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Episode 14: Interview with Big Dog Pet Foods

00:00:32 Glenn:       Welcome back to Natural Health for People and Pets. I'm the co-host of the show, Glen Cooke, and I'm just about to introduce the host of the show, Narelle Cooke. We have a guest on the show, Chris Essex from Big Dog. Previously,  Narelle and I were talking about how we were not sponsored by Big Dog, however, as we actually use the product and our dogs are doing so well on it, and that we believe in the advocacy of it, Narelle and Big Dog now have an agreement in line.

00:01:09 Narelle:       It's a relationship.  

00:01:10 Glenn:       A good relationship, through a sponsorship for the podcast, because like I said, the product's great and we really believe in it. And you know, Narelle doesn't do things by halves, and that's why we wanted to have Chris on the show. I'm now going to be quiet and Narelle's gonna take over and talk to Chris about his time and investment into Big Dog.  

00:01:34 Narelle:       Yeah, I've never kept it a secret from the listeners how much I do believe in the Big Dog pet foods for my own dogs and for my clients' dogs. I am super excited to have Chris join us today and to help highlight to all the listeners all of the reasons why I love Big Dog and why they should consider it for their own dogs. Chris is the founder and the owner and still the managing director of Big Dog Pet Foods. We really appreciate having him on the show today because we've just had the snap lockdown in Brisbane, Australia for the Covid. It's a really disruptive time for Chris and his business at the moment, so thank you for joining us, really appreciate the time you're taking out of your day to be here.  

00:02:17 Chris:       Oh, it's absolutely my pleasure and appreciate the opportunity.  

00:02:21 Narelle:      I know how hard it is even now in 2021 for raw food feeding to be accepted across the board. I can't imagine the challenges you would've faced and the barriers you would've come up against 20 years ago when you first established Big Dog Pet Foods. It was almost unheard of back then to get into raw food feeding so perhaps you can share with everyone why you decided to go into, not only pet food manufacturing, but raw pet food manufacturing and just some of the challenges you faced coming up with a non-traditional pet food at the time.  

00:02:56 Chris:       Absolutely, it's been quite a ride. As you said, it's our 20th year now, it's been very exciting, but I think it's probably best that we go back to what I studied. I studied food science at university and went to Gatton College. Completing that course, or that science, I then went and started working in the small goods industry. We were a division of Woolworths at the time, and I worked my way through as a QA officer and QA manager of operations and production. I got really good exposure with the manufacturing side of things from a raw material all the way to a finished product, and that was for about seven years. I went to a pet store one day and I was talking to a gentleman there and they were saying, oh, what's your background?  

00:03:41 Chris:       And we were talking about this raw diet that there'd been books written about it, that there just wasn't anything on shelf available to sell, you know, it was make your own sort of sort of products and that, and that was written by Dr. Ian Billinghurst. I read those books and I did have a relationship there with Ian. Eventually we started manufacturing for him, but after reading the book, I just thought, wow, this is just a super product and this just makes sense. This is just common sense, why are we feeding these highly manufactured diets to our dogs? You know, it felt like fast food to me for our pets. And you know, I'm guilty just as anybody else, I even had a nutritional background and I'm still feeding my poor fella.  

00:04:24 Chris:      I think at that time, it might've been a canned product, and you sit back and go, wow, so it's a bit of a light bulb moment. At that point in time I was 26 and I'm thinking I'm ready to  have another crack at a business, so that's what happened. But I was kind of moonlighting, I was doing my day job and then I started Big Dog Pet Foods, and then we were just slowly working on those recipes and the formulations and whatnot, so it was exciting. But it got to that stage I suppose, where we weren't getting enough traction from the business point of view and I needed to finish up doing what I was doing and really wholly, solely concentrate on this rule feeding, which as I said, it's been 20 years and there's been a lot of ups and downs, but it's been quite the ride.  

