by top pet professionals; based on scientific research; crafted for health and longevity; and gently cooked just for your pup. To learn more about what is included in Juno's gently cooked dog food, click here now!
Freeman LM, Michel KE. Evaluation of raw food diets (Erratum published in J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;218:1716). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;218:705–709.
Kerr KR, Vester Boler BM, Morris CL, et al. Apparent total tract energy and macronutrient digestibility and fecal fermentative end-product concentrations of domestic cats fed extruded, raw beef-based, and cooked beef-based diets. J Anim Sci 2012;90:515–522.
Hand M., Thatcher, C., Remillard, R. (2000). Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 5th Edition. Topeka: Mark Morris Institute.
Council, N. R. (2006). Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. Washington DC: The National Academies Press