Episode Rewind: The Science of Pet Food

Interview With Dr. Kurt Venator, Interview With Wendy Shankin-Cohen, Interview With Dr. Kelly Diehl, Interview With Logan Honeycutt, The Science of Pet Food Episode

Interview with Dr. Kurt Venator

Lorien Clemens: Happy Saturday, Pet Lovers! Today we are going to explore one of our favorite topics, the Science of Pet Food. Now, if you’ve ever spent any time on the interwebs looking up information about what to feed your pets, you know that it is a maze of opinions, conflicting so-called scientific studies, actual scientific studies and sometimes a whole lot of yelling. I’m looking at you, Facebook groups. So, in today’s show we’re gonna help you slash through that maze and help you get to the truth, so that you can figure out what is the best for your pet. There’s a lot of different things out there, a lot of things to dig about, so hopefully we can give you some good nuggets to lead the show with, so you feel a little bit more informed and ready to look at things with a scientific approach. So we’re gonna start today’s show off with an interview with Dr. Kurt Venator, he is the Chief Veterinary Officer from Purina. Dr. Kurt, welcome to the show!

Kurt Venator: Lorien, thanks for having me.

Lorien Clemens: I’m really excited to have you on the show today. I know that some of our listeners might hear the name “Purina” and instantly think “big money corporation” in a bad sort of way. And while I do kinda understand that passionate reaction to big business, I am the first to recognize that big corporations like Purina are contributing really really important research to the pet industry because folks like you have the revenue base and the resources and the team of scientists to do it. And I actually think that’s really exciting. So, Purina is known for outstanding research on diet and I would love it if you could talk about some of the maybe recent research that you guys have done, in regards to pet nutrition?

Kurt Venator: Sure, happy to. Well, I think, you know, to your point, one of the remarkable things about Purina is its commitment to truly understanding pets. I think it’s important first to keep in mind that we are pet owners and pet lovers ourselves and at Purina we truly believe that when pets and people are together, life is — it can be bigger and it can be better. You know, when it comes to that commitment, it’s important to recognize that we have over 5000 global pet experts at Purina working hard to advance nutrition every day. These are folks like nutritionists, veterinarians, behaviorists, toxicologists and other researchers and what we do is try to formulate diets that will help your pet live a long, healthy life. When I think about a couple of really cool breakthroughs, the first one I think of is a product that’s called Purina Pro Plane Prime Plus, it’s for adult cats, 7+. And this is really remarkable when you think about how we leveraged science to help older cats. So we just introduced Purina Pro Plane Prime Plus this year and it really is about breakthrough innovation, cats 7 years and older. It contains key nutrients that support lean muscle mass and a healthy weight and a strong healthy immune system, it also improves micro flora and all together this provides balanced digestive system functioning, also healthy skin. When you talk about the science behind the pet food, this is a perfect example. We conducted over a 9-year study, tracking a range of health measures associated with aging and general overall health in cats. We studied 90 healthy mix-breed cats between the ages of 7 and 17 and each was assigned to one of three diets, a complete and balanced adult control diet, that’s number one, the second one was a controlled diet with added antioxidants and the third controlled diet was then added with these proprietary blends, that’s actually found in Prime Plus. And what we found, now this is remarkable, cats exclusively fed a diet containing the proprietary blend found in Prime Plus from age 7 on lived longer than cats fed the controlled diet. Research also showed less of a decrease in body weight, lean muscle mass and skin thickness, all contributing factors to quality life.

Lorien Clemens: And is that the controlled diet, is that a standard? I’m assuming you’re using another [inaudible] food, but what was the controlled diet in terms of the, you know, qualities, so we have reference?

Kurt Venator: Sure, so the controlled diet would be appropriate for life stage and it would just be a complete and balanced diet. But what we’re doing here is we’re using the science and all the technological advancements to then use what I call these functional nutrients, it’s a proprietary blend of other nutrients to help these cats really thrive.

Lorien Clemens: Right. And I love the fact that you’re talking about those emerging technology, ‘cause obviously that’s something we talk about a lot on this show I how cutting-edge tech is helping change the way businesses actually approach product research and development. So, talk about a little bit about the way those emerging tech things have changed the way Purina approaches the nutritional research and food innovation you’re doing.

Kurt Venator: Sure. So, as I mentioned, we have a tremendous number of scientists dedicated every day to advancing nutrition. We also work with many external collaborators. In my previous role I had the privilege of working with all of the veterinary schools here in the United States, we also work with nutrition experts from around the globe. So we’re not only looking at it from a Purina lens, but we’re looking to take all the advances in pet nutrition and use those to help fuel the next innovation. I think another really great example that I think that shows how you can use nutrition to improve the health and well-being of pets is a product called Pro Plan Bright Mind and this really is a revolutionary formula. So we’ve been studying aging in pets for many, many years and we developed this nutritional breakthrough for dogs that are around 7 years and older and here’s the interesting fact: around age 7 the glucose metabolism, the fuel for the brain cells in a dog’s brain begins to change and this can affect memory, learning, awareness and even decision making. So what we did with this Pro Plan Bright Mind adult 7+ formula is we added these enhanced botanical oils that were shown to promote alertness and mental sharpness in dogs 7 and older and we were actually able to see visible results within as little as 30 days.

