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Grain Free equals Peas, Peas and More Peas

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  1. Maddison

    My question is why is it so easy for us to make these discoveries and not the pet food experts or vet nutritionists? 😉 When I wanted to home cook for a new puppy in our household several years ago a nutritionist told me I would ruin the dog’s life if I made the slightest mistake in formulating the home cooked recipe. However, we never seemed to discuss what would happen if the pup ingested toxic commercial food.

    A recent suggestion for a food trial came from a nutritionist – it was a 30/70 split of pork and green peas. With the size dog I have that would be about 4+ cans of green peas per day. I decided to start a transition with peas added to the current recipe (adjustments made to the total recipe) and see how that went. Result – the recipe does have a significant amount of peas in it and the dog is not fond of this meal.

  2. Mari Whitmer

    This is really great information, I’ve wondered about the pea thing in kibbles for a long time. What is disturbing to me is the amount of pea like things that I now see in even the really premium kibbles. I just looked at Orijen, which I have always trusted to be a good food. There’s a lot of pea stuff in there, very disappointing.

  3. lili

    This is why I stopped feeding Orijen to my cat. The amount of pea/legume ingredients has exploded, and the cat wasn’t looking as good anymore. His body condition was declining, and fur not lustrous. I switched him to Nature’s Variety Instinct Ultimate Protein. No peas. And NO RENDERED MEAT MEALS. That’s right–no chicken meal, turkey meal, etc., just made with fresh meat. It doesn’t stink nearly as much as even their other high end kibbles, in fact, it doesn’t smell bad at all. The cat is looking much better. And my formerly non-fussy cat now turns his nose up at anything else. It’s expensive, I guess. I live in Canada, where all pet foods cost quite a lot more than in the US. This meal meal-free kibble costs about a canadian dollar a day to feed to a 12 pound cat. That is very affordable, even though it is the most expensive kibble on the market.

    1. Colleen yates

      llll where are you located in Canada? In Ontario Orijen is over $30-$40 for 5 pound bag depending where you buy it. Nature’s Variety not far off that price. I used to buy Nature’s Variety too, but someone told me after they where bought out the other year, they now use cheaper grade meats etc, (as far as I know I don’t think they use feed quality yet like Wellness) I found out about it around the same time Pet Smart started selling it. Basically, it’s probably still better them some of other brands, but it’s still way over priced up here, even for their quality like that of Wellness. Disillusioned, I started feeding mine raw, it wasn’t all that much more expensive, and my cat’s weight and allergies seemed to be under control now, Sometimes I add a little bit of canned or kibble just for a snack or variety sake. I would suggest if you ever switch over, do major research, e.g. cats need more taurine meat ingredients then dogs do. I buy prepared raw, Ontario local from Global Pet Foods, just because it doesn’t have to travel as far, and I am fortunate the brands I buy, I can go in person to the company that actually prepares it, if I have any problems or questions. By the way, my cat is proof it is possible to switch picky eaters, just be very patient and do it very slowly. I found this site really helpful for info.

      1. lili

        I was paying about $75 dollars for 15lb of Cat and Kitten Orijen. But their prices stopped increasing with the price of meat, so I think they are trying to hold the line on price to compete with the big boys. That is a very bad sign, because they must be cutting corners somewhere and that can’t be good for our pets. I really don’t think Orijen or Acana (their budget grain free brand) are what they used to be. They have built an enormous plant in Memphis and are planning and massive increase in production. Standards may not be what they used to be.

        Look into Nature’s Variety Ultimate Protein. The starch is tapioca, and 95% of the protein comes from fresh chicken. No chicken meal, no legumes. Our cat won’t eat raw, and he won’t eat freeze-dried or canned, so this is our best option in a kibble.

        1. B Dawson

          A word of caution about tapioca – it has a high glycemic index. Since we cannot calculate the glycemic load with out knowing the grams per serving amount of tapioca, it might be wise to avoid tapioca ingredients if your cat is diabetic.

        1. Colleen yates

          Thank you for info. about Orijen, and Nature’s Variety. My cat used to run out of the room like something was going to attack her when I first introduced her to raw. When she smelled something she wasn’t used too, she would gag after she smelled it, so I gradually got her eating canned first by tricking her and putting a minuscule amount under a dry food she really liked, and very gradually increased it. You have to really experiment with different flavours, and brands too, I would buy the little cans, if a flavour didn’t take, so I wasn’t wasting as much. I discovered she wasn’t fond of fish, although she would eat salmon oddly enough. I also thought she wouldn’t eat freeze dried either until I found one that didn’t have fish it, and to my surprise she started eating it. I also think it has a lot to do with texture. I introduced her to raw the same way as canned, by gradually mixing it into the canned, but it didn’t take as long because I think she got used to the texture of the canned first. It took months all together, but it worked, if I introduce her to different meats now, I just sprinkle something she really likes on it or disguise it at first and then she is fine with it. I think I am compelled to share this because I’m still amazed I got the pickiest cat I’ve ever had to eat raw. The trick is patience and trying to figure out their individual taste buds. Thanks for letting me share again, and all the best to you and your kitty.

