History of Feeding Raw

List of contributors to raw feeding:

  • Natasche Wille
  • Michelle Bernard
  • Anne Jablonski
  • Dr. Pierson
  • Jeffrey Levy
  • Dr. Lyn Thomson
  • Anita Frazier
  • Shelby Gomas
  • Linda Zurich
  • Tracy Hotchner
  • Tom Lonsdale
  • Dr, Hodgkins
  • Wysong
  • James Spratt
  • Dr pottenger
  • Dr Weston price
  • Juliette De Bairacli Levy
  • Lan billinghurst
  • Pat lazarus
  • Dr. pitcairn


  • How did raw feeding get to where it is today?
  • Who were the originators?
  • How did commercial pet food originate?
  • Origins of AAFCO and why?
  • Raw feeding for dogs and cats-CARNIVORE SPECIFIC DIET
  • How were cats and dogs fed before commercial pet food was widely available?

How did raw feeding get to where it is today?

In terms of pet food, the concept of raw feeding is a relatively new notion. Traditionally, pet food has consisted of an extruded kibble product that comes packaged conveniently in a bag and can be left out in the food bowl all day for feeding convenience. But the multiple health issues and draw backs associated with this free feeding of commercially prepared foods has led some brave forward thinking individuals to the Raw Revolution. Pets are starting to finally get a diet that is biologically appropriate for their carnivore/omnivore bodies. The benefits of raw feeding are too numerous to list in just one article, but we will touch on those later, and many of you already know these benefits already. First, lets have a look at who brought us to this raw feeding we enjoy today.

Lets start with Dr. Francis M. Pottenger. Dr. Pottenger was really the grandfather of the modern day raw feeding movement, but he was not a veterinarian. Dr. Pottenger originally was studying the effects of adrenal extracts on tuberculosis and asthma, when he started to realize that nutrition played a key role in the health of an individual. To sum up a lifetime of amazing work for its application in this article, Dr. Pottenger noticed that the cats in his care benefited greatly from a raw meat and raw milk diet, while the cats fed a cooked meat and milk diet suffered several maladies that he attributed directly to the quality of diet. The doctor had several feeding trials that he conducted, very thoroughly, over generations of cats to support his hypothesis. The end conclusion? Cats fed a raw diet had normal development and were largely disease free, had normal healthy dentition and skeletal structure and gave birth to healthy litters with high birth weights and low mortality. The opposite was true for cats fed a cooked diet.

Dr. Pottenger’s findings were backed up by studies done by Dr. Weston Price. Although Price’s studies related more so to the maxillofacial development of humans with relation to proper nutrition as supported by his studies on 14 tribes of indigenous peoples, both doctors came to the same conclusion that health was maintained in an individual by proper nutrition. Consuming raw, unprocessed foods was the key to good health for any mammal. The Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation has been providing doctors and educators with nutrition based science and information since around 1953, the legacy left by both doctors to help the world be better nourished.

Many years would go by before these doctor’s findings would start impacting the pet food world. Many things started to affect Americans during the early 20th century that would stall the progress of raw feeding. When Dr. Pottenger started to develop his findings, America was in the midst of recovering from WWI and moving into the economic collapse of the Great Depression. Naturally, Americans were worrying about what they were going to have to put on their own dinner plates, their concerns for the four legged friends took a back seat to self preservation.

Around this time is when commercially available dry dog foods started to find their way into the mainstream American markets. In 1860, James Spratt came up with his idea of “dog cakes” after watching wharf dogs eat hard tack they had found on the docks of shipyards. Hard tack is nearly tasteless, very dense wheat based cracker type foodstuff.  It was cheap to make and offered some carbohydrates for immediate energy source, in a convenient biscuit like form. James Spratt was the first man to introduce a grain based kibble type diet as a type of pet food. He offered a product that was economical, easy to transport, shelf stable, and with optimistic labeling that made consumers feel that they were feeding their pets a healthy nutritious food. Before James Spratt and his dog cakes, Americans had been feeding their pet dogs and cats table scraps from their own meals, which had been supplemented with prey such as mice and rabbits that the animals would hunt on their own.

After all of the traumas of the early 20th century passed and the US economy had recovered, progress started moving forward again in pet food development. Canned dog and cat food had now found its way on to American store shelves. Canned food came about as a unique solution for a problem facing post WWII America. The horses used in battle no longer were needed and simply a financial drain on the US government. Service horses were sold to factories that utilized things like hoofs for glue and gelatin, hair for furniture stuffing, twine, toys and musical instruments. There was a lot of meat left over. There was no market for horsemeat for human consumption, however pet food companies capitalized on this cheap protein source and put it to use and profit by canning it as pet food. After the warhorses were expended, the same pet food companies continued to capitalize on this idea and started using the left over meat pieces from the food industry that could not be sold at full price for human consumption. This created a market for aftermarket meat products creating profits for two industries. Canned dog and cat food now had a place in every household with a pet.