Lorien Clemens: Wow.

Kurt Venator: And this is [inaudible due to breakdown in audio], I mean, what — we’re showing that these enhanced botanical oils, the proprietary ingredients can actually promote memory, attention and trainability. And so this is where you can harness the power of science, the advanced that we’re doing not only in Purina, but also with their external collaborators, you can have these breakthrough nutrition products.

Lorien Clemens: Yeah, I think — this leads me to the next thing I wanna talk about, which is — let’s talk about some of the reputation issues that Purina has had to deal with. There’s this perception that veterinarians, shelters, gosh, they must be receiving some sort of “kick back”, some sort of compensation in order to have all of these Purina foods that are always available for sale in their clinics, in their shelter stores and stuff. But what’s the truth there? I mean, is it really because: ‘Hey, you guys have got the science to back this up’. That’s the reason that so many vets and shelters put your foods out there?

Kurt Venator: Well I think it’s important to recognize two points, right off the bat. First, veterinarians are trained for and are passionate about the health and well-being of your pet. That’s why we went to veterinary school, that’s why we love what we do. Many of us are obviously pet owners and pet lovers ourselves. That’s what fuels this energy and this passion. And I think when people look at this, it’s important for them to recognize that these diets are like other things that are used by veterinarians to improve health, these diets, especially these therapeutic diets, they should be fed under the guidance of a veterinarian as these foods are formulated to address specific health needs and may not be suitable for all pets. And here’s an example I’ll give you: many kidney diets, so this is for dogs or cats that may ultimately have a kidney condition, these kidney diets are formulated with reduced levels of protein and phosphorus. These lower nutrient levels have been shown to help in the management of pets with kidney disease. Yet these diets would not be ideal or even meet minimum nutritional requirements for a healthy dog or cat.

Lorien Clemens: M-hm.

Kurt Venator: Therefore, veterinary guidance is critical to ensuring the correct diet is being selected for the correct pet. In addition, and I think this is quite important: ongoing veterinary care and management is important when using these therapeutic veterinary diets because the health and well-being of the pet may change over time, sometimes due to a disease progression, sometimes due to development of other concurring diseases. So continued veterinary guidance [inaudible] care, things like physical exam, blood work or other diagnostic tests are important to access the effectiveness of the current treatment plan, which includes nutrition, as well as the development of an ongoing treatment plan.

Lorien Clemens: Yeah, it does — what you said, because we talk about a lot on the show, please don’t go to Dr. Google to identify what you need to feed your pet. [smiles] Really have that relationship with your veterinarian, particularly when you’re talking about these therapeutic things. I wanna switch gears just a little bit, because — and you mentioned, you have specific diets for cats and specific diets for dogs, they’re completely different nutritionally, and we’re actually gonna talk about that later in the show, about those differences. But there’s another thing that’s out there that people are getting more and more concerned about, you know, the concern with the uses of grains. And some dogs and cats have really high sensitivities, particularly dogs have really high sensitivity to grain, so how does Purina deal with it, because a lot of your products do have a grain base?

Kurt Venator: Lorien that’s a great question. Pet owners often ask me about pet food ingredients such as grains and corn and there is a variety of contradictory information out there. To your point, the internet can be a wonderful thing to learn information, but it’s really important for pet owners to make sure they’re looking at a credible trained source that’s putting out information. And again, I always say – the person that knows the most about the health and well-being of your pet is your veterinarian and his/her staff. The fact is grains provide important nutrients and health benefits for our pets. Through decades of nutrition research at Purina, we’ve learned that grains produce positive outcomes in both dogs and cats. Gram for gram, grains deliver more complete nutrition than the ingredients typically used to substitute for grains, such as potatoes. And people may not realize this, but it’s important to recognize it: grains are an excellent source of energy-rich carbohydrates, they also contain protein and antioxidants, including vitamin E and fiber, which is important to promote digestibility. Many pet food products are formulated with grains because they provide needed natural nutrients as part of a complete and balanced diet. So, based upon the research that we’ve done, based upon the research that’s been done by third party experts and a prevailing opinion among the veterinary community, both practitioners as well as experts, such as folks, boarded nutritionists at tough school of veterinary medicine, University of Tennessee school of veterinary medicine, Cornell University. [inaudible due to breakdown in audio]

Lorien Clemens: Yeah, and I think if your dog does have a grain sensitivity, again, work with your veterinarian to get a food that will help with that. I really appreciate your time today. Can you tell us where people can go to learn more about all the fantastic research that Purina has done?

Kurt Venator: Sure, interested pet owners can go to www.purina.com.

Lorien Clemens: Fantastic. Thanks so much, Dr. Kurt. I really appreciate your time today.

Kurt Venator: Lorien, thank you, appreciate it.

Lorien Clemens: Stay tuned folks; we are gonna talk about some other incredible innovations in the pet food arena and how pet foods are helping us combat disease. Plus I mentioned we’re gonna look at cat nutrition and some of the common misconceptions around it. We’re gonna be back with that and more on Pet Lover Geek on Voice America’s Variety Channel.

