Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: November 1, 2022 by Crystal Uys
This article is part of a series sponsored by Balanced Blends, a raw pet food company, answering some of the most common questions around feeding a raw food diet to your cats.
Today we’re exploring the question of whether or not raw food is safe.
At a glance:
- A nutritionally balanced raw diet that meets AAFCO’s requirements for pet food is healthy and safe for your pet.
- Sourcing high quality, government inspected and approved ingredients, from known sources, is a key step in producing safe raw pet food.
- Some raw food companies also use techniques like high pressure pasteurization (HPP) in the food’s final packaging to destroy pathogens and prevent recontamination, which also contributes to the safety of the food.
- Following appropriate food-safety handling techniques will ensure your family, both human and furry, stay safe and healthy.
Is raw pet food safe?
As raw food has increased in popularity, so have the articles that talk about safety issues associated with it. The number one question is whether or not raw food is safe. The answer is it depends on a few different factors, some controllable and some not. By being informed about the factors that influence safety, you can choose the best raw diet for your furry friend.
In addition to quality ingredients, it’s important to ensure your pet’s raw diet is properly nutritionally balanced for their long term health. Health issues caused by an unbalanced diet may not manifest for years. Cats are obligate carnivores, so it’s important to look for foods that meet their nutritional requirements: ideally, the diet should contain no vegetables, fruits, or grains. It should be free from fillers, large bone pieces, artificial preservatives or food coloring. You also want to make sure there is a good balance of vitamins and minerals, and that the food has the right ratios of Omega 6:3 and calcium to phosphorus, as well as linoleic acid and taurine.
Second, as with any meal for humans or pets, quality ingredients play a huge part when it comes to safety. Ingredients sourced from trusted manufacturers that have passed U.S. safety standards are much less likely to cause issues for your pet’s health or your own. Become familiar with labels and the words that companies sometimes use to hide potentially dangerous ingredients. Look for companies that are transparent about their ingredients and where they are sourced. Ideally, look for ingredients that include USDA-inspected meats that are antibiotic free, cage free and grass fed, with no added hormones.
Third, for the health of your human and furry family, it is important to apply pathogen control processes to all ingredients, ideally in final packaging, to minimize the possibility of recontamination. HPP is one way that companies work to ensure their food is safe for both pets and their owners. The food is placed in a water bath and subjected to a very high amount of pressure, which then destroys the pathogens that might be present in the food.
A note from Ingrid: While some raw feeders feel that HPP processing alters the quality of the food to the point where it can no longer be considered raw, I think it’s an effective way to eliminate potential pathogens that only minimally affects the integrity of the final product. I feel that HPP provides added peace of mind, especially for those new to raw feeding.
An additional safety measure utilized after HPP is the test-and-hold protocol, where food samples are taken from the beginning, middle, and end of the production line and lab tested for pathogens. The food is held in cold storage and released only when the test results come back negative.
Finally, it’s important to follow safe handling procedures when serving raw food to your pet, just as it’s important to follow those procedures when cooking dinner for your human family. The FDA suggests the following safety measures:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after coming into contact with raw food or items that have been in contact with raw food (countertops, food bowls, spoons, etc.)
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that have been in contact with raw food.
- Keep raw food frozen until ready to use, and thaw in the refrigerator, not on the countertop.
- Keep raw food separate from other food.
What questions do you still have about a raw diet for your cat? Ask us in the comments!
This series is sponsored by Balanced Blends. For more information on their Raw Dinners for Cats, please visit their website.
FTC Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, which means that I was compensated to feature this content. Regardless of payment received, you will only see products or services featured on this site that I believe are of interest to our readers.
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.