I've been feeding my dogs a raw diet for over twenty years now. Over those twenty years, I've learned a lot ... and the raw diet I feed my dogs today has changed from the raw diet I fed them twenty and even five years ago. One of the most significant changes to my dogs’ raw meals is the absence of chicken and other poultry. When I started out feeding raw, I used to love that chicken was inexpensive and easy to get … but today I think it’s better to skip the chicken altogether and splurge on other meats instead. Why?
Because feeding chicken and most other poultry creates two very significant nutritional problems that can cause health issues in dogs.
I know that’s a controversial statement, but before you start worrying about the cost of cutting chicken out of your dog’s raw diet, just hang in there … I’m going to first tell you why I no longer feed chicken but I’ll also show you some workarounds to make poultry less costly to your dog’s health.
Ready to start?
Good! But before I talk about the nutritional pitfalls of chicken, I want to first talk about what makes chicken different from other protein sources.
You Are What Your Food Eats
If it’s true that you are what you eat, the diet that’s fed to chickens is essentially what you’re feeding your dog … whatever the chicken eats, good or bad, is what your dog eats. The chicken is just the middleman. And the chicken’s diet is deplorable …
Here’s an ingredient label from a popular commercial chicken feed:
You can see the base of the diet is leftovers from plants after we humans process then and take all of the oils out. And if you’re wondering what dried bakery product is, it’s a mixture of bread, cookies, cake, crackers and flour – which are just waste from human food manufacturing.
Because the base ingredients are just waste and hold little nutritional value for the chicken, the feed needs to be supplemented with synthetic vitamins and minerals, as well as free amino acids. The waste products that make up the bulk of the feed provide calories and little else, so free amino acids, mineral oil and synthetic vitamins and minerals need to be added into the chicken feed to make it food-like.
Now, believe it or not, chickens aren’t supposed to be eating things like cereal, white bread and donuts … even when they’re fortified with vitamins and minerals. And when they do, it spells big trouble for the dog eating those chickens …
The Problem With Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Here’s the deal … we humans love foods that are high in something called omega-6 fatty acids. That’s because we love snacks and processed foods made with plant oils such as soy, corn and sunflower oils (which are really high in omega-6 fats). And the waste from all of those oils gets ground up and put into chicken feed.
Omega-6 fatty acids have the ability to make hormones in your dog. So does its antagonistic brother, omega-3 fatty acid. But the hormones they each produce have very different jobs.
The omega-6 fatty acids produce hormones that increase inflammation, which is an important part of your dog’s immune response. The hormones produced by omega-3 fatty acids work antagonistically and decrease that inflammation. So a balance between these hormones, and the fatty acids that control them, plays a large role in your dog’s immune system and overall health.
Not surprisingly, birds in the wild don’t eat corn or soybeans. They live on grasses and insects. And as you can see, there’s a huge difference between the natural grasses and bugs the chicken is supposed to eat and the corn and soy waste products he’s forced to eat:
While the foods the chicken is supposed to eat contain more omega-3 than omega-6 fatty acids, corn and soy contain ten times more omega-6 fatty acids. And this fundamentally changes the chicken … it makes the chicken high in omega-6 fatty acids because the chicken is what he eats.
The same applies to your dog. If you feed your dog that omega-6 rich chicken, he’ll get the exact same omega fatty acid imbalance the chicken had. You are what you eat.
And your dog won’t be in very good shape if he eats that chicken. Nearly every chronic disease, from allergies and joint pain to diabetes and kidney disease, is caused by chronic inflammation. And chronic inflammation is caused by a diet that’s high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids.
Are you starting to see why I don’t feed my dogs chicken? Chicken (and any other poultry) contains the highest amount of omega-6 fatty acids … by a landslide! Let’s take a closer look.
Chicken Fat Is Unbalanced
I wish I could find a better header than “chicken fat is unbalanced” but I don’t want to sound too alarmist. What I really want to say is “chicken fat is so unbalanced that it will cause chronic inflammation in your dog and he’ll never be able to eat enough healthy food to recover from it.” How’s that for a header?
But I want to show you why I’m so adamant about not feeding chicken. Let’s compare chicken to other meats you might feed your dog. And remember, we want to balance the amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to avoid chronic inflammation.