The next advance towards bringing raw feeding to the attention of mainstream America happened with Dr. Richard Pitcairn. In 1981 he published his book on natural health for dogs and cats and further opened the publics eyes to take a good hard look at how we are feeding our beloved pets. While his book does not necessarily outline a strict diet of raw meaty bones, he did bring much needed and overdue attention to the fact that diet attributes to health. Dr. Pitcairn’s book calls for a new approach to basic pet care through diet modifications and natural feeding. Though many of his recipes include fruit and vegetable matter that carnivore diets do not support, the recipes he includes are a huge advancement over the commercially available diets that were available then and still are to this day. He explains how changing the diet to one that is more natural and healthy can eliminate common illnesses and ails and create sa much happier, healthier pet. This forward thinking approach to animal care steps away from trying to just treat the ailments and instead prevent the illness, not just treat the symptoms. Dr. Pitcairn did this with diet modification, which yielded excellent positive results! Much like Dr. Pottenger, Dr. Pitcairn noticed that changing the diet to a more healthy nutritious diet heavy in fresh and nutritious foods resulted in a healthier, more vigorous animal. While Dr. Pitcairn branched out into many areas of health care such as Holistic healing, herbology, homeopathy, naturopathy, etc. he acknowledged that the basis of health is directly related to diet. Even the best treatments cannot be fully effective if the diet is inadequate.

In 1909, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to regulate foods for companion and farm animal consumption. This organization was created to help ensure that domestic animals were being fed a diet that was nutritious. AAFCO has many purposes. They regulate state feed information (USDA), pet food registration and licensing ( AAFCO sets the guidelines that many state’s use for registration and licensing policies). AAFCO has also defined what ingredient definitions constitute so that the consumer can make sense out of the ingredients lists on the pet food they feed their pets. This also means that manufacturers must list their ingredients honestly, and in the order of the most plentiful ingredient first to the least plentiful ingredient last. AAFCO also sets the recommendation for minimum and maximum nutrients, as well as the recommendations for each state as to what will be required on the nutritional label. Generally the minimum requirement for pet food labels lists moisture, fat, protein, ash and fiber. AFFCO has established what each nutrient value should be for the complete nutritional break down for cats and dogs of multiple life stages, however, it is up to the pet food company to follow those guidelines for a complete and balanced diet. AAFCO does not regulate, test, approve or certify pet foods in any way. 

Dr. Pitcairn, with many others, goes on to also expose what is really in commercially prepared pet foods. Most notably, Ann N. Martin’s book, Foods Pets Die For, uncovers many unfortunate truths about the commercial pet food industry. The Pet Food Recall of 2006 really opened the eyes of many pet parents. This was the first time many pet parents truly questioned just what was in their pets foods, and questioned whether or not it was the most healthy and nutritious diet. Raw feeding pioneers like Dr. Ian Billingshurst and Tom Lonsdale, supporters of the Raw Meaty Bones diet, started getting attention as more and more consumers started to understand the benefits of a raw diet with raw meat, bones and organ meat for their carnivore/omnivore companions. Not surprisingly, shortly after the pet food recall, raw feeding gained more attention and raw food companies started cropping making raw feeding a more accessible option.

Dr. Lisa Pierson’s website, www.catinfo.org was instrumental in raw feeding for cats gaining some serious attention. Dr. Pierson was initially turned on to raw feeding after reading The Carnivore Connection in Cats, an article published by Dr. Deborah Zoran outlining the principle that cats are obligate carnivores that must eat a raw food diet to maintain health. Dr. Pierson went on to create her website outlining the benefits of raw feeding, and even recipes and recommendations for raw feeding. She includes pictures and detailed explanations of how feeding dry kibble food is detrimental to the health of a feline, and what can result from chronic kibble feeding (feline diabetes and urinary crystals, just to name a few). Dr. Pierson thanks Anne Jablonski, another contributor to the rise of raw feeding, for her contributions and gentle encouragement to learn more about raw feeding. Anne has helped many people learn the benefits of raw feeding over many years, including vets. Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, author of “Your Cat, Simple Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life” thanks Anne, Dr. Pierson, and several others for their contributions and encouragement to her very helpful and enlightening book. While everyone is generally unanimous in the opinion that feeding kibble is bad, the aforementioned people also go on to explain that raw feeding is the most optimal diet to offer our furry companions.

Several companies sprung up in response to this new movement for a carnivore specific raw food diet. Bravo, Rad Cat, Primal, Oma’s Pride, etc all started to offer raw cat food. Shelby Gomas of Feline’s Pride is also thanked in Dr. Hodgkins book for his contributions on raw feeding.