Friday, February 12, 2016

Food Friday: Alternative Protein Roundup, Pork Edition

My quest for Brisbane-safe foods has brought us a variety of pork-based treats and dog food over the nearly two years I've been blogging here. We've already summed up the venison- and rabbit-based goodies, so this week it's time to take a look at an often-overlooked alternative protein. I'm not a huge ham or sausage fan, but I think we can all agree that bacon is awesome. I even chop it into tiny pieces and toss it with various training treats to make them extra-awesome.

Why Aren't There More Pork-Based Dog Foods?
Red heeler with pink pig toy
Photo by Erin Koski

Chicken is by far the most common animal protein found in dog food, beef is the second most common, and lamb third in my own experience reading infinite ingredient labels. Pork is supposed to be a poor-man's meat, cheap and plentiful right? So why isn't everyone making dog food out of it?

The first reason I've heard for not feeding pork to dogs is trichinosis, or trichinellosis. This is a parasite transmitted through consumption of raw or undercooked meat of infected animals. The worms live in the muscles until the meat is eaten, then they are released to infect the new host. This used to be a major issue with pork in particular until laws passed in 1980, along with good food storage and handling practices like freezing pork for several weeks before cooking it. Today, trichinellosis is extremely rare, with around 20 cases reported annually in the United States according to the CDC. Most of these are not from consuming commercially-raised pork though, they are from eating raw or undercooked wild game meats.

The second reason I've heard for not feeding pork to dogs is because it supposedly causes pancreatitis. Given that Brisbane has eating tons of raw pork bones without developing it, I'm not terribly worried. The association mostly seems to be between dogs eating super-rich fat scraps and getting pancreatitis, and obviously pet food manufacturers are monitoring the fat and protein levels in their products. It mostly seems that some companies in the industry are leery of using pork just because of their customers' outdated or inaccurate information. This is actually a good thing though, because it means most dogs have never been fed pork, so it can be used as an alternative protein and part of an elimination diet.

Pork Dog Foods

It seems that some of the very best dog food companies use pork as an alternative protein. Primal offers pork-based versions of both their Nuggets and Pronto foods, and both of these use only pork and some veggies so they can be useful for helping sort out food sensitivities. Acana Singles Pork and Butternut Squash is the only kibble we've tried so far that only used pork protein.

Companies seem to be more likely to make canned foods out of pork, rather than kibble Wild Calling offers one that is just pork and vitamins to make it a complete diet. Fromm's Four Star Shredded Pork Entree is the most appetizing food we sell at work, if a dog won't eat that they won't eat anything. Nature's Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diets only offers a canned pork food, but offers a kibble variety for each of their other proteins. Natural Balance offers a wild boar and brown rice canned food, but no boar kibble. We got a carton of Caru Real Pork Stew in our November BarkBox.

Pork Dog Treats

All our favorite pork-based dog treats were discovered via BarkBox. The Bixbi Essentials Pork Jerky arrived in the 2014 December box. Two years ago we got some PetSafe Indigo Smokehouse Strips in our March box, last year we got some Healthy Dogma Bacon Hearts in the March Box. The August Box brought us some Wagatha's Maple Bacon Biscuits. Surprisingly, our favorite pork-based chew, the bacon-flavored Dogswell Boundless, did not come in a subscription box. 

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