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When we start saying our name more than we talk about the dogs, then something is wrong.
I returned home from SuperZoo exhausted, with a cold and fever, and a heavy heart. I realized that I may have attended my last SuperZoo. Of course, this may change come January, but what's clear is that I need a break and too many days in Las Vegas showed me that (1) I'm on the wrong track and (2) I'm burning out.
This is my SuperZoo 2019 recap. In prior years, I shared products that I loved and selfies I took with influencers. This year's recap will include none of that.
This is going to get dark.
Raw Feeding at SuperZoo
In past years, I would go from raw food booth to raw food booth, excited to see what they were bringing to the market. This year was different. I'm positive that there were raw food brands at SuperZoo, but I didn't see many of them. There was a time when SuperZoo had a “natural” section and that's where I'd run into many of the raw food brands. Now, it seemed like everyone was scattered all over the floor. There was no rhyme or reason to the showroom floor. I've been told that SuperZoo is the size of 50 football fields – imagine walking around and around looking for natural products, treats, and food in a space of that size. We had a few hours on Wednesday and Thursday to track down brands and we failed miserably.
I have nothing to tell you about what's coming in the pet industry other than kibble brands co-opting terms typically used by raw feeders – but this is nothing new. I can tell you that I'm concerned and in this post, I'm going to be straight up about what has me freaked the eff out.
Is Raw Feeding Dying?
I have several friends who worry about the future of their raw feeding companies because they don't feel that they can fight the FDA and related government agencies. If you own a raw food brand, it's just a matter of time before someone comes knocking on your door to put you on the path to a “voluntary recall.” And, on top of that, these brands have to deal with “competitors” trashing them to customers. It's ridiculous.
I sat comfortably in my role as a dog mom and blogger, not worried about these recalls and the other drama because I felt that it was a bunch of BS and didn't impact me. That is until RadCat closed their doors. And with one of our favorite brands, Answers Pet Food, suing the FDA (and other parties), I'm wondering if our right to feed raw is at risk.
But, it's not the FDA that has me concerned. It's the raw feeding community. Often when there is a series of anti-raw articles, I'll see people respond that the kibble brands must be running scared if they have to publish lies about raw feeding. I used to respond to the articles, laughing at how stupid they were, but I'm not laughing anymore.
The kibble brands are not worried about our influence on pet parents. They may have lost some money, but when we're talking about a SEVENTY BILLION DOLLAR industry, how much of a dent can 4% of pet parents make in their pocketbook?
A couple of years ago, I spoke with a publicist who represents several of the big pet food brands and she told me that they weren't worried about raw feeders. They have people in our groups that watch how much we attack each other. We can't get it together long enough to make an organized impact because we're too busy fighting about vegetables.
How many times has someone with fat dogs been shamed out of a group instead of guided towards healthier choices? How many times has a group member told someone they may as well feed kibble if they didn't feed raw a certain way? How many raw feeding groups out there have a list of names/websites that members aren't allowed to mention? And how many of us have been blocked or have blocked others in our community to get away from the trolling?
We're falling apart.
Why Kibble Brands are Smarter
While we're mired in drama, the kibble brands are creating “natural” and “raw” products for customers who want to feed their dogs a better diet. We don't see kibble brands attacking each other on social media. Nope, they're too busy marketing their butts off. One thing that stood out at SuperZoo was the number of kibble brands using “raw” in their labeling:
- Raw Coated
- Biologically Appropriate
It went on and on and in prior years, I would have laughed, finding humor that these brands will warn people away from feeding raw while using our terminology to promote their kibble. This year, I feel like I saw the truth behind what's happening.
Over the past few weeks, I've had several people approach me asking for advice and each person prefaced their question with a warning that they didn't (or couldn't) feed raw. I could tell that they were worried that I would judge them for their choice. One of the main reasons I switched my blog's focus to raw feeding was to create a place where people could learn and share without judgment, but people still felt judged.
My message of inclusivity isn't getting out there.
As I walked around SuperZoo, looking at the “raw” labels, a thought came to mind. These brands are allowing people to feed what appears to be a healthier kibble because they are using our terminology.
- How many people have I lost by only writing about raw feeding?
- How many people stay silent in raw feeding groups because they're afraid to ask questions?
- And how many people breathed a sigh of relief when they saw “raw coated,” in their local pet store and bought that food instead of attempting a fresh food diet?
Now, I know that not everyone can feed raw, but the thought that came to mind is the number of people who wanted to feed raw but were turned off by the aggressiveness in our community.
Kibble brands are smarter because they are paying attention to what pet parents want and meeting those needs. Raw coated kibble isn't raw, but many people think that it's a healthier option for their dog. Instead of bickering with each other about balance, we should be exploring if raw coated kibble is a healthier option. What's that coating anyway?
The Death of Raw Feeding
I woke up this morning with a sense of dread. Panic attack? Not feeling well? Or is it time for me to make a change?
Every community that is comprised of passionate people has its drama and the raw feeding community is no different. But how badly we treat each other astounds me. How can we say that we're here for the animals while tearing our colleagues down? We're all here for the same thing – to help pet parents raise healthier dogs and cats, right? So why would we waste a second making this goal harder for others? Our community has turned into our very own version of Gossip Girl and we're so busy talking crap about each other that we don't realize that we're losing people (both aspiring raw feeders and influencers) every day.
And while we're tearing each other down, the pet food companies are telling people that raw feeding causes DCM and that we're incapable of feeding a balanced diet mixed up in our kitchen. Veterinarians are saying that we're too ignorant to feed our dogs, that we have no concept of macro and micronutrients, and that we're making our pets sick.
We have a ton of work to do educating pet parents about the truth; we don't have time to fight.
I'm forty-f*ing-eight years old. I don't have the patience for the drama. And, with that said, I'm making a change because I no longer want to contribute to the negativity that I see every day on social media. I may not be actively tearing others down, but I'm on edge, my defenses are up, and I don't trust anyone. And this is ridiculous because we're talking about dog food – why so much stress over dog food?
The Future of Keep the Tail Wagging
Six years ago, I started my journey writing about raw feeding. When I go back to the first posts I wrote, I cringe. Yikes. I didn't know crap. That hasn't changed. Raw feeding, dog nutrition, dog behavior, dog training – all of it is a journey. Now that we have five dogs, I have an opportunity to explore more than raw feeding and I have my followers to thank for this epiphany.
Going forward, I will start writing more about my experience raising dogs naturally. There are many people to learn from and I have a lot to learn. Personally, I think that it's important that I pivot to include wellness as I continue my journey as a dog mom and raw feeder. My goal isn't to convert people to feeding raw, my goal is to inspire people to ask questions and make better choices.
And this is why I'm so excited about Keeping it Raw * a Seattle Natural Pet Expo. It's a day of people coming together to promote wellness. The reason why this isn't a raw feeding conference is that we want to be inclusive. A friend once said to me that when we start saying our name more than we talk about the dogs, then something is wrong. I feel that most of the drama we see is because we forget that we're here for the dogs and cats; not for the Likes, Followers, and Subscribers. It's nice to be liked, but what's nicer is when we help people.
I want to get back to helping people.
The Future of Raw Feeding
I believe that raw feeding will continue. I have been transitioning to DIY raw feeding myself and I know others are making a similar switch. As long as brands are out there educating their customer base about fresh food and willing to fight for our right to feed fresh, we'll be okay.
However, our push to go from 4% of pet parents to 5%, 10%, 25% has stalled because we're actively standing in each other's way, deciding who has a right to promote fresh food and who doesn't. Until we as a community begin embracing collaboration over competition, then the negativity we see will win and the dogs and cat we vow to help will lose.