00:05:08 Chris:       And there were some serious, serious challenges presented to us because I remember going into stores, knocking on doors and  saying, this is the product, it's called BARF and everybody would look at me and they go, isn't that what they do over in the US? We just kept knocking on doors and the benefit of having books written about it from Dr. Ian Billinghurst certainly helped. It was his name on that particular product at that stage as well. So we got those opportunities and we kept knocking on doors and slowly but surely we've got to where we are today.  

00:05:44 Narelle:       I didn't realise you had that relationship in the early stages with Ian Billinghurst, that's phenomenal.  

00:05:49 Chris:       We were manufacturing Dr. Ian Billinghurst product for nearly eight years, so we were the manufacturer, but were also a distributor for Ian in Queensland, New South Wales. A few things happen in business, and I don't really wanna go too much into what went down there, but Ian did just decide to go another way from a manufacturer's point of view. And lo and behold, that gave us an opportunity then to run with Big Dog as our brand. And you know, there's certainly a few stories out there. I hear 'em, they pop up every now and then about what actually happened, but you know, at the end of the day, as I said, it gave us the opportunity to work on our label and I wanted to change a few things anyway with regards to ingredients and some of those sort of products there.  

00:06:27 Narelle:     It's great and you certainly don't need to go into those details. A lot of the listeners may not realise that Big Dog uses a hundred percent human grade ingredients and it's all Australian produce. One of the things that Glenn and I have spoken about in previous shows, and one of the things we love about Big Dog is the transparency around the ingredients that you use, the quality that you use, and just the whole manufacturing process. You really are inviting on social media people into your factory and seeing firsthand exactly what you're doing. So it's quite unique in the pet food industry for someone to be willing to be that open with their product, which I think speaks volumes in itself about the quality of the food that you are producing. But maybe if you wanna just outline why you decided to go down that path with your transparency and maybe a little bit about just the quality control around the manufacturing process itself, because I know a lot of people do have concerns when it comes to raw food manufacturing.  

00:07:25 Chris:       Absolutely. I think we're just so proud of our product and what we do and the ingredients that we do put into the product. The transparency is all about giving confidence to the consumers, you know, what we're actually putting on the label, what we're putting out there is actually what their dog or cat is gonna receive. And the industry is demanding transparency now as well, which I think is fantastic. I honestly believe the raw food sector, we've been transparent pretty well all the way through. It's now these other industries, or the other categories in the pet food that have to catch up to where we were. But you know, we're not resting on our laurels where we are a Big Dog, we really want to go to the next level. We won't rest until somebody can get a particular lot number for example, on their packaging or, or the set of numbers that's indicating the data packing.  

00:08:09 Chris:       And I really need to make it available on the internet, where they can just punch that code in and they can see our internal testing done. We've just invested in, for example, a Phos machine that will throw out all the macros, your proteins, fat, calcium, phosphorus ratios, moisture, fibre, all that can be tested. And we do that after every batch now. So if we're capturing those results, we wanna feed that through to the customer so they can actually follow that journey, or actually see that day when it was processed and what those results look like. It's just that form of transparency that we really do want to hit and we want to be the leaders with transparency. But getting back to our ingredients, it's all coming from human consumption businesses. Some of those suppliers are going back 20 years ago when I was in the small goods industry, where I'd created relationships and they've supported us on the way through. They know my standards, they know how picky we can be. Just because we're processing pet food now, they understand because they've had a number of deliveries rejected or battered over the head by myself, so it doesn't matter if it's pet food, it’s still the human consumption qualities that we need. And our entire process through our business is as if we're manufacturing a human consumption product, that's what the team understands and that's what the business is trying to achieve all the way through.  

00:09:25 Narelle:       It's even more important when people realise just how poor quality ingredients can be if it's feed grade or pet grade produce. I won't go into it in this podcast, but it could be the lowest of the low in terms of quality. So to hold up those standards and to have held relationships with manufacturers and suppliers for such a long time, I think speaks volumes for your integrity and your beliefs in the type of product that you want to produce and give to the consumers.  

