Lots of dog owners are buying into the clean homey branding of “Honest Kitchen” dog food. Like all decisions that are based on marketing sway rather than reality, it deserves a bit of scrutiny.
Freeze dried is not raw
In general, as I mention in the e-book, people are mistaking dehydrated or freeze-dried food for raw or home-prepared food, and that’s just part of the problem. They are not the same. More about that later.
In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at Honest Kitchen in the context of what we already know about AAFCO-approved commercial dog foods.
First, we have to look at the ridiculously meaningless information we find under the obligatory “Guaranteed Analysis”. The pet food industry likes to act as if this is the same as the “nutritional information” panels that are found on human food, and most consumers buy the bluff. I call it a bluff because if people could see a truthful representation of what this product provides in their dogs’ diet, they would not buy it. Human food labels leave a lot to be desired, not to mention the industry-influenced Recommended Daily Allowances (“RDAs”) they’re based on, but they at least have some information that can be used, if one knows how to filter it. In the pet food arena, labels are not used for even marginally useful information, but for deception and pretense.
What are they hiding exactly?
It is common, for example, to find that the given percentages of a product don’t even add up to 100%. This begs the question, what is the rest of the food composed of? In the case of Honest Kitchen’s “Whole Grain Turkey Recipe”, for example, the percentages all totaled equal only 65%. Both protein and fat are provided as “minimums”, which means consumers can’t know from the label how much of either is in the food.
Fat is what producers typically want to hide, that’s why butchers are always so careful to package meat with the lean side up. So, that fact, along with what is known about the typical fat content of commercially grown turkey, means we can safely assume that the fat category is where the missing 35% belongs. This means the product could be as little as 22% protein and as much as 50% fat. AND, importantly, that is very conservative considering that both percentages are probably based on WEIGHT, rather than the more appropriate percentage of calories. This is the same trick used by dairy producers to claim that some of their milk is 2% fat. Fat weighs much less than both muscle AND water. So, calculating percentages on weight makes the product look lower in fat and higher in protein than it really is.
Why is “ash” listed on the label?
Well, it’s only theoretical ash. The food isn’t actually burned. You see, pet food manufacturers have traditionally included in their products lots of cheap stuff that wasn’t in demand on the human market, like bones and feathers. (Many still do, of course; in fact, it could be argued that’s the whole point of the pet food industry.) Burning is the only way to know how much bone and feather-type wastes are in the food. That’s because minerals are the only constituent of food that leaves ash. A high ash content used to mean a high content of these waste products. But we now know that bones are a healthy component of dog diets. In fact dogs do not thrive without them.
When a raw food with a proper percentage of bone is burned, it might also yield a high ash content, but it wouldn’t mean anything bad, OR good, necessarily, which means it’s meaningless. I note that most of the raw dog food manufacturers are no longer including ash in their ‘guaranteed analyses’, so perhaps they have realized it means nothing. On the Honest Kitchen label, it likewise means nothing. Including it is yet one more disingenuous show of transparency. How do we know that? Because they use the deliberately obscure “minimums” to tell us next to nothing about the important ingredients that everyone wants and needs to know about.
Home-made means made at home
In the world of marketing, the flagrant misuse of language in order to deceive consumers has become a science taught in every university in the world. It may seem like a small point, but does re-hydrating a food render it homemade? Can I add water to kibble and consider it “homemade”? Along with the word “homemade”, Honest Kitchen also notes proudly on its package that the product is manufactured in a human commercial kitchen. A kitchen might be better than a factory, although what’s really important is obviously what comes out of it, but the pertinent fact is that the food is manufactured in some kind of commercial facility, which means it is patently NOT homemade. Are we really this easy to bamboozle?
Looks are not always deceiving
If you’ve ever served the gloppy mess that is created when water is added to Honest Kitchen to a dog, you might wonder what’s in it a dog would love. And there’s no denying that they love it, every bit as much as toddlers love Twinkies. But then, you might reckon, not much of what dogs typically eat is appealing to us. I mean, dogs ARE a completely different species with a different set of food selection criteria. True as that may be, the foods that nourish them are in the very same range that nourishes all other species on earth! And none of them look like the disgusting grey gruel that Honest Kitchen produces when water is added to it.
Do not be deceived into thinking it’s not disgusting just because it appeals to dogs. When food is cut into tiny particles, it is made much more vulnerable to oxidation (spoilage) and when it is further processed (dried or freeze-dried), there is even more damage to the food. It may eventually be packaged in airtight containers but oxidation nevertheless occurs, and adding water in no way reverses this process. Compare the ingredients in this food as they appear on the packaging to the indeterminate slop in your dog’s bowl. Are they the same? No. You CAN believe your eyes.