Interview With Dr. Kurt Venator, Interview With Dr. Kelly Diehl, Interview With Logan Honeycutt, The Science of Pet Food Episode

Interview Wendy Shankin-Cohen

Lorien Clemens: Welcome back to Pet Lover Geek. Up next we’re gonna talk about the power of food in the fight against cancer. We are gonna explore a brand new food line that’s just come out. It’s introduced by Dr. Harvey’s Fine Health Foods for animals and it’s specifically formulated to battle cancer in dogs. It’s super-duper exciting stuff and I’ve invited Wendy Shankin-Cohen, the president & CEO of Dr. Harvey’s to talk about the unique way that this food helps our dogs fight cancer. So Wendy, welcome to the show.

Wendy Shankin-Cohen: Thank you so much, I’m happy to be here with you.

Lorien Clemens: Really excited, I’ve always been a big fan of Dr. Harvey’s because you have such an innovative approach, in fact, you guys were big pioneers in the all natural category of pet food. And I’d love it if before we get into the brand new food, if you could just talk a bit about your vision and the approach that Dr. Harvey’s takes.

Wendy Shankin-Cohen: Well Dr. Harvey started talking about animal nutrition over 30 years ago. He was a physician for humans, but always had a deep love for animals and when he saw what was happening in the pet food industry in regards to feeding dogs dog food, he became very alarmed that the amount of disease and what he saw happening. And so, he’s always been a huge pioneer of feeding real food, whole foods, unadulterated foods, using really great ingredients, no additives, no preservatives, no fillers. So that has been the mission of our company for over 30 years.

Lorien Clemens: Yah, and I — you guys really have led the way in ultra nutrition and ultra natural stuff and it’s really incredible. So let’s talk about this brand new venture – the dog food Paradigm. How is this different than your other food lines?

Wendy Shankin-Cohen: So, we’ve been called ‘a solutions company’ for a long time. Our foods, all of our foods are premixes as well our already-made food, which is oracle, the freeze-dried food are all made to be solutions for pet parents who are looking for help. And each one of them has a slightly different formula and a formula that will help specific things. We are an answer to people who need an alternative, they have a dog that’s having issues and our foods provide the — that alternative. So Paradigm came about because I became very interested personally in ketogenic diet, actually started doing it myself and did it for a health reason and found that it was extremely successful, I’ve been a vegan for many many years and found that I was not able to correct a blood pressure issue that I was having and it was getting worse. So I started studying ketogenics and went on a ketogenic diet and then found that people were using this diet for dogs with cancer, it’s also used for dogs with diabetes and also with neurological issues. So, the ketogenic diet has actually been around for a long time, it was actually accepted into medical practice for children who had epilepsy, who did not respond to drug therapy. So, it came into practice and it is still today used for children with that condition. It also is showing great results in the canine world and there’s a wonderful sanctuary in Texas called “Keto Pet” where they’re actually taking dogs from shelters, who have various types of cancer, feeding them a ketogenic diet and they’ve been really doing a wonderful study and seeing the results. This past February I attended a conference in Florida where they presented their results and they’re having about a 60% turnaround in dogs with cancer using a ketogenic diet.

Lorien Clemens: Wow, that’s incredible. Okay, so I wanna ask two questions just to make sure that our listeners understand. The first one is: can you explain what ketogenic means?
Wendy Shankin-Cohen: Right. So, ketogenic diet actually means both for humans and for dogs having the body switch its way of using energies. So, normally, the body goes — works off of glucose. That becomes the energy source in our bodies and dogs’ bodies. And ketosis or putting your body to ketosis means that your body is now working off of ketons instead of glucose and the way that you do that is keep the body away from anything that turns into glucose, which is carbohydrates, sugar, those are the things that turn into glucose in the body. So the diet itself basically is very, very low on carbohydrates, very medium amounts of protein and high amounts of fat. So, by doing that, we starve the body of glucose and it puts the body into ketosis and the ketogenic diet shows that it will starve the cancer cells. So that — it very simply puts, that’s the way it works. So, low carbs, medium protein, high fat.

Lorien Clemens: Okay, and when you said a 60% turnaround, do you mean as far as like cancer reduction or cancer elimination. What does that turnaround mean?
Wendy Shankin-Cohen: So, tumor shrinking, various — and it was all different types of cancer. So, it wasn’t one specific type, they saw cancer going away, they found dogs getting completely cured, being cancer-free, they saw tumor reduction, it was quite impressive what happened there in their study.

Lorien Clemens: Wow.

Wendy Shankin-Cohen: And this is true with human as well. So, they’re continuing their work, in the meantime, when we found out about them, we were in the process of developing what we called at the time – a green food. So we wanted to make a food that was using only low-glycemic vegetables and healing herbs and bone broth, which is what eventually became Paradigm. So we’ve been researching it and have been in development for over two years, when we connected with Kido Pet and found out what they were doing there. So, it all kind of happened as one of those ‘meant to be’ situations, where they validated what we believed to be the best solution that we could offer to dogs with cancer, diabetes, it’s also great for dogs who have obesity issues and are not responding to other types of therapies, there’s a number of things, many numbers of things that we find seemed to improved with the ketogenic diet.