  4. Kristi Johnson

    I happily fed ACANA Grasslands to our three dogs until early this year when one developed IBD and could no longer tolerate it. They had a formula change and loaded up on: whole peas, red lentils, field beans. She could not digest the new formula and we are now on a home made diet for her.

    And this is the only company I truly trust!

    1. Laura

      I totally agree re Acana formulas. I had fed the Ranchlands to my three dogs and they had done well on it until the increase of lentils and beans etc. Had to switch off due to digestive upset. They do much better with potatoes or oats and I am currently feeding a food (Natures Logic) which has millet. They are doing wonderfully!

  5. Olden

    I think there are some inaccurate or misleading statements in the article.

    1. There is really no convincing scientific evidence that GMOs are unsafe. Really. Search the medical and scientific websites to try to find something; it isn’t there. That isn’t proof that GMOs are safe, of course, but so far, science has failed to find evidence of harm. The evidence against GMOs is entirely anecdotal. (I’m not a supporter of agribusiness, but I believe in evidence-based medicine).

    2. Lectins are completely denatured by adequate cooking. So presuming that the peas and other legumes in pet foods are adequately cooked, the lectins would not be a problem (I acknowledge that I don’t know for sure that they are adequately cooked, but you could check with your pet food manufacturer).

    1. Pacific Sun

      (1) The evidence against GMOs is not entirely anecdotal. Or the Non-GMO certification project wouldn’t be so popular and successful. It adds another layer of expense and clairty but it deemed useful and worthy. Know that anytime you genetically modify (permamently change) a food crop (corn which is in almost prepared product we eat) to repel insects and disease you’ve contradicted nature and introduced a negative (if not toxic) substance (Roundup) into a constant food stream.

      There is also a huge difference between ingesting an occasional GMO’d crop or on a rotational basis (as do humans) and feeding a single PF product with GMO’d ingredients (if not multiple) on a daily basis without relief! Either the biology of the animal will change or evolve to accommodate the inclusion, or it will be damaged. Instances of tumors have been developed during research. Curiously on my Google search this article appeared only fourth:

      As with any thing that favors the profiteering (through subsidies/lobbying) of big agribusinesses do not expect those corporations to be doing anything in the best interest of the consumer, much less safeguarding, and least of all promoting, the health of our pets! So for a refreshing change let’s review the objective validity of science proving the absolute long term safety of GMO’d food! And NOT those reports published by …. ahhh Monsanto!

      (2) The point of calling out Peas/Legumes is that they “can be” a problem for pets to digest. So when a pet has yet another stomach upset then this is just another ingredient to look at, and maybe to exclude from the diet. Do dogs need some form of carbohydrates for energy, sure. Sweet Potato, Oatmeal, Rice have long been staples for that purpose. But it must be realized that particularly peas are not part of a natural prey model diet (especially for cats). Seldom do animals devour a vegetable garden full of peas (eventhough they might be more digestable once cooked) because animals will gravitate to whole and intact protein first! If anything they obtain their energy component from the ingested (or fermented and predigested) vegetation of what the prey animal ate in the wild.

      Why would we want to included another questionable ingredient (peas/legumes) when we’re already feeding a compromised kibble simply for the convenience of owners? Wouldn’t we want to tip the scales in their favor as much as possible, certainly through the inclusion of real whole foods and rotational diets? Let’s give these poor creatures half a chance for a change!

    2. Rita

      There certainly are peer reviewed studies that indicate GMO crops and Round Up that is sprayed so liberally on these crops cause cancer and other serious health issues. The studies that are funded by Big Ag get the results they want and are often cut short when they realize health issues are becoming apparent.

      Here is a quote from the study by Gilles-Eric Saralini published in Toxicology:

      The study found severe liver and kidney damage as well as hormonal disturbances in rats fed with GM maize in conjunction with low levels of Roundup that were below those permitted in most drinking water across Europe. Results also indicated high rates of large tumors and mortality in most treatment groups.

      Yes, the journal was bullied into retracting the study but the study is the EXACT study that Monsanto did except Monsanto cut off their study at 90 days to hide detrimental affects of GMOS and the Saralini study went on for 2 years with rats growing massive tumors.

