Safe Food Handling For Raw Pet Food
We all want our pets to have the best nutrition available, but it's also important to understand what it means to safely handle a raw food product.
No food is inert. Even dry foods contain bacteria. It's the safe threshold of bacteria that presents a problem in most foods and it's that threshold that needs to be managed.
If you want to feed healthy pet food that's free of artificial preservatives, it's especially important to also make sure that food is fed as fresh as possible.
What To Consider When Feeding Raw Food?
Raw food has a lot of benefits, but we need to be aware that there are some health risks associated with raw food when not prepared properly.
There are 3 important factors to consider when feeding your cat or dog a raw food diet:
1. Your Pet's Age
Younger animals have a more delicate digestive system and may not be able to tolerate certain foods as well as older animals can. For example, certain raw bones may not be suitable for smaller dogs or older dogs.
2. Your Pet's Health
Pets with certain health conditions may need special dietary considerations as to how much, what and how often they are fed.
3. The Meat's Safety
Raw meat should be handled carefully and stored in the refrigerator until it is ready to be served to prevent contamination from bacteria such as E Coli and Salmonella. Only buy raw pet food that is labeled as human-grade to to ensure top quality and safety. All of our raw barf dog food meals contain only human-grade meat.
What Are The Dangers Of Bacteria In Raw Pet Food?
We live in an era where we are more germ-averse than ever. Some dog owners fear feeding anything to their dog that hasn't been ultra-processed and pasteurised. Sadly, this kind of processed diet is not optimal for a dog's health. The other consequence of a processed commercial diet is a dog that has never been given the chance to develop a robust digestive system is more likely to be susceptible to food-borne illnesses like E.Coli.
It's important to remember that bacteria are all around us, all the time. It might be a little gross to imagine this, but it's a fact of life. All food contains bacteria of some kind, within the product and on the surface. It's the acceptable levels that are the source of concern, not the presence of bacteria in the first place. While food is not sterile, we should certainly expect it to be safe.
Digestion And Natural Anti-Bacterial Safeguards
Much like ours, the stomach acids of dogs and cats serve as a powerful anti-bacterial while digesting food. However, being carnivores and scavengers, dogs and cats naturally have a much greater tolerance to bacteria in raw meat. It's the basis for their natural diet after all.
Dogs have survived for thousands of years eating raw food. Most of us would have seen our dog eat pieces of garbage or rotten food, with no ill effects. A dog's digestive system is far more robust than any human's. They have enzymes in their saliva and stomach that destroy most bacteria. In fact, their stomachs produce hydrochloric acid up to 10 times stronger than humans. Food passes through their digestive tract at a rapid pace, allowing little chance for bacteria to survive.
Since their teeth are made for tearing rather than chewing, they need a much more powerful digestive system to process food in larger chunks, their saliva helps as a first line of defence.
In saying all this, we should still keep their food as fresh and nutritious as possible, preserving the natural nutrients, while limiting unnecessary additives or fillers.
Preservatives in pet food are probably the greatest source of concern of fresh food advocates. There's no doubt that they do their job, they kill bacteria or prevent bacteria from reproducing.
The problem is, that while they kill bad bacteria, they also indiscriminately kill good bacteria that would actually help with digestion in the gut. The most common preservatives used in pet food also have known carcinogenic properties that contribute to early-life cancer.
When feeding preservative-free food, we need to manage this balance and take steps in the way we handle our food to discourage bad bacteria from reproducing.
All of our products contain no preservatives.
Raw Pet Food Safe Handling Guidelines
There are a few basic guidelines you should follow when handling any food, which applies to your Raw & Fresh food also.
- Keep the food cold. Bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures. We deliver in insulated boxes and keep the food temperature controlled for the entire journey. While the food will last at least 10 hours in the box after delivery, the sooner you put it away, the better.
- Freeze the surplus. Freeze any food you don't intend to feed within 1-2 days and thaw in the fridge before you feed it. If you take a pack out of the freezer and put it in the fridge when you feed your first fresh pack, you'll keep a rotation of food that's always defrosted safely in the fridge.