Lorien Clemens: So, this is really important, I think, for people to hear. It doesn’t necessarily mean: ‘Hey, if your dog’s diagnosed with cancer, you use this food’, but there’s other, you know, obviously other illness that this can go to, but, I guess, in the back of my mind I’m like: ‘Okay, so if I have a perfectly healthy dog, is this a diet that’s right for my dog to help prevent it, or should I be looking at other food lines from you guys?’

Wendy Shankin-Cohen: Well, that’s a great question and we’ve gotten it a lot — the food has been available for three weeks now, but we’ve gotten that question: ‘If my dog is healthy, can I feed this food?’ The answer is – absolutely. This is a very, very healthy diet for dogs to be used as a preventative, to keep them healthy, to keep them lean. Nothing could be better than using these type of very, very healthy mineral rich, vitamin rich, the vegetables — we know now that vegetables — just adding a little bit of vegetables to your dog’s diet helps, even if you’re not doing a ketogenic diet, just adding vegetables to your dog’s diet has been shown to be very helpful in preventing cancer and other ailments. So, yeah, it’s a great diet even for dogs that are not having issues.

Lorien Clemens: Okay, and I gotta ask the next question, [laughs] because, I know that at least especially the people like my husband listening, okay, that sounds like food that I would not want to eat myself, because it sounds boring. [laughs] So what kind of feedback have you gotten for taste and things like that? Do dogs wanna eat this food, is it yummy?

Wendy Shankin-Cohen: So, actually, it’s incredibly yummy, because it has the bone broth in it, which flavors it, it also has these healing herbs and we also have cinnamon in it, so it smells incredible. Cinnamon is an herb that helps with balancing blood sugar and of course, it’s all about balancing the blood sugar, not just for diabetics, but for cancer patients as well, because it’s the sugar that the cancer feeds on. So, we’re trying to keep the blood sugar balanced, keeping it very level, and we do that with certain herbs and of course with the vegetables. Palatability-wise we’ve done incredibly well, we’ve been testing it on 30 dogs here at Dr. Harvey’s and now we’ve headed out to over 800 people in population and the feedback has been wonderful. The thing about our food is that you add your own protein and you add your own fat, so, of course, dogs love fat, they love mea — that they can use raw meat or cooked, slightly, lightly cooked meat, we say. So, the other thing is that it provides a variety, because we actually encourage you to rotate proteins, so, just switch up the proteins. So, dogs that like chicken, you can use chicken one week and turkey and beef and fish and eggs, so you can really switch up the proteins and that seems to keep dogs interested over time. But we — palatability has not been an issue, we have dogs that absolutely love this food.

Lorien Clemens: Oh, fantastic. All right, so, we’ve only got a little bit more time and you guys have such passion for innovation, I’d love it if you could touch on some of the other special foods, ‘cause we’re talking primarily about dogs here, but you guys also do stuff for cats and for birds. Can you talk a little bit about other fantastic innovative lines you have?

Wendy Shankin-Cohen: Yeah, so Dr. Harvey’s has been around, as I sad, for over 30 years and we have developed foods for cats and dogs and birds, we have a complete bird line that’s quite unique, we use only human grade ingredients, real fruits and nuts and wonderful vegetables and everything that has a tremendous variety, both in texture and in colors, so birds love it, so have a huge following in the bird community as well. We also do herbal supplements that are whole-food supplements that are quite innovative in their formulation. No one has formulas like ours, we have them for seniors, we have them for puppies, we have them for dogs with joint issues, we have a variety of those, we also have a wonderful product that I adore, called ‘Runs Be Done’ which I a combination of pumpkin and apple, pectin and slippery elm that we use for dogs who may have had a dietary indiscression, so it helps to clear up any kinds of dietary issues. But our foods in general, Canine Health, Veg-To-Bowl — been giving these to dogs for over 30 years with great success. Canine health particularly known for its digestive issue problems, helping pet parents who are looking for answers. We have a huge population of dogs with kidney issues, unfortunately, and Canine Health is really helpful through that, as is Veg-To-Bowl. So all of our products are similar in that we make everything with great care and everything is done in our own facility in the United States, everything we use is sourced in the United States, we make everything still quite artisanal, it’s all made by hand under the watchful eye of doctor Harvey and everything is quite special. We love animals and we do it because we love them and it’s the reason why we do what we do and we continue to do it that way.

Lorien Clemens: Fantastic. Now tell us where folks can get Dr. Harvey’s pet food, how can they find it online?

Wendy Shankin-Cohen: So, the easiest way to find out about Dr. Harvey’s is to go to our website, which is drharveys.com and there they can find the independent pet shops that sell our products, as well as the online stores that sell our products. Everything is on our website.

Lorien Clemens: Thank you so much Wendy. I am so glad that you joined us today, thanks so much for coming on.

Wendy Shankin-Cohen: Thank you Lorien, I’m really pleased to be with you.

Lorien Clemens: And everybody else – sit, stay and don’t go away because we’ve got many more special treats for you on Pet Lover Geek after these few messages from Voice America.