Poop (“Poo” is a bear named Winnie. Rant over. )
Let’s face it, all commercial dog food produces revolting poop. But I can’t help noting that the only thing worse than how Honest Kitchen looks going in is how it looks coming out. Poop is never pleasant, of course, but most people don’t realize that dog poop does not have to be as utterly foul as it typically is when dogs are fed commercial dog food. People who start feeding their dogs real food are always pleasantly surprised at the improvements in that area. In healthy dogs, meat days produce poops are small, compact and dry with no odor. Plant days cause bigger poops but they are similarly not unpleasant to clean up. By contrast, I will spare you a description of the vile, smelly, typically loose poops that are produced by this food.
Poop quality would be a small thing if there weren’t a lot of other arguments against feeding Honest Kitchen. And it might be worth cleaning up unspeakably smelly messes if there was some offsetting benefit, but there just isn’t.
Fake fragments of foods in Honest Kitchen
It’s a testament to the amount of damage done to the ingredients in this product by the processing that so many nutritional supplements are added. Producers have the same ill-gotten idea that most of the public do, that nutritional supplementation can somehow take the place of real nutrients, and consumers actually believe that the inclusion of these fake powders in food is a good thing. But in study after study on both humans and animals, this has been shown to not be the case.
In Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s book “Whole”, he cites studies that show that people with risk factors for disease (such as smokers and lung cancer) were found to succumb to disease at a lower rate if they eat lots of REAL nutrients but had a higher incidence if they got these nutrients from supplements. That’s one reason why he says in this video that focusing on the specific nutrients in foods is a “scam”.
These fake nutrients that are in dog foods not only add greatly to the cost of the product but make it much more costly in terms of bodily energy for your dog to digest, as well. That’s because since the body cannot use them, it must simply eliminate them, and this contributes to the overall waste load.
That’s why I don’t recommend the use of any nutritional supplementation at all, except perhaps digestive enzymes for a dog temporarily during transition to a home prepared diet, and only then if the dog is having difficulty digesting real food. The beauty about feeding real food is that you never have to worry about nutrient deficiency. The nutrients are still in the food!
Food combining issues in Honest Kitchen
Like most other dog foods that attempt to be all things to all dogs, Honest Kitchen contains foods that a wild dog would never have had occasion to combine in the same meal. Throughout their biological history, dogs have eaten meat when they can get it, and plant foods (mostly fruit) when they can’t. A dog with a belly full of meat or the conditioned expectation of getting meat everyday will not eat plant foods. Plant foods are secondary sustenance for times when prey is scarce. My book explains this fully for those who are interested in learning what role plant foods can and should play in the diets of dogs.
The problem with combining the two in the same meal is that one requires alkaline digestive chemicals to be broken down and the other requires acid. Everyone with even a passing knowledge of chemistry knows that acid and alkaline neutralize each other. What this means in practical terms is that more of the food will become waste and less will actually be utilizable by the body. In a proper dog diet, both plant and animal foods are included. However, to make digestion a clean, effortless process, they must be fed separately.
Cost of Honest Kitchen products
$50 worth of most Honest Kitchen products will feed an active 20-pound dog for two weeks. That means it costs $100 per month plus whatever an owner has to spend on vet bills, which are all but guaranteed if a dog is fed this high-fat, denatured crap. For that same $100/month, a home-feeding owner can give his/her dog the best food available (ALL of which is available in any ordinary grocery store) and all but ensure NO vet visits. It involves a bit more than dumping powder into a bowl and adding water, but isn’t your dog worth a little bit of effort?
As I’ve noted many times, people who feed their dogs properly have dogs that do not get sick. My last dog lived to be 19 with no vet visits after I started properly feeding him at age 9. My extended family have experienced similar results. Hundreds of others have had the same success, even if their dogs started with chronic sickness. This is the expected, predictable norm, because we’re only following the dictates of nature, our only objective teacher.
What’s different about Honest Kitchen?
For all the misbegotten loyalty that Honest Kitchen has cultivated in its customers, you’d think there would be something remarkably different about it. But I’ve been unable to find anything about it that makes it more “honest” than any other. I don’t think there’s anything anyone could objectively point to that would refute that conclusion.
It’s just another example of how the marketing industry in general, and the pet food industry in particular, have made credulous fools of consumers. All they have to do, apparently, is describe a product any way they like on the label, and POOF! It magically fits the description. At least in the minds of trusting consumers. And to those who are profiting, that’s all that matters.
I have occasion to interact with dog owners everyday who are feeding Honest Kitchen with the idea they’re doing their absolute best by their dogs. They are always perplexed and distressed that their dogs are still sick, and they invariably start looking down blind alleys like “allergies“, genetics, past vaccination, etc., or trying other “high quality” commercial foods. It’s only when their dogs get well after a period of proper feeding that convinces them that there are no healthy commercial dog foods, including Honest Kitchen.
Real homemade food isn’t difficult, expensive or time consuming
It is only mental manipulation from the pet food industry that has you thinking that dogs should be fed powder or kibble from a package while humans need fresh, whole, recognizable food. All species need real food in order to be healthy. There’s no doctor on earth who would tell you that eating processed food at every meal is healthy, yet that’s what almost all vets recommend. Please, for your dog’s sake, defy the marketing hype, take back your power, and learn how to feed your dog like you feed yourself and the rest of your family.