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Messages - David

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Very well spotted Meg. All fixed now. If you spot any other inaccuracies at all, do please let me know.

I am not sure I am posting this in the correct place, but firstly would like to say what a great site, easy to use and packed with information, I find the reviews you do on the foods helpful but wondered if you would be writing a review for the Millies Wolfheart foods? Regards

Hi Budd71 and thanks for posting. Thanks also for the very kind feedback - it really means a lot.

As Dottie mentioned, we do have most of the Millies Wolfheart range listed here but I'm afraid I'm yet to get around to writing a full review for them just yet. I'll get on to it as soon as I can.

Thanks again and all the best

General discussion / Re: Dried meat feed
« on: Feb 12, 2018, 13:58 »
Hi all,

Apologies for taking so long to get back to you.

First off I did hear back from Bern (the UK distributors of Orijen) on Friday.

There are two kinds of dried meats, rendered meals or dehydrated meats.
The process of creating a meat meal involves cooking and separating the fats and oils from the meat, and then the remaining ingredients are heated to remove the moisture content.
The process of creating a dehydrated meat is similar, but takes less time and involves mechanical centrifuge rather than heat to separate the fats and oils. The meats are then dried at low temperatures (90°C). Dried meats are concentrated protein sources that are custom made for us in Wholeprey ratios, using the flesh, meat, bones and cartilage. All ingredients are from animals deemed fit for human consumption and processed exclusively in human grade facilities.

So, in the case of Orijen, the 'dehydrated' meats do indeed refer to something other than meat meal. Thank you for bringing this to my attention 4max. This is news to me as numerous other companies use exactly the same term ('dehydrated meat') to refer to meat meal so I was assuming Orijen was in the same boat. You are quite right that it will throw my dry matter meat content calculations off somewhat so I will add that to my ever-lengthenning list of updates. I have asked Bern to confirm the moisture content of their dehydrated meats and I will post here when I get a reply.

On the subject of rehydrated percentages, they may be used by manufacturers to highlight a particular dried ingredient but it must be made clear that it is doing so. For example you might see "dried carrots 2 % (equivalent to 9.6 % of carrots)" but the second part is completely optional. If you do not see this kind of statement after an ingredient, then any percentage provided will refer to the mixing bowl amount (i.e. not reconstituted). Ingredients must also always be listed in order of their mixing bowl percentages (again, not reconstituted).

I hope this clears up at least a little of the confusion but if not I'll be right here.

General discussion / Re: Dried meat feed
« on: Jan 29, 2018, 13:09 »
For sure David will let us know when he hears back.  ;)

I certainly will. Nothing yet I'm afraid

Thanks everyone for a really interesting debate!

Just to go back to fundamentals for a minute, with any food the three main issues that determine the nutritional quality are 1) ingredient quality, 2) pre-processing and 3) final processing. Although the three are linked (for example some final processing types necessitate the inclusion or exclusion of certain types of ingredients or pre-processing methods), it is important not to confuse the three.

A gentle final-processing method is all well and good but if the ingredients are low grade or if they have been overly processed before arriving at the factory, it will still result in a nutritionally poor food. Similarly, a manufacturer may have the best ingredients around and might use minimal pre-processing, but if the final processing method is too harsh, the resulting food is still going to be substandard. Only when you combine nutritious ingredients with good pre-processing and final processing methods will you get a really excellent food.

On the subject of ingredient quality, I think MM have all of the boxes ticked: very strict sourcing criteria; close relationships with supplier farms; sourcing exclusively high-welfare, natural animals etc etc.

Similarly, as far as final processing method goes, I think most of us would agree that the pressing system used by MM is about as gentle on the ingredients as is possible to make a dry food. Erdem, you may dispute the temperature claim but I have no reason to doubt it. The experiment you suggest involving rubbing hands together is interesting and would have been relevant if the press was made of hands but, as far as I can recall, it was not. It was made of metal - a very good conductor of heat.

Which leaves us with the only real point of contention here - the pre-processing.

Virtually all of the ingredients used in MM are pre-cooked. That has been established. Many of the ingredients (the carbs for example) require pre-cooking to make them digestible for dogs. For those pet owners that are against carbs or cooking for dogs, this is obviously a problem but I have always found certain cooked carbs (brown rice, sweet potato etc) to be very beneficial for dogs.

For the other ingredients and especially the meat, how much the pre-cooking affects the natural nutrient levels is an unknown at this point. I have contacted numerous pet food companies including many raw food companies and others that have openly criticised meat meal on the premise that it is nutritionally inferior but none have been able to provide any data to confirm their assertions. On the other side of the argument, one company insists that the cooking of meat actually makes it more digestible for dogs in the same way as it does for humans but, again, they were unable to provide any evidence to support their claims.

