Misconceptions Part 1: Where it Starts

A common misconception about The Barkista meals is that they’re treats.  For that reason, it’s difficult to create an understanding about the diet plan.

Let’s clear up that misconception, shall we?

Unfortunately, there is no simple explanation, but rather an evolution of where The Barkista meals came from.

Let’s start at the beginning: The blue print for the design of The Barkista meals and diet plans.

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Arrrmando (the second ‘r’ is silent) never really thrived to begin with, which meant additional vet visits.  This is why he was one of the rare instances of a confirmed death due to a pet food recall. He had been to the vet shortly before his death and showed no symptoms.


Most people are aware of the American Association of Food Control Officials (AAFCO).  The near unanimous belief is that AAFCO is the entity involved in determining the nutritional requirements of dog.  They aren’t.  AAFCO’s modus operandi  would be to spend years debating the agreed upon definition of the word “The” and how it could be used on a dog food label.

The primary function of AAFCO is to determine what words can or should appear on a label and what claims can be made.  OK, so that’s over simplified, but still, AAFCO isn’t as grand as most people believe.  In fact, nothing published in it’s Official Publication (OP) is binding on anyone.  It’s up to the individual States to determine whether  or not to adopt AAFCO’s guidelines as gospel.  It just happens most do.

But wait, you say!  AAFCO determines the minimum nutritional requirements for dogs!

No they don’t.

For the Minimum Requirement, AAFCO publishes the findings of another organization, The National Research Council (NRC).

The sole purpose of the NRC is to compile all available research on whatever topic they are directed to, published and unpublished, from the private, public and academic sectors, and summarize it.  It has no opinion on any matter, their function is simply to collect and summarize.    Dog nutrition for the dog as a companion rather than a lab animal became a viable topic in 1965.

DASH!  The original Barkista Dog.  DASH! was plagued with GI problems his whole life.  It was not until I got DASH! healthy and off his medications, with consistent positive blood test results, that I started converting my other dogs.

The original NRC Nutritional Requirements of the Dog publication was a small pamphlet.  In 1974, it was updated (I have yet to be able to get a copy of this one), and within the document was a table which listed the then agreed upon Minimum [nutritional] Requirements for dogs.  It is from this table, and through no research or professional knowledge on the part of AAFCO, that the Minimum Requirements showing on your dog food label was born.

The NRC published an update in 1985, but problems within the research itself caused controversy over whether or not the updated nutritional requirements should be used.

The next update occurred in 2006.  By that time, research into dog nutrition had exploded, and the problems revealed in prior research were corrected.  As a result, an updated table was published containing the 3 levels of nutrition:  “Minimum Requirement”, “Adequate” and “Recommended Allowance” – these items listed, and pay attention here –  in ascending order.

Now let’s think about what this means.  The Minimum Requirement is a level less than Adequate.  I don’t know about you, but I want the best for my dogs! AAFCO doesn’t even promote “Adequate”!  Who benefits the most from the Minimum Requirement, the least amount of nutritional value required to keep a dog in an OK state of health?  It certainly isn’t your dog.

Marcy was born to a stray and grew up feral her first year at the city/desert interface.   Given her expert (and annoyingly persistent) hunting skills, she was more hunter than scavenger.  Her enamel shows she survived distemper.  Marcy came to us, the picture of health 3 years ago, somewhat ate commercial for a few weeks, then converted to The Barkista diet plan.   Marcy made herself strong and healthy.  The Barkista diet plan just keeps her that way.  I would love to do a study comparing health status of wilderness feral vs. city feral dogs.  The implications could be huge in nutritional discoveries.

That 3rd and highest tier of nutritional requirements on the NRC table – the Recommended Allowance – experts outside the pet food industry agree is the closest we  have to the true nutritional requirements of the dog.  That level, if fed, should keep more dogs healthier.

But the Recommended Allowance does not appear in the AAFCO OP.  Indeed, it wasn’t until December 2015 that AAFCO met to increase the Minimum Requirements from 1974 to 2006 NRC values. Granted, there were problems with the 1985 update, so I get it.  But I take serious issue with the fact that defining the words “Natural” and “Holistic” were more important than raising the Minimum Requirements, forcing dog food manufacturers to make better food irrespective of the fact that the current Minimum Requirement still isn’t even Adequate!  It’s still better than the levels established 40 years ago!

Separate from all that, and the part I really get excited about:

Little known fact about the NRC publications, and what The Barkista is based on:  The NRC provides the means to calculate the EXACT nutritional requirements, for an invidividual dog.  These calculations are worked using the dog as a starting point, then creating the food (nutrition) to fit rather than the other way around. These calculations are not based on content per 4000k/cal or percentages, but on the exact amount of each nutrient.

Can you all give me a collective “Wow!”.

2 options  – a more appropriate nutrient level, higher than the Minimum Requirement, AND the ability to design a diet for the specific dog, both proven through research, and no one even knew.

Whether it’s shooting for the Recommended Allowances or feeding to the requirements of an individual, The Barkista can feed your dog better.

Stay tuned for the next installment:  How The Barkista meals, and more importantly, the diet plan, was designed and tested.


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