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Raw Coated Kibble

Raw dog food has been increasing in popularity with pet owners in recent years. While it is highly palatable with minimal processing, raw food still raises some concerns with pet owners. This is because raw food can pose an issue when it comes to food safety and complete and balanced nutrients. To combat these problems, some pet owners are considering raw coated kibble as an alternative option. But is raw coated kibble really any healthier for dogs?

What is raw coated kibble?

As the name suggests, raw coated kibble is the combination of raw food and kibble. Raw meat is ground and dried during a process called freeze drying, whereby the majority of moisture is removed from the meat. This process allows the food to be stored at room temperature without the worry of spoilage. Dry dog food or kibble is then coated in the dried raw food to boost the palatability and nutrient density of the whole diet.

How is raw coated food made?

When it comes to making raw coated kibble, there are 5 general steps. 

  1. Picking the protein
  2. Freezing
  3. Primary drying 
  4. Secondary drying
  5. Coat the kibble 

Picking the protein

Almost any type of meat you desire can be freeze dried. The most common ones used in pet food are beef, chicken, and salmon but other more exotic meats like bison or venison can also be used as well. The meat is then deboned, ground and mixed so that it can be freeze dried.

Freezing

Freezing is probably the most crucial part of the whole raw coating process. When it comes to organic materials like meat, rapid freezing is key. If the meat is frozen too slowly, the expanding moisture can rupture cell membranes, creating an uneven consistency. This is usually done using a commercial freeze dryer to preserve its physical form.

Primary drying

During the second phase of freeze drying, the frozen meat goes through a process called sublimation. This is where the pressure is lowered and heat is added to the meat in order to draw out the moisture into a gaseous state. A vacuum is also utilized to draw out the condensate more rapidly. Primary drying removes up to 95% of the moisture from the meat, however it must be done very slowly in order to preserve the integrity and structure of the product.

Secondary drying

The last phase of the process is a secondary drying step to remove any additional moisture. This is done by raising the temperature higher than in the primary drying phase to break the ionically bound water molecules. These are the stronger bonds between the meat and the water. If done successfully, most freeze dried materials only retain between 1-5% moisture!

Coating the kibble

Once the meat is dried, it is crushed into a fine powder. Kibble is then tossed and coated in the freeze dried powder. Some companies may use a lipid adhesive to get the freeze dried meat to evenly coat the kibble.

Is raw coated kibble healthy?

Compared to a true raw diet, raw coated kibble is considered by many to be healthier for dogs. The raw coating on the kibble is an added boost of digestible protein and dogs still get the nutritional benefits of the kibble like vitamins and minerals. However, the effects of processing (like freeze drying) on meat is not yet fully understood or well studied. The processing of the meat may destroy certain nutrients like crucial amino acids - the building blocks of protein.

Is raw coated kibble good for picky eaters?

Palatability is the acceptance or preference a dog has for one food over another. In the pet food industry, a high palatability is something that manufacturers always strive for. It means that dogs like their food and customers will buy more of it. Dogs judge things with their nose first and if a food smells good to them, chances are it will also taste good. A few factors that influence how a dog smells and perceives their food is the protein and fat content of their food. Generally if a diet has more protein and fat, it is more palatable to them.

The extra meat in raw coated kibble boosts the protein and fat content of the whole diet. This means that it is likely to be much more desirable to dogs. As a result, picky dog eaters may be more inclined to find a raw coated diet more tasty than a traditional kibble.

Dangers of raw coated kibble

While raw coated kibble is generally more nutritionally balanced than true raw food, it still carries many of the same safety concerns. That safety concern is the potential for microbial contamination. 

Freeze drying does not kill 100% of the bacteria in food

Even though freeze dried meat contains very little moisture, many studies have shown that freeze drying does not kill 100% of the harmful bacteria that may be in the meat before processing. This includes bacteria like Salmonella, E.Coli, Campylobacter and Listeria that can cause food poisoning.