Interview With Dr. Kurt Venator, Interview With Wendy Shankin-Cohen, Interview With Logan Honeycutt, The Science of Pet Food Episode

Interview With Dr. Kelly Diehl

Lorien Clemens: Welcome back to the show, pet lovers. We’re talking today about the science of pet food, and for the next segment, we’re gonna focus in on cats. It’s important to realize that dogs and cats, as would be expected in two different species, have completely different nutritional needs. So here to break us — break down some of the myths and misunderstandings about feeding your cat, we are thrilled to have Dr. Kelly Diehl from Morris Animal Foundation back on the show. Dr. Diehl, welcome back to Pet Lover Geek.

Kelly Diehl: Hey Lorien, it’s great to be back and I really appreciate being — having the chance to be back on your show and talk about pet nutrition.

Lorien Clemens: I’m excited about this. So this is really important and I know a lot of people who are so much out there on the internet and they start digging and a lot of people are like: ‘Oh, well I read this on the internet’. There’s a lot of misconceptions out there, misinformation even about there, flat-out myths and I really appreciate that you can help us dig through all of this. So let’s —

Kelly Diehl: Sounds great.

Lorien Clemens: Let’s start first with – there are differences in dog’s needs and cat’s needs and we’ve actually done quite a bit on dog’s nutritional needs. But you can’t — you know, people just shouldn’t think: ‘Oh, I’m gonna save me some time and money and feed them both if they’re both carnivores.’ [smiles] Can you talk a little bit about how dogs and cats have different nutritional needs based on their evolutionary development? They’re not just “carnivores”.

Kelly Diehl: Right, and you hit the nail on the head there, they are both in the generar category of carnivores, but first we have to know that cats and dogs actually evolved to hunting different prey. And so for those reasons, they developed down-certain different pathways as far as their nutritional needs. So cats are what are known as obligate carnivores and that means that they cannot manufacture themselves certain nutrients that dogs can and so they have — the best way for them to get their nutrients is through meat, basically.

Lorien Clemens: M-hm.

Kelly Diehl: So they have, for example, they need an amino acid called taurine and we can talk about that a little bit more, they can’t manufacture that, they have to get it from their food. Same with vitamin A and vitamin B12, an excellent source of those vitamins are meat and organ meats etc. so again, they have slightly different needs. The other interesting thing about cats is that dogs aren’t really — you know, we think of dogs, sometimes you’ll hear the word omnivores and that’s not really true. We are omnivores as humans, but dogs can, they can metabolize plant material to some degree and they can live and survive eating plant material, again, not optimal. Cats can’t do that at all. They actually don’t have the metabolic processes that allow them to break down plant material. Now, I know there are probably people out there going, you know: ‘I know my cat eats grass, but that’s really probably more as a digestive aid and not as a nutrient’.

Lorien Clemens: M-hm. And let’s — I want — I’d like us to just take us a little step further too, because, I mean, I’m sure there are also people that are out there like: “Well then why don’t I just chop up a bunch of fish and give it to them?” I mean, why do we have things like pet food for cats? Why do we have to go out and buy something commercial that’s been, you know, processed and everything like that? What’s the evolution of pet foods, especially for cats?

Kelly Diehl: Well that’s a really interesting question and I think it has a lot to do with how cats have evolved as our pets. For a long time, cats were working animals for us, they lived, right, a lot outside. It’s only been probably in the last half a century maybe, 50, 40-50 years that cats have really moved indoors, right? So, they’re not outside supplementing their diets with small prey, they are living in our environment now. And because of that we — I think there was a push to try to create some kind of balanced diet [inaudible due to breakdown in audio] let’s face it, convenient for owners that would fulfill the nutritional needs of cats and supplement them now that they were not getting the ability to supplement themselves outside. Now, because of that we have to be careful of what we feed our cats and you’re right, the tendency might be to say: ‘Well I suppose I’ll just go buy big hamburger and feed it to my cat’, but that’s not the same, right? As actually catching a mouse or a bird and eating organs and chomping on bones and that’s all kinda gross, but do you know what I mean–

Lorien Clemens: Oh yeah.

Kelly Diehl: — not this–

Lorien Clemens: — not the same at all. And that actually kinda leads us to the discussion too about, there’s a ton of controversies that are out there. If you go to the internet and ‘what should I feed my cat?’, you’re going to get all sorts of really deep discussions about it and there’s a bunch that are out there, there’s wet food vs. dry food, commercially processed vs. raw food, you know, free feeding vs. hunting based feeding [inaudible]. So, I’d love it if we could tackle a couple of those. Are you game?

Kelly Diehl: I’m game but I’m gonna disappoint your audience and say that I don’t think that there are any very clear answers out there. I will say there was a trend and we can remember it from when I was a kid that everybody thought: ‘Oh, hard food is great for cats, right? It’s gonna clean their teeth and all that’. There’s now a pushback on that towards wet food. There are some instances where wet food might be really optimal. First of all, it’s more like a prey, right? It has some fluid, there are folks who feel that, especially for elderly cats, we know that they get kidney disease a lot, it can help them increase their fluid intake when they’re eating more moist foods. So, I’ve seen a lot of veterinary nutritionists starting to think seriously about adding more wet food into a cat’s diet, the — vs. kibble and this exclusively kibble.

