(and a 20% discount off Natures Menu's website at the end of this post!)
I can't pinpoint exactly why we've never addressed this publicly before - it's probably because of not feeling confident enough (ironic when the French are known to eat their meat raw, and one of us is a chef who knows a lot about food hygiene and that handling raw meat for dogs is just the same as handling raw meat for humans) Marcel has been fed a ready-made raw food diet since Summer 2017, when we're at home or on the go with access to a fridge.
I won't get into some aggressive preaching about how every dog should be fed a BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet - just like everything in life, it isn't for everyone, or every dog. Those of us who care for our furry family members are all on the same page though when it comes to wanting what's best for them - because they deserve it so much.
Why we changed from a dry to a raw food diet is a complex story for another time, but the best decision we made for Marcel's health and wellbeing was switching him to a raw food diet.
Here are seven benefits of raw feeding in collaboration with Natures Menu, UK and Europe’s leading experts in raw and natural feeding (Marcel is fed their Country Hunter raw nuggets range):
1 - Human-Grade, Traceable and Honest Ingredients and Production Methods
One extremely important point for me - the ingredients list on Natures Menu Country Hunter packs is transparent and clear. Many pet brands include main ingredients such as "meat meal", or "meat derivatives" (without specifying what animal they come from or what cuts they are).
Natures menu's food is developed and approved by a team of passionate professional vets and pet food experts. The company selects human grade meat and fish cuts, blended vegetables, fruits and healthy carbohydrates. British suppliers and ethical product sources are used wherever possible and products are produced with good welfare standards as they liaise directly with the grower, farmer or meat provider.
Processing and packing is done in the company's own production facilities in Norfolk, which have been built in line with all EU and UK legislation for the manufacturing and distribution of raw meat products.
2 - Variety and Reduction of Allergies/Intolerances
If your dog is allergic or intolerant to grain, gluten, or specific proteins (such as chicken, beef or lamb) like Marcel is, then it is important to know exactly what you're feeding them. Many dry or wet food diets contain cereals and the generic "meat derivatives/meal" (with no info on what animal those come from or let alone what cut).
With the grain-free Natures Menu Country Hunter raw nuggets, the ingredients are clear (so we know which ones we can give him or not depending on his intolerances). Most varieties contain a single protein source, meaning that they can be introduced gradually and one by one (see end of this blog for more on transitioning), which thoroughly helps when it comes to finding out by elimination which food causes reactions.
Introducing more than one protein not only means more variety for your dog (and less risks of them "going off" their normal food), it also means making sure that - just like us humans, they get introduced to more variety and less likely to have an upset tummy. As long as you know it's not one the dog is intolerant or allergic to, changing flavours is actually beneficial and recommended when raw feeding.
3 - A Softer, Shinier Coat and Healthy Skin
We often get complimented about Marcel's shiny and super soft coat (despite fluffy corgi coats being notoriously tricky to keep untangled and looking good).
Again, just like for us humans, "nurture and nature" are at play here. That said I'm persuaded that the raw feeding plays a great role in this. What "goes in" shows on their looks and behaviour. Carefully selected fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fats can give dogs a glossy coat and may help to improve skin issues.
We have several friends who also feed their pets a complete raw diet and those dogs (and cats!) look fantastic. When I am out capturing other dogs for a client (since I am specialising in photographing couples and families with pets, but also capturing imagery for pet businesses) and one has a particularly shiny coat, when I ask them how they achieve this the answer is most of the time "she/he is raw fed".
4 - Increased Vitality and Healthier Weight
Another compliment we get at the park is on Marcel being still so puppy like and playful and energetic at the park (considering he is now over 7 years old so technically a middle aged, almost senior dog) and how healthy and thin he looks compared to the corgis they sometimes see. Just like all dogs, healthy corgis should also have a visible waist, tucked belly and ribs should be felt with just a thin layer of fat. Excess weight is not good on anyone nor on dogs, especially those with short legs and long backs that are prone to joint issues.
