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The History Of Kibble

Written by Ella White


Dog eating kibble

The history of dog food began with their natural prey, which they hunted for in packs before the domestication of dogs began over 18,000 years ago. Since then, wisdom surrounding the best and healthiest ways to feed our pets has evolved drastically.

In this blog we’ll look specifically at kibble, how it came about as the dog diet of choice, and what we know now about processed foods and their effects on our pets.

When Did Dogs Start Eating Kibble?

As humans domesticated dogs, they began feeding them their own ‘human’ food just as we sometimes throw our pups safe table scraps. This eventually developed into not only a reliance on being fed by humans rather than hunting, but also an evolved digestive system that was able to accommodate starch and sugar for the first time.

Dogs have up to 30 genes that are able to digest starch while modern wolves – which dogs descended from – have just two. So by eating their owners’ potatoes, cereals, meat scraps like bones, and other foods they essentially developed the ability to digest foods like kibble.

It’s believed that for many thousands of years, dogs would have eaten both meat and farmed foods that were available to them in their villages and communities. Urban pets would have been fed meats and other home-made foods before the pet food industry had really taken off. And as pets came to be considered luxury items, the need for foods like biscuits and canned meats increased.

So in 1925, when American corporation Gaines-Burgers were looking to capitalize on the growing dog food market, they found that processed meat meals were one of the easiest and most cost effective ways for owners to feed their dogs (and for dog food brands to make and profit on dog food).

How Is Kibble Made?

Dog food manufacturers in the early 1900s created early forms of kibble by over-cooking meat into a concentrated powder then adding pressure to it to form protein-based solids similar to modern kibble. When meat rationing came into play during World War II, this process was filled out with cereals, starches, and other dry ingredients and the kibble was added to traditional meat-based recipes.

Brands started using extrusion to turn wet and dry ingredients into a dough-like mixture which was then cooked in pressurized steam or water to create a dry dog food. Enter: kibble.

Even then, around 1956, it was known that the extrusion method destroyed fat, protein, and other nutrition from the ingredients leaving dogs with convenient but nutritionally redundant meals that were far more affordable than canned meat meals.

Is Kibble Good For Dogs?

In the 1960s and ‘70s, the Pet Food Institute and the Pet Food Manufacturers Association were the authoritative voice of the dog food market. Whatever they said, dog owners – particularly those in the USA and UK – believed. So when they said that dogs should only eat processed foods, the owners lapped up the marketing just as easily as their dogs did their kibble.

Raw food and other diets were marketed as being bad for dogs’ health with kibble and other dry foods promoted as the only way to feed your pet healthily. And though this did lead to advances in the quality of the dried and processed foods on offer, it also created a mythology around the benefits of these nutritionally-lacking meals that still persists today.

The reality is that many kibbles cook the nutrition out of the food, and pack it with filler and additives – often including dangerous by-products like heavy metals – that cannot give a dog the nutrients they need to live a healthy life. In fact in some cases, they even pose a threat to the dog’s health.

Over the past 70 years, dog food and our understanding of what it should contain has greatly improved. But there are still many owners that opt for the convenience and lower price point of kibble over more expensive foods that can be harder to store, more expensive, and messier to serve up at mealtimes.

What Are The Dangers Of Feeding My Dog Kibble?

It can be helpful to have on hand as an easy-to-store alternative if you’re looking for something to feed quickly during training, or as a back-up if you’ve run out of regular fresh meals. However, most vets will strongly advise against feeding your dog cheap kibble as their main diet.

This is because kibble not only lacks the protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins that our dogs need. But because some have been found to contain a number of ingredients that they actively shouldn’t be digesting, such as:

  • Slaughterhouse waste
  • Non-nutritive fillers 
  • Sugars
  • Heavy metal contaminants
  • Drug residues
  • Herbicides and pesticides
  • Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
  • Bacteria and fungi contaminants

What Should Dogs Eat?

What we now know is that raw meat protein, fruits and vegetables, and other natural whole foods are what’s really needed to provide a dog with a balanced and healthy diet. This goes back to what dogs would have eaten in the centuries of their domestication before the booming dog food market – and it even reflects what we know to make up a healthy human diet.

Nutritional Requirement For Dogs and Cats, published in 2006, took a deep look at what dogs truly need to eat and exactly what ingredients constitute a ‘complete and balanced meal’. The result: far more dog foods now contain fruits, vegetables, fish oils, prebiotics, and a healthy level of meat protein.

As these guidelines continue to develop, as does our understanding of how to keep our pets healthy. And one thing remains consistent: processed meals like kibble don’t hold the answer. 

Healthy and nutritious dog foods don’t just contain the right vitamins, minerals, and proteins. They also contain energy, which is one of the key components of any meal. Without energy, our dogs can’t stay healthy physically or mentally. In the modern age, there are a wide range of healthy dog foods available that offer different advantages, including dry options for those who might not have the fridge or freezer space for raw or frozen diets. You can learn more about healthy ways to feed your dog in our blog/learn/dog-food.

Which is why Front of the Pack’s air-dried food is a vet-approved formula aimed at giving your dog everything they need to be happy and healthy. Whole ingredients, pure, natural food, and a whole load of energy. 

From the ingredients that are listed right on the front of the pack to the low-and-slow air drying process that locks in nutrients, our dog food is made with your dog’s best interests in mind. And since you’ll recognize all these ingredients, you’ll have no problem feeding them to your favorite furry family member.