When our dog was just a pup, my wife and I realized that he wasn’t a big fan of eating. We had the hardest time trying to get him to eat his dry (kibble) dog food. Eventually we began to add some moist canned dog food to his kibble diet, and that worked for a spell. Unfortunately, the combination turned out to be ‘not so good’ for his health, and one scary night we found ourselves in the emergency pet clinic, with our dog vomiting blood. It turned out that our dog (we believe) had hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, which can be caused by a hypersensitivity to food.
We immediately decided to look at food alternatives. My wife told me that our friends down the street were feeding their dog a raw diet, and suggested that we try it. When we learned that the company making the food was located in Buffalo, we were even more excited to give it a try. While our dog did not immediately gravitate to the food at first (he’s just not an eater), over time he began to adjust to it pretty well. Beyond his eventual affinity for the food, we began to notice some changes in the short term, and then in the longterm. In the short term, we both agreed that his coat was much softer. In the long run, I noticed that his teeth remained super white, compared to my previous two dogs that eventually succumbed to yellow and dark brown spotted stains. More than anything else, he appeared healthy and happy, which made us ecstatic.
Eventually I had an opportunity to meet the owners of the all natural raw dog food company – wife and husband team, Donna and Greg Rollins. It didn’t take long to discover that they were both dog fanatics, and before long we started planning a day when I could come out and visit their Doggone Raw operation on Vulkan Street in Riverside. That meeting took place this past Friday, and boy what a meeting it was. I had no idea that I was about to become such an avid believer in their business ethics and acumens.
Right off the bat, I asked Donna, who runs the day-to-day operations, what made them get into the business. It turns out that when their dog was young, he had horrible digestion problems, so the couple decided to set about researching food alternatives. They ended up trying a couple of different raw food brands, but still were not satisfied with the results. So they opted to give it a go themselves. It turns out that Greg is a food scientist, and did his dissertation (MSc. Kansas State University) on dog food. While working at his full time job in the human food industry, Greg developed a dog food formula that he felt would be healthier by meeting all of the nutritional requirements. After he perfected the formula, and the couple began feeding their (breeding) dogs the mixture, they soon realized that there was a demand for their recipe. “Our clients began to purchase the food from us,” Donna said. “They would comment on our healthy looking dogs, and they wanted to bring the food home for their own dogs.”
Our greatest satisfaction is hearing from customers whose dogs suffered from health issues, like kidney disease or skin problems, and the dog is now leading a healthy life, in some cases reducing or eliminating costly prescription meds.
In coming up with the best dog food, Greg researched the perfect organs-to-meat-to-fruit/veggie ratios. Talking to Greg is like talking to a walking encyclopedia. The man knows his stuff. He knows exactly what’s good for a dog… and exactly what’s bad for a dog. The longer I talked to Greg, the more I realized that there are a lot of really really bad dog foods on the market. Even some of the ones that you think are healthy, are made at the same plants as the bad ones, using the same machines, and the same (or similar) ingredients. The only difference is the labeling and the marketing campaigns that the companies spend millions of dollars on. But if you understand the industry, or take the time to read the labels, then you will quickly learn the frightening side of the dog food industry.
The funny thing is that I never set out to explore the dark side of the kibble and canned dog food business. Mostly, I just wanted to know about the healthy nature of the Doggone Raw product. But Greg felt that in order to understand the benefits of their dog food, I must first understand the history of the industry.
It turns out that kibble was invented in the 20th century by an English electrician. It was sold to rich people because it was newfangled, more expensive, and could sit on shelves longer. It was the new thing on the block. After WWII, there was a scarcity of meat, and there were also no known machine to make the kibble. But as advancements were made, kibble became more and more popular, although no one ever took the time to analyze exactly what was being produced and sold. This new form of food was also a good way to use up meat derived from animals that could not be used to make human food. Much of the kibble came from 4-D animals – dead, dying, disabled, or diseased. It sounds horrific, but to keep prices down and inventory flowing there are some pretty nasty industry practices that eventually became commonplace. Basically, if you see the word ‘meal’ on the side of a dogfood container, run for the hills. According to Greg, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows a wide array of products to make their way into the low grade food, including but not limited to Styrofoam trays and plastic wrap. Acceptable industry practice is to spray animal fat on kibbles to “trick” the dogs into thinking that its palatable.