      There is plenty of evidence that GMOs are deadly, you just have to look a little harder for it because BIG AG bullies and buys the results they want so they can make MORE MONEY> Otherwise, why would they fight so hard against GMO labelling? This crap is in our pet food and it is in our own food.

      Also: “It is true that there’s clearly a double standard here,” Hansen told Truthout. “Any study that shows no problem with [GMOs], as soon as its published, it’s just accepted, it’s not looked with detail . . . but any study that shows any problems, it gets ripped apart and ran through with a fine-tooth comb.”

      Monsanto has the money to get whatever result they want and to bully retractions from scientists whose results do not support their poison.

    3. Deep Search

      True. GM ingredients in and of themselves aren’t what people should be fretting over. GM foods haven’t been found to pose any risk. What people should be concerned about are contaminants and pollutants, which can be found in conventionally grown crops as well as organic. Just look at potato production as an example. BT producing potatoes– meaning the potatoes had been modified to produce a protein from the Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria, which can and is sprayed on organic crops as a microbial insecticide– are no longer grown due to protests over their use in fast food french fries and other products. The result? More pesticides are used on the non-GMO potato crops being grown today, which has health consequences for anyone who works in or lives around the fields and is obviously bad for the environment in general. Of course there are still issues with GM crops and the business of producing GMOs. But it’s not as if there aren’t a lot of issues with agriculture, in general. We need to employ sustainable, safe farming practices while providing enough food for the population at large and GMOs could, in part, help us acheive all this.

      For anyone curious about reading up on this, “GMOs May Feed the World Using Fewer Pesticides” on is a good start– it goes over some of the pros and cons of GM crops.
      Rational Wiki is also good, to separate fact from fanaticism. Since Gilles-Eric Séralini was mentioned in the comments, here is his page:
      And Snopes::

  6. Suzanne Clothier

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. A while back, out of curiosity I paid a veterinary nutritionist. R Remillard, PhD, DVM, DACVN to create a couple of diets. I was gobsmacked to see that the diet consisted of 8 ounces of beef and 1.5 quarts of canned peas (yes, 6+ cups of peas!) plus a proprietary balancing agent.

    It made me laugh ironically, first because I had an image of my German Shepherds eating a meal made mostly of peas! but second, because many veterinarians caution pet owners about preparing foods at home, noting that only with advanced degrees could we possibly understand the nuances and intricacies of dog nutrition. While far from a PhD, I can say that I know enough to know that this “veterinary nutritionist created diet”of peas & beef is far from appropriate or healthy or well rounded except on paper. I did ask for a refund for this “diet” but of course, I was just told that a) I didn’t fully understand nutrition, and that b) they would be glad to talk to me about the recommendation. Perhaps I should have had the chat with them, so they could tell me why their diet could be 50% off plus or minus in terms of actually meeting my dog’s needs, as they stated clearly on their own website.

    Yes, trying to find a food without peas is difficult at best. And for all the reasons listed above, peas (and other legumes) are not the innocuous food that manufacturers would have us believe they are. Part of a balanced, varied diet? Yes.

    Thank you, Susan, for always being in the know about peas & Qs to ask!

    1. Maddison

      Suzanne received a similar recommendation as we did. I’ve home cooked for 9 years and only recently have been advised to go with such a large amount of peas. Perhaps some new trends in teaching? Not sure I agree, but I’m only the pet owner, right? I do wonder, how did all those dogs get along on farms when they were fed ‘from the table of human foods’ before veterinary schools taught nutrition courses.

      1. Roberta

        The problem is Veterinarian Schools give extremely little education on animal nutrition. Their focus is treatment and not prevention. For animal nutrition go to Dr. Karen Becker, a holestic vet who practices in New York. (Mercola/healthy pets website).

  7. Dr. Laurie Coger

    Hey Susan,
    What about the fact that the chicken listed in your first few examples is listed first, as it is weighed as is — that is, with 40-60% water included. Once the water is gone, the non-pea/grain portion will markedly decrease. I’d love to see those pie charts!

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      I considered all that, hard to really estimate especially with condensed pea ingredients like pea protein or pea starch. It’s just a guesstimate. But I so agree – I would like to see actual pie charts of ingredients with moisture removed – it would be very telling.

  8. I had a feeling that Matilda’s Salmon & Pea from Pure Balance was more pea than salmon. Sure, it’s grain free, and she does well on it, but… we can do better.

  9. Terri Janson

    I have been putting Lentils and Chick Peas in my homemade dog food. I soak both of them overnight in water before cooking. I am worried about the Lectin in them after reading this article. Should I drop them out of my recipe????