Whatever the answer, it's worth noting that pre-cooked ingredients like meat meal are extremely wide spread in the dry pet food industry so almost every other dry food is subject to the same debate.

So, going back to the three key factors:

  • MM's ingredient sourcing is excellent
  • Their pre-processing is a matter for debate (but that is no different from almost any other dry food on the market)
  • Their final processing method is excellent

Hope that helps.

Sorry about the delay with this. I've been absolutely snowed under these last couple of weeks. This write up will be a bit briefer than I would have liked but hopefully it will be of some interest.

The trip came about when I passed on some queries (originally raised by another manufacturer) to Markus Mühle by email. The suggestion was that the processing temperatures claimed by MM must be too low. MM obviously refuted the suggestion and invited me over to see for myself.

The factory is about 40 minutes drive from Frankfurt in a pretty little village called Hintermühlen. It's quite unlike any pet food factory I have been to before, made up of a collection of relatively unassuming, almost pretty green buildings clustered around a stream and the cottage where company owner Markus Olberts was born and still lives.

The staff were very welcoming and happy to discuss at length any topic I raised.

I mostly spoke with Markus Olberts and Peter Doepp, the company's Executive Officer & Press Officer. I was also given an extensive tour of two of the three mills.

Some key points:

The maximum processing temperature on site is indeed 40-45 Celsius as the company claims. I examined the processing line from start to finish, placing my hand on each piece of equipment including the press itself to get a gauge of the temperature and at no point did it rise above what I would describe as lukewarm. There was no use of steam and the maximum pressure throughout the process is 1.4 bar. It was a world away from extrusion.

Of course, due to this low temperature, practically all of the ingredients have to be cooked beforehand which is why some critics of cold-pressing believe it's not all that it's cracked up to be. This was one of the key topics of our conversations - how the pre-cooking affects nutrient levels and how the nutritional value of cold pressed foods stacks up against other types of foods - particularly extruded and raw.

In answer to the first part - how pre-cooking affects nutrient levels - Markus and Peter were keen to highlight the very high quality and traceability of their raw ingredients which, they believe, contain much more intact natural nutrients than the bog-standard ingredients used in most pet foods. While this is a reasonable assumption, there simply isn't enough data available on how much cooking (and particularly the production of meat meal) affects ingredient nutrient levels to allow us to do anything more than speculate.

And comparing cold-pressing with other dog food types, MM were unsurprisingly critical of extrusion where, they believe, the high temperatures and extensive processing are responsible for large-scale nutrient loss. Again, however, no real data is available to support this. Interestingly, Markus did suggest that, when done right, raw food is probably better than any dry food.

Markus Olberts designs his formulas around the diets of wolves and regularly visits a wolf sanctuary in Spain. One of the chief assertions behind the recipes and the relatively high proportion of carbohydrates is that wolves will prioritise eating the semi-digested stomach contents of their herbivorous prey even above muscle tissues etc. This claim, however, has been widely challenged (read more here) and I'm afraid I am currently unable to confirm one way or another.

The factory is small, almost pretty. Inside it's clean (REALLY clean), bright and airy. It combines traditional cold pressing techniques with modern electronic monitoring technology. From my brief look around, the staff seemed happy and well looked after.

Despite it's relatively small size, the company produces 2,500 tons of pet food every month. Both the ingredients silos and the warehouse are turned over very regularly so nothing is left standing for any extended period.

The processing method is, by all accounts, very simple. The ingredients are ground, mixed and pressed into the distinctive cylinder shaped biscuits. They are then cooled to room temperature using fresh air drawn in from outside and bagged.

Quality control tests are carried out at just about every stage including each ingredient batch that arrives and each batch of finished product that leaves. They have their own on-site lab and also send samples out to independent labs for analysis.

The entire facility is run on green energy from hydroelectric.

The company makes numerous charitable donations including a very sizeable monthly donation to a huge dog shelter in Romania.

From talking with Markus and Peter, it does seem that there is a big difference between the cold pressing they do and what happens at other cold pressing pet food factories around Europe. I'll be doing more research on this.

Overall I was very impressed by Markus Mühle. Everyone that I spoke to seemed to a have a genuine excitement for what he or she was doing. This enthusiasm as well as the obvious passion for pets and the environment were quite compelling. In terms of the products, the combination of high end ingredients and the very gentle processing method make a sound case for a very very good dry food more data is necessary to say how it compares to other foods.

Sorry about the slightly jumbled info. If you have any questions, please reply below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

I visited Markus Mühle last week and it really is a remarkable company. I will give a full write up in the next couple of days but in the meantime there's a brief summary on the facebook page.

General discussion / Re: Dried meat feed
« on: Dec 14, 2017, 08:27 »
Excellent discussion. Just to pick up on a couple of points:

Novadays there seems to be more and more dog food manufacturer that use a "dried meat". This is air (not freeze) dried meat. See Orijen "1/3 of meats are air dried at 90°C from fresh chicken, turkey and fish to create a concentrated source of richly nourishing protein". Have a look how Markus Muhle names its meat contens - "dried meat meal". I would think this dried meat is not the same as meat meal.

