Ever wanted to know how the whole kibble thing happened?

We have all fed our dogs kibble at one time or another. There isn’t anyone alive today that hasn’t seen a bag of dog food. It is part of our personal biography, our history of sorts.

And with my generation, there isn’t a person alive that hasn’t fed table scraps, dogs were the ‘composting garbage disposals’ of the household. We could literally brag of a ‘no waste’ household.

But then something went a bit off kilter due to extraordinary marketing. And people were taught that there was dog food for dogs and people food for people and they should not be shared, the end.

Kibble is not a natural canine food but rather a processed food, a food made by humans, for dogs, that is not a species appropriate food for dogs, just so we get that out of the way. And kibble is for convenience not optimal health, to also get that out of the way.

There are some veterinarians that defend kibble, crap kibble I might add, like it was a religious belief, and they are willing to intimidate and shame you into feeding it. There are even the ‘prescription diets’ that are pushed, and I would challenge you to find what ingredient on there is a ‘prescription ingredient’. As far as I have seen it is more of a propitiatory blend.

The Merck Manual for veterinarians states in their nutrition section the ‘minimal nutritional guidelines’, not what food creates ‘optimal health’. Big huge difference.

So then you have kibble just for puppies, active dogs, pregnant dogs, senior dogs, sick dogs, dogs with achy joints, obese dogs, lactating mama dogs, skinny dogs, kidney disease dogs, extra tall, extra long back, short muzzled, fluffy dog, and on and on. And at some point you have to stop and think to yourself, wow, how have wolves and coyotes survived on wildlife alone, and what deer constitutes food for their pups, verses the seniors, or fat ones, OR is it the same damn food! One deer for all life stages, one elk to feed the entire familial unit, one fish for mama and pup and granddad.

Oh ya, kibble is all about marketing, lots and lots of marketing.

The countries best marketing agencies have created an aura around kibble, of health, well-being, balanced, wholesome, and magical outcomes. They use marketing terms like Premiere, Optimal, Premium, Natural, Abundant, and Healthy, to draw us in like a moth to a flame. The kibble industry is today worth over $69 billion, so there is power there, financial, political, and marketing power.

So lets take a journey and look at why we have baked food in a bag known as kibble for our dogs, and how on gods green earth did this happen?


AROUND 10 A.D. – During the very first century, Roman poet and philosopher Marcus Terentius Varro wrote the first farming manual. In it he advised giving farm dogs barley bread soaked in milk (raw at the time), and raw meaty bones from dead sheep.

ROYALTY – Royal households as far back as the first century had in-house kennel cooks. They would make huge stews, consisting of grains, vegetables, meat, and offal. Offal consists of the hearts, livers, kidneys, tongue, and lungs of various livestock. And this has continued in Royal households over the centuries including Queen Elizabeth’s. Here love for her Corgi’s is known the world over, starting with Susan, the first Corgi of her own when she was just 18 years of age. To this day her Corgi’s are served a home prepared cooked diet. No kibble in the castle.

COMMON HOUSEHOLDS – Farmers and the like during the first century and later on offered dogs a much less lavish diet, primarily made up of leftovers, or what was about to spoil. This was considered a normal dog diet – crusts of bread, raw bones, potatoes, cabbage, and whatever they could scavenge on their own.

THE MAN THAT STARTED THE KIBBLE CRAZE – And then in the late 1850s, James Spratt from the United States went to London to sell lightning rods. When his ship arrived, crew members threw the leftover ‘ship’s biscuits’ onto the dock, where they were eagerly consumed by the waiting dogs.

It is said that Spratt had the idea that he could make cheap, easy-to-serve biscuits and then sell them to the growing number of urban dog owners. His recipe: a baked mixture of wheat, beet root, and vegetables bound together with beef blood. When Spratt’s Patent Meal Fibrine Dog Cakes came on the market in 1860, in east London, the pet food industry was born.


And it took off like fire across Europe, much to the thanks of a very ambitious Charles Cruft. Cruft was a very driven dog food salesman, and traveled across much of Europe drumming up business for Spratt’s dog food. It put him in contact with large estates, sporting kennels, and the first commercial dog breeders in the U.K. In 1879 while on a sales trip in France, a group of French dog breeders invited Cruft to organize and promote the canine section of the Paris Exhibition. By 1891 Charles Cruft had his own dog show, to promote dogs and of course commercial dog food, welcome the well know CRUFTS DOG SHOW.