Lorien Clemens: Right.

Kelly Diehl: As far as the timing of feeding, same thing. I think a lot of folks fed their cats on a schedule, then we went into this whole idea of free feeding, but that’s not necessarily how they do it in the wild, so there are some advocates for not-free feeding and going back to a more scheduled feeding schedule, you know what I mean, like twice a day.

Lorien Clemens: Right, yeah. And there’s even like, even farther than that, I mean, we had Dr. Liz Bales from NoBowl on a few weeks ago and she’s got her new product out that actually imitates the whole idea of hunting and putting into small — 5 or 6 small, little containers are hidden type of thing and introducing that sort of, you know, hunting and prey-base feeding, rather than out of a bowl.

Kelly Diehl: Right, and if you remember from our last interview, when we talked about the enrichment, that can be all part of an enrichment scheme is the feeding schedule can be worked into that.

Lorien Clemens: Yeah, I think that’s fascinating. We actually have one at home and we’re trying to transition our very obstinate kitties over to that, [smiles] they haven’t yet taken to it completely, but we’re working on it. [both laugh] Now let’s talk about another controversy that’s out there and this is one I hear about a lot in my particular circle of friends frankly. Raw food diets vs. kibble or even canned food, what do you think?

Kelly Diehl: Well, you know, that’s a really good question and when I was in practice, I had several clients who really felt that raw food diets — their pets just did better on them. I don’t have a real firm stand that it would be you know necessarily ‘this is bad, you shouldn’t do this’. I think where I’ve seen the most comments is being cognizant of the pros and cons of raw food as far as health for the people, you know, handling the food, if you have small children in the house, raw food can have, just like if we were handling raw chicken, there’s always the possibility of some kind of contaminant salmonella always being the one that we think of. And so just being cognizant of that and how you handle it is something that’s important. The other is, I’ve had some clients who really wanted to use a raw food diet and they went to a veterinarian nutritionist and there are several groups out there, many are based at universities or some independent folks who will balance your diet and help you create a diet. If you go to them and say: ‘These are the ingredients that I want, help me figure out a way to feed my animal.’ And they’ll work with you on it. It grew out of what we used to do for people who had animals that we wanted to create a diet and needed to help balance, but it’s really blossomed into helping not just animals with diseases that need special diets, but any animal that we wanna create an optimal diet and we wanna incorporate ingredients, we wanna use what’s the best way to do that.

Lorien Clemens: M-hm. And talk up too about, because this is another kinda — it’s a kinda offshoot of maybe the raw feeding, is a gluten-free grain-free and a real push to avoid anything that has grains or wheat particularly in it for cats.

Kelly Diehl: Right, and you know that — though I can’t say I’ve seen any real hard scientific data that falls one side or the other. In theory you can understand how that might be something we can consider, because that’s certainly not what cats — you know, they’re not really — carbohydrates are not always — you know, that’s not how they evolved, eating a lot of carbohydrates.

Lorien Clemens: Right.

Kelly Diehl: And unlike some other species, cats can actually derive energy from protein quite efficiently, and so I think that cutting down on the carbohydrates — and there are a lot of commercial diets, right, that are more high protein lower carbohydrates for cats, carbohydrates include rite, gluten and wheat. So maybe just thinking of it in terms of a low carbohydrate diet vs. [inaudible] gluten-free. It may come down where we decide: ‘Well, you know, gluten-free diets are better for cats’, but truthfully I’ve never seen anything scientifically based that tells me we should absolutely stay away from it.

Lorien Clemens: Cool.

Kelly Diehl: Does that help?

Lorien Clemens: Oh yeah, it absolutely helps. Now, we only have a little bit of time left, but I would love it if you could just touch on maybe some of the new research that’s being done right now, some current nutrition studies?

Kelly Diehl: Sure, we have a bunch and as you know, our founder, Dr. Mark Morris Senior, that’s really how his claim to fame, which is he was one of the first people to develop a prescription diet. So, we’ve had a lot of diet studies over the years, one [inaudible] that’s really interesting is we’re doing run-on the use of avocado extract as a supplement in obese cats and the first arm in the study was just completed, which was looking at the effect of avocado extract on obese cats and I can’t reveal any of that data yet, but the numbers are being crunched and now they’re in the second arm, which is looking at this supplement as a prevention for obesity. And the idea is that avocado extract, for a lots of complex reasons has been proposed to sort of drive metabolism to be more — to metabolize fat in preference to other energy sources. So the idea is that if you have an obese cat, then it would preferentially metabolize fat, rather than carbohydrate. And so we’ll see how that goes, we have one looking at vitamin D, but that’s more dog-based and as far as vitamin D and cancer and we just completed one on the BPA in cans and whether that can be detected in the blood stream of animals. You know, BPA is something that we’re all worried about for humans,

Lorien Clemens: Right.