Marcel was never overweight but always had a kg or two to lose - it's so easy to fall into a pattern of killing them with kindness and falling for those sad puppy eyes. Two years after switching to raw feeding we found out that he has joint issues (due to genetics and the lack of testing when breeding). By that time he'd already lost a bit of weight thanks to the change of diet and we decided to have him lose a bit more to not add pressure on his joints (which our vet confirmed was the best thing to do) and he is now boasting an ideal body condition score.
Because raw food contains healthy carbohydrates, it makes weight management much easier and dogs' energy levels are more stable too.
5 - Fresher Breath and Cleaner, Whiter Teeth
The cause of bad breath in dogs is the very same as in humans: poor diet and dental hygiene. By the age of three, most dogs have some form of gum disease, tartar buildup and plaque (and most dogs are dry fed) and require to get anesthetised to have their teeth cleaned by a vet. Of course there are other causes to bad breath (such as liver and kidney issues) but those are far rarer (always double check with a vet in doubt though).
Unlike some brands confidently claim, the shape of dry food offers no abrasion on the teeth and does not help with dental hygiene, on the contrary. The carbs found in highly processed dog food (corn, wheat, rice, barley and potatoes) are very starchy which results in brown teeth unless brushed thoroughly every single day. In addition, dogs do have a more limited ability to digest starchy types of grain than us humans, which means they struggle to cope with digesting meals and diets containing them.
Giving a dog raw meaty bones does act as a natural toothbrush. Marcel has been enjoying a small beef marrow bone once a week for the past three years , supervised. Again I am sure that good looking teeth are a matter of nature and nurture, but at over seven years old he has never needed his teeth cleaned by our vets, who just a couple of weeks ago complimented us on how good his teeth looked considering this and his age.
6 - Firmer, Less Smelly 💩
A stinky subject dog owners talk about, a lot! Because a raw food diet does not contain carbs with no nutritional value, transitioning to such a diet can result in harder, smaller and less smelly and much easier to pick up stools in just two weeks. The firmer poo may also allow for anal glands to express naturally.
7 - Widely Available in Stores and Online in the UK
Raw to your door: the Natures Menu range is available online via a number of e-commerce platforms or can be delivered direct to customers via its own fleet of freezer vans and local depots across the country. Free delivery is available with a spend of over £29 at www.naturesmenu.co.uk .
Stockists: The range is stocked by a broad range of pet shops across the UK, from major pet chains to the smaller independent ones
Transitioning to Raw Feeding
Prior to agreeing to this trial (several months before this review so we could make sure it was something that suited Marcel and that we would recommend), we've used Natures Menu Country Hunter complete and balanced raw nuggets on numerous occasions. We also feed him their frozen beef marrow bones (under supervision always) once a week which contribute to his healthy teeth. What we love with the product is that, in addition to all of the above, it is super easy to thaw and portion, and available in a lot of different flavours.
Now Marcel was already raw fed before the trial, so the transition consisted mainly in gradually re-introducing different proteins to make sure he was not fed one he was intolerant to.
We were guided by Mel, the lovely veterinary nurse who is the brand's veterinary educator.
The transition from a wet/dry diet to raw feeding that we did in 2017 would require to gradually introduce the new food, mixing it with the previous diet until it replaces it.
For more in-depth information on this, the product ranges and tips on raw feeding, head to the Natures Menu website.
Last but not least... a discount code (for dogs and cats)!
With the code "MARCEL20" you'll get 20% off the entire Natures Menu range (raw food, wet food, dry food and treats)!
Min spend of £10 on www.naturesmenu.co.uk
Offer expires end April 2021
Available to all (i.e. not limited to new customers)
Limited to 3 uses per customer
Do you have any question? Head over to the Natures Menu website for a chat or don't hesitate to ask us questions in the comments here or on our Instagram!
DISCLOSURE: this post was written as part of a paid collaboration with Natures Menu, involving a six week trial prior to creating content for the brand. Marcel was fed the brand before this trial started and is still enjoying their Country Hunter raw nuggets and treats as of January 2021.