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      I give my dogs peas and beans in various recipes – but I always change out ingredients (with each batch of food I make). If this batch of food is made with legumes, the next one won’t be. I vary everything – proteins, fat, vegetables,… each time I make pet food.

      1. Terri Janson

        Thank you Susan!

  10. Terri Janson

    I cook the Chick Peas for 2 hours and the Lentil for about 17 minutes or until tender before mashing.

  11. Cheryl Mallon-Bond

    This is really frustrating to find out! Now, based on this information, looks like Acana dry cat food is OUT! to use as a “healthy” food! What kills me is that this brand (and many others like it using these ingredients) are NOT CHEAP!!! I ‘m glad all this information is being made public…but frustrated that we are being left with less & less alternatives to be able to feed our pets, especially when someone like myself has a LOT of mouths to feed!

  12. Sage

    Disagree with lili that ORIJEN cat food is loaded with peas. ORIJEN CAT AND KITTEN ingredients, for example, include lentils and peas at the end of the list of whole meat proteins meaning the percent of peas should be quite low and in balance.

    Boneless chicken,* chicken meal, chicken liver,* whole herring,* boneless turkey,* turkey meal, turkey liver,* whole eggs,* boneless walleye,* whole salmon,* chicken heart,* chicken cartilage,* herring meal, salmon meal, chicken liver oil, chicken fat, red lentils, green peas, green lentils, sun-cured alfalfa, kelp, pumpkin,* butternut squash,* spinach greens,* carrots,* apples,* pears,* cranberries,* mixed tocopherols (preservative), chicory root, dandelion root, chamomile, peppermint leaf, ginger root, caraway seeds, turmeric, rose hips, freeze-dried chicken liver, freeze-dried turkey liver, freeze-dried chicken, freeze-dried turkey, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product + vitamins and minerals.

    Plus SUPPLEMENTS as listed
    Zinc Protienate, copper proteinate, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, dried Enterococcis faecium fermentation product.

    My many cats have been eating ORIJEN as a component of their diet for a long time with no change to their excellent health. They also eat a Raw Chicken formula based on this one and some Weruva wet cat food.

    Some of the INSTINCT formulas also appear to contain excellent ingredients and there are many options including Dry, Raw Frozen and Freeze dried Raw.

    1. lili

      Pretty much all of the carbs in Orijen are legumes–lentils, peas chickpeas and alfalfa. They also push up the protein levels. And remember “ingredient splitting”. Pet food companies split the grains/peas/legumes into all those separate types because, for example, if Orijen only used green peas for the carbs, and didn’t split into all those separate kinds of peas, then the peas would be bumped up in the ingredient list to 3rd or 4th, and it would be easier to see just how much is in there. Which they don’t want us to know. I still think Orijen is starting to fudge their quality.

  13. Susan Merrell

    I am concerned about how the legumes are prepared by the commercial pet food companies. I was feeding my Border Collie Acana Grasslands, and after several months on it he began vomiting whole undigested kibble in the middle of the night (last feeding was 5:30-6:00 p.m.). After the third night of this, I took him to the vet and he was x-rayed to rule out an obstruction. The only thing the film showed was an incredible amount of gas. I called Champion (makers of Orijen and Acana) to express concern about the amounts of legumes (which can be gas formers) in all the formulas. They told me that I was feeding him too much food. I said that I was feeding according to the package instructions and even at that amount he was not gaining weight. They said to feed less (which would mean that he would not gain or maintain weight). I also asked them how they prepared the legumes. They said that the legumes were ground in their hard, raw state and put into the mix. When I expressed concern about the lectins and phytates, they said that the high temps that they cook with would eliminate them. I am not a food chemist but I have always known that to be able to be digested, legumes have to undergo a long (at least overnight) soak, some say with a small amount of acid- lemon or vinegar.
    After my conversation with Champion, and studying the ingredient list, I learned that another main ingredient (which I have discovered is a popular kibble ingredient now used by numerous ” ultra-premium” companies), sun cured alfalfa, is
    also a legume. So add the alfalfa to the peas, lentils, field beans, and chickpeas! Also most alfalfa is genetically modified.
    No wonder my dog was filled with gas. I am now trying to balance a homemade dog food diet as I no longer trust any of
    commercial dog foods. My vet was of no help. I do have an appointment soon with an integrative veterinary nutritionist…hopefully it will help.

    1. Kristi Johnson


      As soon as the Grassland’s receipe changed our little Staffy got sick. I did call and they told me they had made a receipe change. I believe they removed potato and added field beans – it was either peas, lentils or field beans. They also said they had received no other complaints about ACANA Grasslands.
      We had the rumbling tummy, lip licking, obvious pain, etc. and awful runs. She can no longer tolerate any kibble. I switched our other dogs to Orijen and was hoping she could tolerate that – but she can’t. She offically has IBD. She is on prednisone, Tylan and Pepcid AC. Not saying it caused it, but it certainly was a trigger.