Kelly Diehl: Because it’s — of its hormonal effects and so we’re looking at that as well. But the avocado extract is the one — the big cat one we have going on right now, which is really cool.
Lorien Clemens: Oh, I’m excited to see that research when it comes out and I’m sure we’ll have you back on the show to share it with us. So thank you so much for your time Dr. Diehl, I really appreciate it.

Kelly Diehl: Well I really appreciate you having me on again Lorien. It’s been great.
Lorien Clemens: Thank you so much. Hang tight pet lovers, we have a really unique new pet food in our last segment. You’ll never believe where they source the protein for their kibble and that’s coming up next on Pet Lover Geek on Voice America’s Variety Channel.

Interview With Dr. Kurt Venator, Interview With Wendy Shankin-Cohen, Interview With Dr. Kelly Diehl, The Science of Pet Food Episode

Interview With Logan Honeycutt

Lorien Clemens: Welcome back to Pet Lover Geek. Today we’re talking about the science behind pet foods and our last segment is soooo cool. I’ve met these folks last month at Global Pet Expo and I’m really excited to bring them on. They’re called ‘Bare It All Foods’ and basically it makes you ask a question – Where does my pet food protein come from? I mean, most of us know that okay, it’s beef, or pork, or chicken, or fish, maybe duck, lamb, even bison, or something exotic like elk or something like that. But most of these proteins are farm based, mass produced animals that are raised specifically to either be a human or an animal food source and one of the big ugly truths out there is that our animal based protein food sources have a huge negative environmental impact, it’s just the facts. So, now, with his company Bare It All Foods, our canine and feline friends can’t be vegetarians, but with this company, they can actually be eating food using animal-based proteins that actually have a positive environmental impact. So I’m really excited today to welcome Logan Honeycutt, he’s the president and founder of Bare It All Foods to come on to Pet Lover Geek. Welcome to the show.

Logan Honeycutt: Thank you so much for having me. I’m honored to be here.

Lorien Clemens: We — I’m excited. As you know when we met at Global, I was so excited and I just want you to tell everybody why you started this company? Why do this?

Logan Honeycutt: Yeah, we started this company because I used to work in the food industry and I would always see all these different protein sources that were being used and you hit the nail on the head when you said that all of the proteins that are used today, they’re all farmed, they have a tremendous negative impact. If you look at chicken farming, the impact that it has on water waste through waste run off, things like that, it’s very, very high, so I knew that we wanted to start a company that could do something good for the environment and that’s really what our crocks of our company are, that’s what we base everything that we do on. It’s what is gonna be good for the environment and what’s also gonna be the healthiest possible options for your pets.

Lorien Clemens: Awesome. So, now tell everybody, ‘cause I’m sure that they’re really curious – what is your food — protein source for your foods?

Logan Honeycutt: So, we’re a little bit different than your standard dog or cat food company. We use an invasive species as the main protein source, we use — specifically, we use Asian Carp. There are big, big problem here in the mid-west, we’re based out of Chicago and these are the fish, if you’ve ever watched Youtube, you might have seen, they are the ones that jump out of the water whenever boats pass by. So everybody thinks it’s kinda funny how people are getting hit with these fish, but what they don’t realize is the devastating impact that they’re having on the environment, wherever they go, because they’re actually vegetarians, they’re filter feeders, they eat algae and plankton, which, you know, that sounds great, but that’s the same food source that all native species need after they hatch, that’s what they eat. So, wherever Asian Carp are present, native species cannot survive. So it’s doing a lot of harm to the environment, but it also happens to be wonderfully healthy for your pets.

Lorien Clemens: What — just real quick so that the people that aren’t really sure what invasive species means, can you give a little — what does that mean, invasive species?

Logan Honeycutt: Absolutely. So, invasive species are non-native plants or animals that are brought over through human interactions. So humans are the crocks there, where they bring them over and they have negative impacts either to human health, environmental health or just the ecology of wherever they exist.

Lorien Clemens: Right. So, by using these invasive species, you’re actually taking them out of the environments that they’re hurting. And how do you do that? I mean, I’m just curious, like how do you get them?

Logan Honeycutt: Yeah, so we actually work with local fishermen, actually Asian Carp, once they were introduced to the US, they’ve put a lot of commercial fishermen out of business. So what we’ve done is we’ve contracted with these local fishermen to actually go out and now fish for Asian Carp, so we’re actually giving them, essentially a job back.

Lorien Clemens: That’s incredible.

Logan Honeycutt: So they now have it instead to go out and fish worm. So it’s a really nice side-benefit of not just removing them from the environment, but also being able to put people back to work.

Lorien Clemens: That’s incredi — that just gives me chills actually listening to that. That’s incredible! So let’s talk though about — because I know, and especially with fish-based foods, people go: ‘Uh, aren’t there some safety issues with fish that you need to be aware of?’

Logan Honeycutt: There absolutely are safety issues with fish, like any ocean-based or carnivorous fish, you’re gonna get build up of heavy metals, in particular mercury’s – the big hot button one though the food chain, because, you know, if you’ve got a little fish that gets a little bit and then a larger fish eats a whole bunch of those, they’re gonna get that built up on their system. One of the major benefits of Asian Carp is that they’re vegetarians, so they’re filter feeders, so they don’t get that build up of heavy metals throughout the food chain, so it’s a wonderful alternative protein source for all pets and humans as well. It’s just, here in the US, not a lot of people eat it, but in China and South-East Asia where they’re from, millions upon millions people eat the every single day as a dietary stable.