In general, the term 'dried meat' refers to meat meal. The terms are used interchangeably. You can find out more about meat meal here. Having said that, the 'dried meat' in Orijen does appear to be something different but I will contact them directly to confirm.

In section there is a specific requirement that if used in a dehydrated form, these are to be listed in order of weight before dehydration.

To clarify, this only applies 'when feed materials are used in concentrated or dehydrated form and are reconstituted at the time of manufacture' - i.e. when dried ingredients are used in wet foods which isn't that common. Otherwise, ingredients are always listed in order of weight at the start of manufacture (what's called the 'mixing bowl principle').

Sincere apologies for the problems with the firewall. It was installed yesterday on the advice of our host, GoDaddy and has proved to be quite problematic here on the forum. Anyway, the issue should now be resolved but if you do notice any other issues at all, do please let me know

General discussion / Re: 'All life stages' - High Calcium
« on: Dec 11, 2017, 12:57 »
Sadly not yet 4max but we are working on it. Bear with us.

Thanks everyone. I managed to get to the bottom of the error in the end. It was only occurring on the review pages of products with a single variety so was easily missed. Still, all fixed now. Really appreciate everyone's help with this

Site help and suggestions / Re: Country of Origin filter
« on: May 10, 2017, 11:04 »
Thanks Meg, I'll add those to the next round of updates.

Dog foods / Re: "Better Bakers" ???
« on: May 03, 2017, 07:51 »
Many thanks Coaster, I'll certainly look into it

Although I support this study's overall message, it is far from conclusive. It only looked at two groups of dogs - one group fed on "a raw red meat diet (73% beef muscle, 10% beef liver, 5% bone chip, 5% beef tripe, 3.5% beef heart, 3.5% beef kidney, 0.2% mineral pre-mix)" and the other on a "commercially available kibbled diet". No further details are given about the kibble.

Fairly unsurprisingly the first group fared better than the second but whether this is necessarily due to the fact that the first group ate more meat or not is far from clear.

A study to accurately compare the effects of low and high meat intakes would require the two groups of dogs to be fed diets that were identical in every way other than the proportion of meat. That is clearly not the case with this study. The results could be nothing to do with meat intake and instead be an indication that fresh ingredients are better than processed, raw is better than cooked, low carb is better than high carb or even that low fibre diets are better for digestive health in dogs than high fibre diets.

Sadly studies like this tend to serve more to grab headlines and spearhead the marketing campaigns of the companies funding them than to actually further our understanding of canine nutrition.

Great thread and a complex subject so apologies if this turns into a lengthy post.

Personally I have no problem with grains per se and like many of you, I have always found certain forms (especially whole brown rice) to be very beneficial for a lot of dogs.

Other grains like wheat and, to a lesser extent, maize do cause problems for some dogs but from my experience, for dogs without intolerance to these specific grains, they can be fine and (particularly in their whole form) might actually be beneficial.

Regarding the rating algorithm, being grain free does not increase a food's score. The fact that most of the 'best' foods out there are grain free is more to do with manufacturers driving and responding to consumer trends than any proven nutritional benefit. I'll go more into this below but for now back to the algorithm:

Brown rice scores well; Oats, barley etc are more or less neutral; Maize is downgraded slightly; Wheat is downgraded more. This is because the scores are intended to indicate how healthy a food will be for the majority of dogs.

Scores for all ingredients (not just grains) also depend on the percentages present and high levels of any ingredient that could be regarded as a 'filler' reduces a food's score. For example, 5% white rice will score a lot better than 50% white rice and despite brown rice being a 'good' ingredient, a very high percentage will cost points.

So why are all of the top rated foods grain free? Well, in order to be successful a manufacturer has to give its customers what they want and right now most of the people buying the very top end foods are looking specifically for grain free foods. Grain has developed such a bad reputation over the last few years that putting it into a food immediately eliminates a huge section of the market. Even if a high-end producer found that adding grain to their foods would be beneficial to dogs, they just couldn't do it as it would mean virtual commercial suicide.

It is a positive feed back loop that probably started with some clever marketing by the early grain free manufacturers and has now resulted in grain being the bogey man of pet food.

I completely acknowledge that I too play my part in the loop. As you'll all know, one of the five 'at a glance' symbols on the site is whether a food is grain free or not. This wasn't originally the plan but with so many people specifically looking for grain free foods, I added the symbol to make their searches easier. This obviously creates the false impression that grain-free is an important characteristic to look for in a food on a par with natural or clearly labelled but this is not the case at all. Sadly, the balance between giving visitors what they want and what I think they should want is a difficult one.

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