  14. Jeanette Owen

    One time I mixed cooked green frozen peas into my 3 chi’s food one night & one of my dogs got really sick, vomited yellow stuff for awhile. Too much peas. Won’t do that again.

  15. Tracey

    When people see the word “peas” they think green sweet peas. More than likely the peas in the pet food are dried peas, like lentils. The problem with dried peas, beans and lentils is that unless they say they are organic they could have been “dried down” with Round Up/glyphosate. This hasn’t made the headline news yet but it’s the reason I don’t buy or eat any of these items unless they are organic and I won’t feed them to my pets either. Here’s a link to the process:

    1. Kristi Johnson

      OMG. Thanks so much Tracy.

      Round-up “burn down” makes total sense in the factory farming model. Of course it is going to be used. It would save trillions on drying costs – dead plant material is dry. Round-up has got to cost less than hauling beans or wheat to drying units, then drying them with tons of propane, and then moving it all out again to where it was supposed to go in the first place.

      Do you remember in 2014 when gardening columns started posting an alternative to Roundup that contained vinegar and dish soap? Monsanto hit it hard – sending notices to every newspaper and magazine that, and this is a direct quote from Monsanto:

      “Organic” vinegar week killers are more toxic, less effective than Round-up”

      At the time I wondered why Monsanto was trying so hard to protect its tiny home gardener market. Now it seems clear. No word can get out on any level that this is a health and environmental disaster – and totally without regulation or reporting.

      This link needs to go viral.

      1. Kristi Johnson

        Post with typos fixed

        OMG. Thanks so much Tracey.

        Round-up “burn down” makes total sense in the factory farming model. Of course it is going to be used. It would save trillions on drying costs – dead plant material is dry. Round-up has got to cost less than hauling beans or wheat to drying units, then drying them with tons of propane, and then moving it all out again to where it was supposed to go in the first place.

        Do you remember in 2014 when gardening columns started posting an alternative to Roundup that contained vinegar and dish soap? Monsanto hit it hard – sending notices to every newspaper and magazine that, and this is a direct quote from Monsanto:

        “Organic” vinegar weed killers are more toxic, less effective than Round-up”

        At the time I wondered why Monsanto was trying so hard to protect its tiny home gardener market. Now it seems clear. No word can get out on any level that this is a health and environmental disaster – and totally without regulation or reporting.

        This link needs to go viral.

  16. Terri Janson

    Tracey, Good point. I use the Lentils and chickpeas in my homemade recipe but I soak overnight and cook them. Guess my next batch will be organic as I am upset that they could have Round Up! I hate Round Up! I do know they are “not” yet a GMO crop. I also hate GMO”s

  17. B Dawson

    I think an important point Susan made is going a bit unnoticed. Rotating different foods in and out of a diet is as essential for your pet as it is for you. It is the feeding of the same thing day in and day out that causes most dietary imbalances. In the words of Paracelsus: “Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy”.

    If a pediatrician was to instruct you to feed your child the same thing out of the same bag at every meal everyday your commonsense would question the validity of that statement. Yet this is exactly what pet owners do. Convenience is often the justification we use to set aside our commonsense.

    Unless your pet has a specific disease, you don’t need a professional nutritionist to create a formula. How many of you do that for yourselves? Most of us know that as long as we limit the trips to McDonalds and Pizza Hut (or eliminate them entirely!!!) and eat a variety of foods we will be nourished without the oversight of an on-staff dietician.

    I’m old school when it comes to pet nutrition, partially because my mentor was Juliette de Bairacli Levy and partially because my biology background says she had pretty good guidelines when it came to feeding raw diets – what she called her Natural Rearing Diet™.

    The bookshelves are littered with too many tomes that make home prepared diets complicated. They offer up recipes that contain way too many ingredients and then caution that supplemental powders and oils must be added on top of each meal. The time demand and expense in concocting these formulas is often the barrier that causes the continued reliance on kibble. It does not have to be that difficult. I understand that switching off kibble can be an exercise in patience and cleverness, but it is the rare animal who will allow themselves to starve if a bowl of food is available. In my 23 years as an animal herbalist, I’ve met only one cat that refused to eat anything other than kibble.

    I would urge those concerned about commercial food ingredients – especially if you’re paying $5/pound or more! – to pick up a copy of Juliette’s “Complete Herbal Handbook for Dog and Cat” and review the chapters on diet. Please remember that while Juliette revised the book frequently up until her passing in 2009, it was originally written in 1955. Read her meat preservation tips for instance, with historical amusement and realize Juliette lived in rural areas often without electricity or indoor plumbing.