Lorien Clemens: So it’s a good tasting fish then too? It’s not one of those fish that’s like: ‘Ew, I don’t wanna eat that, ‘cause it doesn’t taste good.’ It’s good, right?

Logan Honeycutt: Oh man, if you’ve never eaten it, it tastes like a cross between scallops and crab meat.

Lorien Clemens: Oh.

Logan Honeycutt: So it’s buttery, it’s sweet, it’s really, really wonderful. It’s just — it’s a very bony fish, so it’s hard to get a good clean fillet off of it, but if you wanted to do like a Thai-style fish cake, oh, it is wonderful.

Lorien Clemens: Oh, awesome. Okay, so you’ve got the taste down, it’s safe and I love the fact that you guys are helping out local fishermen and things like that, but there’s a lot of other invasive species that are out there, I’m thinking like Chicago area, my mind first went to lake Michigan zebra mussels. What about other invasive species, why just the Asian Carp?

Logan Honeycutt: Well, we picked Asian Carp specifically, because they are having the largest single impact of any evasive species in the Unites States. So that’s what we’re tryina do is create a marketplace for them, but long-term we are looking into other invasive species as well, like, you mentioned the zebra mussels, those are something we’ve been exploring down in Florida. I’m not sure if you’ve heard about all pythons they’ve been having issues with down there.

Lorien Clemens: Yeah.

Logan Honeycutt: We’re exploring using them. Lion fish, off the coast of Florida and the Caribbean causing tons and tons of environmental degradation wherever they go. So, that is in our long-term plan and we really want people to understand that just ‘cause they’re different and maybe a little weird, doesn’t mean they’re not a great protein source for your pets.

Lorien Clemens: So how about price? I mean, this sounds great, it sounds wonderful, it makes everybody certainly the warm, fuzzy factor is huge and the fact that we’re helping the environment, I’m sure it makes an easier self for a lot of people, but at the end of the day, people are going to be looking at price and this sounds like it could be quite expensive to have this type of protein sourcing. So what’s that look like for you guys?

Logan Honeycutt: It’s actually pretty reasonably priced because there is no market for it, there’s currently no demand, we are literally the only company in the country that is doing a commercial-based product with Asian Carp, so that helps us to keep cost low, but there are a few issues, you know, we had to build our own supply chain. But once we get enough demand going, the price is actually just gonna keep dropping. So, it’s a wonderfully reasonable protein source, as compared, if you wanna get venison or el or bison, those are very, very expensive. So this is a good, healthy, fairly inexpensive option for most pet owners.

Lorien Clemens: Okay, so tell people about the product line. Like, what can they get for their dogs or their cats?

Logan Honeycutt: Absolutely. So, we’ve launched our line of — the brand is called ‘Go Bear’ and it’s three different dog treat products and we actually, just two weeks ago launched our first line of cat treats. They’re all limited ingredient, that’s one of our major things that we do here, it’s we wanna use as little as ingredients as possible and we wanna be very straightforward and honest with our customers about exactly what’s going into them. So, we actually put the ingredients right on the front of the package so you never have to worry about any mystery ingredients that are going in there like – what is soy lecithin, you know, most people aren’t gonna know that. So, we use — we call it the pantry principle where we use ingredients that you or I or anyone is likely to have them in their home and we use whole food sources for everything. So, it’s gonna be — if it says ‘mango’, that means that we’re gonna use a mango in there.

Lorien Clemens: [laughs] Not like an essence of mango from some chemistry lab or something.

Logan Honeycutt: Exactly.

Lorien Clemens: Awesome. So tell everybody where they can get them.

Logan Honeycutt: Yeah, we’re carried in 200 stores throughout the United States, [inaudible] in the mid-west, the Bentley’s pet stop is our biggest channel partner. We just expanded to the west coast in some smaller, independent stores, but hopefully you’ll be seeing us all over the United States relatively soon and you can always order through our website at bareitallpetfoods.com.

Lorien Clemens: Awesome. And that’s bare B-A-R-E…

Logan Honeycutt: I-T-A-L-L.

Lorien Clemens: Great, perfect. Even though you do have an adorable bear as your logo, I love it. Well thank you so much for coming on the show today Logan.

Logan Honeycutt: Ah, it’s my pleasure and you know, we really appreciate you helping us spread the word about how good Asian Carp are for pets and humans and the issues they’re causing to the environment.

Lorien Clemens: Thank you and I cannot wait to see what else you guys do in the future, I’m excited to see what’s next. That’s all we have time for today, folks. Thanks to all of my guests today who helped me talk about the Science of Pet Food. Make sure that you come back next week to Voice America’s Pet Lover Geek, when we are going to dig into some really awesome new innovations to help pets with anxiety. And that’s what’s coming up next Saturday morning on Pet Lover Geek on Voice America’s Variety Channel.

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Tune into the episode The Science of Pet Food