Pathogens in pet food are more dangerous to human owners than dogs

While food poisoning in dogs is rare, it is humans that are at risk when it comes to the contamination of freeze dried raw food. This is because dog owners are exposed to the bacteria when they are handling their dogs' food or through their dog’s saliva during playing and pets.

There’s even potential for bacteria exposure when owners are cleaning up their dog’s poop. One study from 2020 investigated differences in the occurrence of E. coli, Campylobacter species and Salmonella species in fecal samples from dogs fed raw food. Results of the study showed that feeding a raw food diet has a high pathogenic risk. It was noted that pathogenic bacteria in fecal samples were significantly higher in dogs fed raw food compared to kibble fed dogs. If freeze drying kibble does not kill dangerous bacteria, simply cleaning up after their dogs could pose a potential health risk to owners.

Has there been any recalls on raw coated kibble?

To date there are no cases of recalled raw coated kibble. There have however been freeze dried raw treats that were recalled for Salmonella contamination. These include OC Raw Dog’s Chicken, Fish & Produce Freeze Dried Sardines and Vital Essential’s Freeze-Dried Beef Nibblets in 2018. 

There have also been a number of recalls on dog food brands that produce raw coated kibble, even if it was not their raw coated kibble products that were recalled specifically. If you are concerned about pet food recalls, check out the FDA website.

Fresh cooked food as an alternative to raw coated kibble

If you’re looking for food for your pup that is nutritionally complete and balanced and highly palatable but doesn’t carry the same risk for contamination that raw coated kibble does, you may want to check out fresh cooked food. 

Fresh cooked diets utilize whole foods including a variety of meats, fresh veggies and fruits, and a balance of vitamins and minerals. These ingredients are then slowly and gently cooked to ensure that no nutrients are lost and that there is no risk for contamination. The fresh food is then frozen and shipped straight to your doorstep!

Kabo carries a variety of fresh cooked meals that pups love including:

All recipes are formulated to meet AAFCO standards and meet nutritional requirements for puppies and adult dogs alike. Moreover, all the ingredients are human grade which means they undergo higher standards for food safety and are less likely to have contamination issues. 

Still want to add kibble to your pup’s meal? Kabo’s got you covered with a number of healthy, fresh kibble options, also made from wholesome locally sourced ingredients, that can be mixed with and added to your dog’s fresh food for that tasty, kibble coated goodness!


Kibble and raw dog food bowl comparison
Kibble and raw dog food bowl comparison

View Sources

  1. Kabo. “What is raw coated dog food?” (2020). https://kabo.co/blog/what-is-raw-coated-kibble 
  2. MillRock Technology. “What is freeze drying?” https://www.millrocktech.com/lyosight/lyobrary/what-is-freeze-drying/ 
  3. Schlesinger, Daniel P., and Daniel J. Joffe. "Raw food diets in companion animals: a critical review." The Canadian Veterinary Journal 52, no. 1 (2011): 50.
  4. Beynen, Anton C. "Raw pet foods make raw claims." All About Feed 23, no. 5 (2015): 22.
  5. Gyles, Carlton. "Raw food diets for pets." The Canadian Veterinary Journal 58, no. 6 (2017): 537.
  6. Petful. “Dog Food Recalls: Is Your Brand on the List?” (2022). https://www.petful.com/recall-lists/dog-food-recalls/ 
  7. Runesvärd, Ellinor, Camilla Wikström, Lise-Lotte Fernström, and Ingrid Hansson. "Presence of pathogenic bacteria in faeces from dogs fed raw meat-based diets or dry kibble." Veterinary Record (2020).
  8. FDA. “Recalls and Withdrawls” (2022). https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/safety-health/recalls-withdrawals 
  9. Freeman, Lisa M., Marjorie L. Chandler, Beth A. Hamper, and Lisa P. Weeth. "Current knowledge about the risks and benefits of raw meat–based diets for dogs and cats." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 243, no. 11 (2013): 1549-1558.
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