    How much time do you spend researching and worrying about what’s in that bag of kibble? Wondering if the manufacturer is lying about what’s in the bag or was sold mislabeled ingredients by an importer? Wouldn’t that time be better spent preparing a meal of recognizable ingredients for your Furry Ones?

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      I couldn’t agree more with you ‘B’. Feeding a cat or dog or human is not rocket science. But the pet food industry tries to make us believe it is.

    2. Pacific Sun

      B. Dawson, always well-thought, well-written contributions, thank you! I absolutely believe in variety and rotation.

      One thing that might hold people back from trying more variety in their dog’s diet is that manufacturers emphasize a method for making a “transition” in feeding. I get that there’s a big difference between getting a dog used to RAW versus kibble. But it shouldn’t be a problem when feeding a home cooked diet, right?

      Can (or will) you explain why it’s necessary to “transition” between different kibble brands ? Humans can eat all kinds of foods day in and day out. Is it that the digestion of dogs becomes more limited when they’ve been fed a dry diet for so long? Or what other factors go into the story.

      Thank you!

  18. Ann

    I was feeding acana also and my dogs suddenly got dry skin and the runs. and the poop was green, checked bag, yep peas, I did contact champion by email. they responded that peas had a low glycemic index. that doesn’t resolve the other issues .such as gas, bloating etc. and my cat on orijen also started to lose weight after the addition of peas, the pulse growers of Canada (legumes) had a huge campaign about peas. I’ve switched to several foods who a month later, changed to added peas. sigh. not earthborn has peas and all my dogs have runs, which they didn’t before. so I got some wellness chicken, oats puppy food, ingredients listed on the resellers page; no peas, so I got two bags, peas! and now wellness has the peas listed on their site. I agree about feeding legumes to dogs, we have longer instestines designed to break down plants, dogs do not. btw although alfalfa is in the legume family, the foliage is fed, not the seed portion. but I don’t see my dogs eating the hay bales so this is also a disappointing addition more for people benefit (oh look alfalfa, must be good) than dog benefit.

  19. Ann

    about transitioning to different food, animals produce enzymes to digest food that they eat. if a sheep eats a lot of alfalfa (very rich high protein) or new grass in the spring, they can bloat and die. as they eat a bit every day, their digestive system starts to produce enzymes to digest that type of food. they also develop more bacteria in their rumen to digest that kind of feed. same w/ other animals. so as you slowly transition, the dogs develop more enzymes to break down the different proteins. most of us humans eat different food every meal, every day. however few of us feed our pets that kind of variety. so our pets have limited ability to digest different food. I remember eating beef after not eating it for years, I felt so sick, did not have the ability to digest the fat and proteins. so I transitioned slowly to wild game, then high quality beef, still don’t eat much beef.
    i would go back to a grain food w/ oats or rice instead of peas but now those grain foods are also adding peas. has anyone seen a study about canine or feline digestion of legumes? i haven’t found one

  20. Fran

    My 13 year old dog has been eating the new Acana Fresh Waters and Wild Atlantic. After reading this I decided to switch her to Annamaet Grain Free Aqualuk. Does anyone have any info about this kibble?

  21. Riley

    Trying to find a dog food without chicken, white potatoes or peas (and obviously no corn, wheat, soy) for my lab. He was miserable eating a no grain chicken kibble. Switched him to turkey and its helped. But cant find kibble without peas!!

    He is doing better on Natures Variety Limited Ingredient Turkey, but it has so much pea in it. Wellness was similar ingredients with potatoes additionally and his ears were still itchy and yeasty. Chicken makes him miserable. Ive only had him 3 months – havent tried any other proteins and since he is 3-4 years old Im assuming he has probably had beef and possibly fish. Duck and salmon might be ok or sardines.

    The only one I can now find is Natures Logic. It does have milet and alfalfa though. Thoughts on it?

    Used to be so easy to find food without peas and white potatoes.

  22. Pacific Sun

    Choosing a kibble is always a compromise. You never get everything you want, and have to decide what you can live with. One way is to find a couple of brands and rotate. I can only go by what has, and currently, works for me.