4D animals rejected from USDA facilities, zoos, road kill, and euthanized cats and dogs. These items are sprayed with carbolic acid, charcoal, cresylic disinfectant or citronella as assurance they will not enter the human food supply.
More than anything else, Greg pointed out that Kibble has only been around for about 50+ years. Dogs were not built to process this new type of food, and no one questioned the product along the way. He noted that the cooking process destroys the vitamins that are essential to a dog’s diet. The added carbohydrates are also not good for a dog’s health.
Commercial kibbles are 50 – 75% carbohydrates; an ingredient not needed in a dog’s diet. – Dog Food Advisor
Also, a dog’s body is 60% water, which is another reason that fresh meat is so good. Eating a bowl of dried kibble is akin to eating a bowl of pretzels, Greg told me. Dogs that switch to the Doggone diet will most likely not guzzle down water after eating.
Since kibble has only been around for about 60 years, dogs have not evolved to thrive on it. Our goal is to educate people on what is a species appropriate diet for dogs; that which their ancestors ate.
As Donna and Greg continued to talk about the pros and cons of various dog foods, I began to see think about all of the changes that I had seen in my dog since making the switch… things that I never thought about until they pointed them out. My dog doesn’t drink a lot of water because his food is so moist. He also doesn’t expel much waste for being such a large dog because he doesn’t have to eat as much to take in the proper nutrients. His digestive system also utilizes the ingredients more efficiently because there is no ‘filler’. Doggone Raw only uses meat that is ‘human edible’ and USDA inspected and certified.
A tour through the new (since August) Doggone Raw facility was nothing like I expected. The operation was simple, sleek and super clean. Currently, Donna and Greg are preparing 1500 pounds of food per month, but their business is steadily growing. In fact, the dog food just got picked up by Elmwood Pet Supply and Daisy’s Doghouse (on Hertel). Customer can also stop by the Doggone Raw business at 402 Vulcan Street – call ahead to make sure that someone is there – 612-741-6644. Donna is happy to show customers around during the course of a week, and if you can catch Greg there on a Saturday, he’ll be happy to talk about the dogfood industry.
If it were not for our dog’s health issues early on, we never would have tuned into the benefits of feeding him Doggone Raw. From the quick blanched fruits and veggies, to the whole muscle meats, the calcium in the bones, and even the species specific organ meat that they use, there’s nothing on the market like it. There’s no cooking, and zero waste, as everything that arrives by truck is used (no entrails or stomachs). Every once in a while their own dog, named Bosco, gets a scrap to keep him happy, but other than that the clean up at the end of a day is a thorough wash down.
I’m sure that there are some decent canned food and kibble foods on the market, although when I asked Donna and Greg, they both looked at me sideways. As they pointed out numerous times, the moist canned foods carry a lot of water and not much in the nutrient department. The kibble… well, I’m not going to go over all that again. And if there are any vegans out there serving up no-meat diets to your dogs, be sure to talk to Greg about the perils.
Donna (from Pittsburgh) and Greg (from NYC) moved to Buffalo five years ago, and in that time they have set out to create a dog food that they feel should be the industry standard. The cost of Doggone Raw might be more than you’re used to spending on dogfood, but according to Donna, “It depends on the dog food you are comparing it to. The cost per day to feed a 50LB dog high premium kibbles is approximately $2.89 per day. The cost of feeding our raw chicken dinner is $2.50 per day. Of course with the low end kibbles it would be much less. So if people are already feeding high end kibbles, the cost of our food would be comparable. If you are comparing Doggone Raw to other raw foods on the market, it is more affordable. In the end, remember, with a healthier dog you are going to save on vet bills.”
The origin and physiology of the dog is suited to eat raw meat and bones, a species-specific diet, not carbohydrate-rich foods like grains or legumes.
As a responsible dog owner, be sure to read the labels and learn about what goes into your brand of dogfood. As I mentioned previously, it can be tricky navigating the industry, and the producers will not always tell the whole story. Being an animal lover, I’m glad that I stopped over to chat with Donna and Greg. Previously I was of the belief that “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” Now I know that that’s not exactly true… especially when it comes to some of the products that are on the market. Thankfully there’s a healthier option made right here in Buffalo that might someday become the norm, instead of the exception.