THE INDOCTRINATION BEGINS – By 1964 in the United States, the Pet food Industry was spending $50 million a year on advertising, and lobbying for the now-gigantic pet food industry. PFI began a campaign to convince the pet population to stop feeding their dogs anything but packaged dog food. They funded their own in-house ‘reports’ that appeared in magazines, detailing the benefits of processed dog food, and even produced a radio spot about ‘the dangers of table scraps.’ There was no actual science behind their statements, it was a sales pitch of ginormous size. And it worked.

TODAY – The Pet Food Industry states that they are looking at another 4% bump in sales starting in 2018, and that consumer trends in human food like transparency, personalization, health, and wellness are also strong in pet food and will become more important in 2018. So look for those words on packaging, and ad campaigns, because they are coming your way!

And with all of this commercial pet food and marketing, there are also recalls. Recalls do to drugs, euthanizing drugs, hormones, accidental contamination, bad products, or poisons, that should not be in food in the first place. Some years there are about twenty recalls, and other years well into the 100’s.

It is your right to find the best possible food for your dog that is within your budget, and that does not mean that it needs to be kibble. Today we have – kibble, freeze dried, dehydrated, canned, home cooked and raw options to feed our dogs.

Many people are getting back to the basics of just adding ‘live food’ to their dogs kibble meals, better known as healthy table scraps like – whole fat yogurt, left over meat, squash, whole raw eggs, chopped up cooked greens, and raw meaty bones. This is the ‘gateway’ feeding option while pet owners learn more about dog nutrition, and move along to a healthier diet.

Pet owners today are researching and listening. The conversation of our dogs dying younger, with more disease is not lost on those looking for better options. And when you know that 84% of the dogs immune system is in their gut, well real whole living food is money well spent.

When we learn more we can do better – Nancy

8 Comments Add yours

  1. peacelovepointers says:

    I know this is a post about food, but I just wanted to say thank you, for all your puppy posts. They have helped me so much! I got my BC pup when she was 8 weeks old, and now she is 6 months. People in my family are big proponents of shock collars, something I will never use. They tell me I’m doing it all wrong by using positive training methods, and are shocked by the fact that she doesn’t act like a perfectly behaved adult dog, sometimes criticizing me pretty harshly. In response to the fact that she doesn’t yet have a 100% reliable recall, someone even said, “But you spend all this time training her! What the hell have you been working on?” I struggle with self confidence, and sometimes I think, maybe they’re right. But your posts help reassure me that I’m on the right track and that it is not only okay but completely normal that my 6 month old puppy behaves like a 6 month old puppy, not an obedience champion. So again, many thanks! You help me a lot.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      I love this for so many reasons. It takes time to stand up to people telling you you are wrong, and the best advice I can give you, and what I tell my clients is “put the blinders on to all of the distractions, and focus on the prize” – There is no such thing as a perfectly behaved 6 month old dog, they are just entering the flakiest developmental phase in their life and will be there for nearly a year, that is when things get rock n’ roll for a bit, but all of the foundation work will create a better functioning team during this time, and less conflict. – check out my article on the adolescent dog, it will be super helpful for you – All the best, Nancy

      1. peacelovepointers says:

        I will do my best to put the blinders on. 🙂 And I will definitely check out that article. I have been going and reading all of the puppy ones I can find on your blog.

  2. Mary says:

    I remember, from many, many years ago, a food processing company announced on black and white television that they were going to stop waste by using those items of food not consumed by humans to make a food for animals. We were feeding our dog left overs. I was a child and wondered why we would feed dogs foods we didn’t eat our selves. We continued to feed our dogs from the left overs and bones, etc. Later, when I was married and we had an old dog, the vet and my husband insisted I change from feeding her bones and leftovers to a senior dog food. I resisted for some time but finally caved and said we would try it for a few weeks. The dog went blind. I did research and found that the nutrients in the dog food did not support the dog’s health and we went back on bones and table food. I now feed raw and my oldest dog, at almost 11, is still mistaken for a puppy.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      this is so important for people to read and hear … THank you, Nancy

  3. Of course, humans are increasingly feeding themselves on “processed foods” 😦
    And never believe the advertising that tell you these foods are processed in their prime, Having worked briefly in a food processing factory I can tell you most of the food used are the left overs that didn’t sell at market or were spoiled. Just spend a week on the sorting belt at the factory cutting the rotten bit of the vegetables.

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