    1. Once I find a brand I ask if the protein is USDA Inspected and Approved (human grade quality)
    2. I avoid chicken like the plague (even human, organic) because it’s just way over produced
    3. I won’t feed peas, lentils or beans.
    4. I avoid pork products or pork plasma coatings.
    5. I choose the least complicated listing of ingredients, (my dog does better on simple, limited).
    6. I did raise a dog (to nearly 17) on primarily fish and sweet potato
    7. HOWEVER dogs need red meat occasionally
    8. I like the products of Nature’s Logic and (original) Orijen but it ran through my dogs like pudding!
    9. I settled on Fromms Beef for a while (but it does cause itching, flaking)
    10. I’ve used Evanger’s (only the Pheasant/Duck Limited) because it produced good, consistent stools
    11. But every dry food caused my poodles to lick their paws “pink” even though stools might be okay
    12. Now I feed RAW (beef nuggets) in the AM
    13. And in the PM cooked beef stew meat, steamed sweet potato and brown rice (local farm raised).
    14. The combo produces very good stools, NO more itching, pretty good weight, incredible energy!

  23. Steven B

    Here’s a dissenting view, that all of the above are not harmful but in fact even beneficial:

    * Peas are a nutrient-rich, locally-grown, environmentally-friendly ingredient making them an excellent choice for today’s grain-free premium pet foods.
    * Peas contain a variety of compounds to support health, including vitamins and minerals, protein, insoluble and soluble fibre, resistant starch, and antioxidants.
    * Lectins in peas are inactivated by heat, making them of little concern for dry kibble and canned pet foods.
    * The phytoestrogen content of peas is insignificant and comparable to that of other common foods.

    1. ann

      remember that the animal has to be able to digest them first, we are ominivores, dogs and cats are carnivores w/ shorter intestines and different digestive enzymes. I have heard all that you state above, and I’ve also talked to champion nutrition (acana and orijen) and gotten the same story but champion refused to provide any research IF dogs could digest peas and effects on long term feeding. I just don’t buy that peas are good for carnivores on a daily basis. they can state that the lechins are deactivated but can they provide any studies proving it? actual research on kibble, not in a lab sample? you can also prove that old leather boots have nutritional benefits. but can they be digested?

    2. Grace

      After reading petcurean article I had the impression that the author did not delve sufficiently into the negatives about lectins, and the reasons given to not worry, that heat destroys the lectins, even though I am not an expert, I have read many links with more reasons to be wary of over using lectin rich dog foods. There is no date to show when it was written, and lectins concerns in dog foods are fairly new.

  24. Kat Pirro

    There is also concern about the link of peas in dog food and the declining reproductive health of pure bred dogs. But I’ve read your articles, bought The List, and I’m overwhelmed trying to make the right choice for my dogs. I just can’t afford many/most of the foods that made your list. But I’m trying to find a quality pet food, in my price range. I’ve tried Fromm, but my dogs are allergic to all the potato. I’ve tried grain-free, Earthborn Great Plains, which my dogs are currently on, but the amount peas is concerning. If we go back to Taste of the Wild, we are dealing with potatoes again and we are left worrying about possible ethoxyquin use in their fish ingredients. (Plus, sodium selenite). It’s become a Herculean task trying to find a healthy, quality glfood, in our price range. It shouldn’t be this hard!

  25. Deborah Middleton

    fifteen years ago I lost a beloved terrier bitch to cancer much too young. I immediately switched my food to raw and have never looked back. I use a ratio of rotating and roughly grinding whatever I can source of 65% meat, 30% whatever vegetables I have in my garden, 5% organ meat. To this I add kelp, probiotics, finely ground egg shell and coconut oil. Meat is everything from cooked salmon to venison or bison, beef, lamb, chicken. Whatever I can find that is home grown or freshly caught. My dogs all have great coats, teeth, bowel movements etc.. They get a bone every day including turkey or chicken or lambs or pork necks, or a moose thigh bone. The trick is know your butcher, local hunters and fishermen and organic farmers in your neighbourhood.

  26. Riley

    Well its been almost a year. Had Nutriscan done for my dog. Turns out I was right about the peas (and more).

    Needs a food with NO:
    Grain (all the typ plus barly, millet etc)
    White pot.
    Quinoa (his highest value!)
    Fish (white or salmon)

    Ok is:
    Sweet pot.

  27. BridgetP

    Has anyone found any new foods since the article was written? I have been looking at a food called Ziwi Peak for my cat. I’ve heard good reviews of it. I had he’r on Fromms and i just wrote the company 2 days ago asking why they have all those pea ingredients and potatoes. And if they could tell me what the actual meat protein percentage was. I got a reply but it didn’t answer the meat protein percentage Ana the rest was kind of generic of how a pea fiber, pea flour. Pea protien etc where all needed and healthy for my cat. Just disappointing.

