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When I started feeding a raw food diet, there were two main models – BARF and Prey Model – and no one could agree on which was the best. You can Google the definitions of each model and find varying descriptions shared by raw feeders. Below is how I tell them apart:

What is Prey Model Raw?

The Prey Model Raw diet is an attempt to replicate the diet of the Grey Wolf or another wild canine. Many people believe that all a dog really needs is a diet that is approximately 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 5% secreting organs, and 5% liver – which is an estimated make up of a prey animal like a rabbit. In my experience, it seems that most people who feed Prey Model Raw also feed more whole prey than ground food, however, both can be found in a dog's raw diet.

Critics of the Prey Model state that dogs have evolved over thousands of years and aren't true carnivores, while others simply site the missing nutrients in a Prey Model diet such as Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and iodine.

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Raw feeding inspo by @rawfedsasha 💕 . 🍗Last Nights Dinner 07/03/20 🦘Roo Chunks 🐄Beef Lips 🐖Pork Tongue 🐑Lamb Green Tripe 🦘Roo Liver 🌱Veggie Mix 🌱Berry Mix 🌱Chia Seed Jelly . @rawfedsasha @sasha_pointermix . Individual meals may not be an accurate depiction of a balanced diet. Meals are usually 550g to 750g. 1 meal a day. . #sashapointermix #rawfed #raw #dog #rawfeddog #pointermix #gspmix #labradormix #labmix #feedreal #feedrealmovement #rawfeed #rawfeeding #barfbornagainrawfeeders #feedmeraw #perfectlyrawsome #rawsome #whatsinyourbowl #speciesappropriatediet #rawfeedingcommunity #dogfoodporn #speciesappropriate #pmrdiet #barfdiet #abelshares #veggies

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What is BARF Model Raw?

BARF can stand for “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” or “Bones and Raw Food.” The biggest differences between Prey Model and BARF Model are the additions of vegetation and supplements to make up for the nutrients some say are lacking in a Prey Model diet. In my experience, BARF model diets appear to be primarily ground diets, however, they can be a mix of whole and ground too. Looking back, my idea that BARF model diets are ground stems from commercial raw diets being ground; most of them incorporate vegetation and supplements/vitamin mixes.

What is Better? Prey Model or BARF Model Raw?

Speaking with hundreds of raw feeders over the years, it looks like people feed a combination of both models, adjusting the diet to meet their dogs' individual needs. It makes me smile when people bicker about which model is right. I often find myself in conversations with strangers as they try to convince me that how I feed my dogs is wrong. When I point out that they don't know what I feed my dogs, then they switch to the argument that I don't have a right to share what I'm feeding my dogs on social media.

Wow! These people take #foodporn way too literally.

Over the years, I've tried both models and several in between and I finally landed on a model that works best for my dogs:

  • 80/10/5/5 ratio – 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 5% secreting organs, 5% liver
  • Fish or fermented fish stock for Omega 3 fatty acids (the fermented fish stock also provides probiotics)
  • Vegetables (or Dr. Harvey's base mix) for fiber and additional nutrients
  • Raw egg for a natural multi-vitamin
  • Duck feet for the crunch and to support joint health (although my dogs get a joint supplement too)

My diet shifts here and there depending upon what we have in our freezers, but, for the most part, this is what I feed my dogs. Someone referenced a Model called 80/10/10 Plus and that sounded right to me. Start with a base of 80/10/10 (or 80/10/5/5) and add additional nutrients as needed.

The more I thought about what people feed their dogs and who is right, the more I began to wonder if we all shared what model most closely resembled how we feed our dogs, would the results show that we're not all that different? I think so because, in the end, I believe we all shift to feeding our dogs based on their individual needs, what we can source, and what we can afford.

And that's when I came up with the following survey. It's completely unscientific and it's a little biased because I only shared the survey on my blog's Facebook page, on my personal wall, and in one raw feeding group (Raw Feeding 101 – Learn to Feed Raw). I was nervous about my request being tagged as spamming if I shared too much.

Below is the survey and the final pie chart, which collected 215 responses at the time of publishing this blog post.

What Raw Feeding Model Do You Follow?

30.2% – 80/10/10 Plus

When I was reviewing the results, I found that I made a mistake when creating the survey. I listed 80/10/10 Plus twice (the 21.9% purple and 8.4% blue section). This option received 65 votes total out of 215 votes, or 30.2% of the pie chart. The largest piece of the pie.

25.1% – Commercial Raw

The next largest section is Commercial Raw at 25.1%, which shouldn't surprise me given the rapid growth of the raw segment of the pet food industry.

20.5% – All of the Above

The third-largest piece of the pie went to “All of the Above.” This is the option I gave for people who feed a variety of ways depending on what they have on hand. Some weeks, it's prey model, some weeks it's BARF model, some weeks it's commercial raw. I wonder if I had an opportunity to speak with the people who chose this option if I'd be able to find a pattern in how they fed their dogs that would put them more firmly into another category.

8.4% – NRC

From there, the pie slices dropped significantly with the next largest piece being the NRC model, which is a model that follows the NRC guide, tracking macro and micronutrients in a dog's diet. Many people who talk to me about “the science of raw feeding” tend to follow the NRC guidelines when feeding their dogs and formulating meals for pet parents.

I thought that there would be a larger segment of people who selected this option. It may have received more votes if I had shared this survey more widely.

What I Learned About Raw Feeding Models

While the pie chart didn't have equal slices, I think the number of slices shows that we are following a variety of models when feeding our dogs a raw food diet. To me, it looks like raw feeders feed their dogs based on the individual dog, their sourcing, and their budget. Much the same way I do. For example…

Based on the Individual Dog

Rodrigo has EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency), which requires a pancreatic enzyme for his gut. Because of this, I'm devoted to making sure he has a healthy gut and add fermented foods to his diet. Rodrigo also has protein sensitivities, which, along with my budget, limit the number of proteins I can feed him so he doesn't always eat the same meals as the other dogs.

This week, Rodrigo is eating a diet of quail, while the other dogs are eating beef.

Based on the Sourcing

I'm blessed to be a member of a local raw food co-op, which makes sourcing easier than most. Therefore, I have access to a large number of proteins and other foods and supplements for my dogs and cat.

Based on my Budget

Although I'm a member of a raw food co-op, that doesn't mean that I can afford everything. Venison, elk, lamb, emu, and similar proteins have always been priced at a higher amount than duck, quail, pork, turkey, and beef. Can you guess which proteins my dogs eat regularly and which proteins I leave to ordering once a year?

Because I try to stay within a budget and have to consider Rodrigo's protein sensitivities, I know that my dog doesn't eat as much red meat as my other dogs. Since this is the case, I'm always on the lookout for red meat options that I will only feed to Rodrigo. I can order 1/5 of the amount, because it's for one dog, without breaking the bank.

Am I Feeding a Balanced Raw Food Diet?

Some may say that the 80/10/10 Plus model of raw feeding doesn't reflect a balanced diet for dogs, but I disagree. I think taking the time to learn what our dogs need (I created a nutrient spreadsheet), feeding a variety of proteins and other foods, and covering any missing nutrients (Omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, or iodine) will lead to a balanced diet.

I have the nutritional hair analysis results to prove it. My dogs are eating a diet that meets their nutritional needs.

This doesn't mean that the model you follow isn't nutritious. It means that 80/10/10 Plus is what works (and is right) for my dogs.

Read More About Raw Feeding for Dogs

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