- Keep airtight. While it's not a big risk, raw meat can turn brown in the fridge if left exposed to oxygen. If you seal any unused portion in the fridge and remove the air from the pack, it'll keep fresh longer and look better. Our bag sealing clips are ideal for this.
- Feed in one sitting. Food should be consumed in one sitting. It's best not to let pets graze on food anyway, but especially so with raw food, which can attract pests like flies or can spoil very quickly when exposed to heat and air. Don't put the food back into the fridge after it's been out for a while. If you have a fussy pet, try our fussy pets guide for some help to make them eat their food in one sitting.
- Wash your hands. Always wash your hands before and after preparing raw food.
- Wash their bowls after each meal. This goes for any food. Leaving food in the bowl invites pests and bacteria, even if it's just invisible residue.
- Pass the smell test. Since most of our recipes contain offal, they will smell stronger than plain mince, but the smell of rotting meat should be obvious. If your meat smells rotten, don't feed it. Even if your pet can stomach it, it's not worth the risk. You can always reach out to our customer service team if you have any doubts.
For our products, there are some golden rules to follow to help keep everything fresh.
- Unpack the box before refrigerating. It should go without saying, but putting an insulated box into the fridge or freezer without unpacking it will simply preserve the temperature inside. The insulation is designed to retain temperature, so if you're trying to cool it down, it won't work. Make sure you unpack your delivery before putting it into the fridge or freezer.
- Leave proper air flow between the packs. The air in the fridge needs to circulate around the products to speed up the cooling process. If you pack the products tightly, it will reduce the surface area and slow this process. Leaving a small gap between packs will help here.
A lot of people get this wrong, especially with their first order. Bulk pet food packs have special requirements when it comes to cooling and keeping them fresh.
Since these packs are larger, their bulk means they change temperature more slowly than other packs. Keep this in mind.
- Don't freeze intact. A solid 2.5kg block of food will take much longer to freeze and also much longer to thaw, meaning you risk exposing the product to a higher temperature for longer. They should be divided into smaller portions.
- Portion upon delivery. While bulk packs are great money-savers, they do take some effort to divide into portions. It's easy to leave this task until later, but we strongly advise you do it straight away before freezing. Seal into smaller packs, removing the air in the pack, then freeze. Our bag sealing clips are handy for this.
- Don't leave in the fridge for days. Once opened, raw food should be eaten within 24 hours. Don't leave this big pack in the fridge for days, scooping it out on demand. Please see instructions above.
Always check the shelf life of the products you're feeding and follow the directions.
Our recipes have the following shelf life:
- 3 months frozen. Each pack has a unique label for the frozen best before date.
- 2-3 days sealed in the fridge. Unopened and kept cold, you can safely keep a pack in the fridge for a few days, assuming it's well-sealed.
- 24 hours opened in the fridge. Once opened, you should feed a pack within 24 hours.
These are very conservative estimates, but they should be followed to stay on the safe side. Varying conditions will change these times, so it's best to stay on the safe side.
As mentioned above, the best way to stay on a routine is to put aside 2-3 days worth of food upon delivery and freeze the rest. Each time you feed a pack, take another one out of the freezer and thaw it in the fridge. By the time you feed the last fresh pack you put aside, the first frozen one should have thawed in the fridge.
If you repeat this cycle, you'll never get caught out and always have a fresh pack ready to go.
Ask For Advice
Most importantly, we're here to help. Raw food safety is as much about protecting you as the food handler and dog owner, as it is about protecting your pet. Reach out anytime to our customer service team by email if you have any questions about the safe handling of your products. We're just as committed to safety as we are to a healthy diet. These things aren't mutually exclusive when feeding fresh raw food.
We're very responsive during business hours and you can expect a quick, friendly reply if you contact us.
Buy Fresh Pet Food Online
You can visit our raw pet food catalogue to compare recipes.