  28. Jean Guyon

    UGH. I have spent months and years trying to figure out what to feed our dog (9 year old M/N Boston Terrier). Originally on Merrick canned, we moved off of that when Merrick sold out to Purina. We had him on Acana for a while, which he seemed OK with, but OK is not good enough. I finally settled on human grade Honest Kitchen Base Mix (Preference) with our own human grade very lightly cooked proteins added. He absolutely LOVES it and his digestion has improved a hundred fold. Now I see that peas are questionable. Of course, peas are the second ingredient in HK Preference. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

  29. Denise Fell

    I’ve been feeding Orijen freeze dried raw, because they say it has 90% of the protein from meat. Sadly the other 10% is from pea fiber and I can’t understand why they even bother to add it as they don’t need plant fibre to add in the formation of a kibble product… this is freeze dried raw. Perhaps it just saves them money? When I asked them why they add pea fiber they told me it is to approximate the fibre that would normally come from indigestible parts of a carcass such as the fur. Really? I asked why they don’t just add some fur… but no answer. Now with all the concerns around legumes, taurine deficiency and taurine-deficient Dilated Cardiomyopathy I just don’t know what to feed anymore!

    1. Rapha

      Yes they do need the peas. The extrusion process NEEDS a starch.

      So there will always be this in extruded kibble. Those are just the facts.

      If you don’t want this, do a baked kibble.

      Or do a mix of raw and kibble which is the bare monimmi you should be doing.

      Kibble+raw is cheap when measured out daily and fed the correct portions. Problem is, people can’t so simple math.

      These foods are all bad in excess which is why everyone’s dogs have issues. You’ve fed your dog crap for so long you have limited options now.

      Kibble+raw, not hard. Rotate flavors in and feed accurate portions. Do not feed blindly on what it says, they are all guesstimates.

      You need to feed based on activity and current weight.

      1. Denise Fell

        Hi Rapha, my apologies, I don’t believe I was clear in my post. When I said: “Sadly the other 10% is from pea fiber and I can’t understand why they even bother to add it as they don’t need plant fibre to add in the formation of a kibble product… this is freeze dried raw.”, I meant that the freze dried raw which I AM feeding (I am NOT feeding kibble at all, not for the past 3.5 years) isn’t like a kibble in that it should not need plant fibre the way a kibble does. I think you believe I feed kibble (again, I don’t) and that I don’t understand why kibble needs plant protein, but I do understand that kibble needs it in order to produce a hard, dry product.

        What I don’t understand is why Orijen’s freeze dried raw contains it. I did recently get an answer from Champion as to why, however. They told me: “We do include pea fiber as dogs do benefit from a small amount of fiber in their diet, and we do use various fibers in our kibble, but pea fiber is just another option which was utilized in our Freeze-Dried foods. Our ingredient choices are primarily based on the best and most Biologically Appropriate ingredient possible. In our ORIJEN foods at least 90% of the protein content is coming from our meat ingredients.”

        I am feeding based on activity level and weight, and rotate between two of the freeze dried raw flavours.

        I am curious to know why you belive I have been feeding my dog crap, that is, what concerns you about the freeze dried raw (aside from the 10% of protein from plant sources – peas) to have that strong an opinion? Is there something else about it that concerns you?

        1. Rapha

          Freeze dried is the same.

          This is just rudimentary chemistry.

          You need a starch to bind the food together so it stays in tact. If you do not use one, it would be a bag of powder.

          I was using “you” as a general term and if you go through all these comments it’s the same story over and over again.

          The dogs don’t have “allergies”. They’ve got intolerances to these food due to overfeeding and their bodies fighting back against the food.

          The same would happen to you if you ate chicken every day, 3 times day .your body would fight back.

          You need to be rotating more than 2 brands in and using a mixture of real raw meats and freeze dried.

          If you’re primarily feeding freeze dried there’s no reason to go buy a 13.5lb box of raw and work that in, rotating over 3-4 flavors over a week.

          The animals are just like us, you can’t keep feeding them the same stuff every day.

          You wouldn’t eat the same food every day so why would you force another animal to?

  30. Glenn H Clark

    I believe your guesstimate method & the resultant graph to be far more guess than estimate & probably quite inaccurate. Have you found any means to assess the accuracy of your method?
    Take, for example, a 10 ingredient recipe w/ lamb as the first ingredient and the other 9 all various forms of legumes. The lamb would then be 10/55ths (18%) and the legumes 45/55ths (82%). If, upon getting the actual recipe, you find that the lamb is 85% of the food and the rest combined only 15%, you can see the range for error.
    I admit that my example may be extreme & overly simplistic, but it clearly shows that the guesstimate shouldn’t be used alone (if at all) to compare pet feeds.
    Another technique, that of adding the minimum %s of protein, fat, moisture, & ash and then subtracting that total from 100 will at least give you an guesstimate of the total carbohydrate % in the food. That might be a better first pass when comparing feeds.

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