00:09:54 Glenn:       I agree with what Narelle's saying, Chris, I think your marketing team is doing a wonderful job. When I look at those videos that you've put on Instagram and where it does advocate what you're actually doing in the factory, and the warehouse where you're doing your blending and selection, and materials that you're putting in and your packaging and everything. You're basically telling a story of what's happening and then you go further and start investing in evidence-based data that people can actually see what's been produced with your material. That's fantastic, because I remember years ago I used to be an electrician, I was specialising in refrigeration and I'm talking 30 years ago, I won't name the manufacturer, but I went out to a manufacturer's plant and it was putrid. I got to see the livestock, well, the dead stock coming in, and it was basically just fallen product.  

00:10:41 Glenn:       It was awful. It was a really horrible experience to see that. And I know that the efficacy inside the industry has really improved considerably. For example, people like Brittany Young who you know, they're influencers inside this industry and this spectrum of talking about what people are producing and what they're doing inside the raw food feeding industry. And for her to come away and endorse your product and say, you know, what you guys were doing was very open. There's a lot of transparency there. And then when you get onto social media and you're showing people that, regardless of whether we've got a sponsorship agreement between us or not, that just goes to show that you guys are very ethical in what you're doing, and you're bringing to market a very fresh product and saying to everybody else, raise your standards because this is what pet owners and pets should be having access to. So that's a big thank you.  

00:11:30 Chris:       Well, it's a thank you to you as well. It's lovely to hear and for people to recognise what we are trying to achieve out there with our full transparency in what we're doing. Yeah, thank you.  

00:11:39 Narelle:   Glenn and I, we don't have children, we have five dogs, and our dogs are our children, dare I say it. People want that extra quality for their dogs because for a lot of people, their dogs are their lives and they want that human quality, or they wanna know that the quality that their dogs or their cats are being fed is the best it can be. So that's what I love about what Big Dog is producing. And the other thing that's great, and I talk a lot about it with the education I do for my clients as a clinical naturopath and nutritionist for dogs and people, I see a lot of sick people. And so cleaning up the diet and minimising the addition of synthetic additives, like preservatives, colours, flavors, chemical fillers, I'm always trying to pull that out of the diet of my dog clients, and my people clients, as a way to improve their health. Big Dog doesn't put anything synthetic in their foods, which I imagine is a challenge in itself because it would be so easy just to meet nutritional standards by putting in a vitamin and mineral mix. It's so easy to do and so available these days. You've made that decision not to, which I love, thank you for doing that. But what are some of the challenges around that and how does Big Dog ensure that our pets are still getting everything they need nutritionally, without adding in those synthetic vitamins and minerals?  

00:13:00 Chris:       Yeah, it's a good question. We've been challenged on that quite a few times with regards to complete and balanced and AAFCO standards, and it's certainly something we've had a number of discussions around internally with the management team. AAFCO is a standard, and hand on heart, as a raw manufacturer and I could be a little bit biased, but I honestly believe what they're expecting us to put in dog food to make a complete balance, you might as well get a bag of sand and throw in a vitamin mix in. Potentially if it's tested they’re going to meet the AAFCO standards. It's really designed more for a highly processed diet and maybe even kibble more so than anything. We did a feeding trial with AAFCO because we did want to give that confidence to our consumers.  

00:13:47 Chris:       So we did that with our charity of choice, which was with Smart Pups. They have a number of puppies going through all the time and we feed them. We've been feeding their colony for the last three years. We just thought it makes sense now to do a feeding trial. We get the vet involved and they take all their bloods obviously. and this is all the way through each week. You're testing bloods and everything else that the vet needs to see and what AAFCO has identified needs to be done to ensure that you've met that feeding trial. Tell  

00:14:17 Glenn:       Tell us about Smart Pup.  

00:14:18 Chris:       Smart Pups, they're just a wonderful charity. They're there to support children and families that are disadvantaged to some sort of capacity. So it could be autism, it could be anything, but these dogs are trained specifically for that family or that particular little boy or little girl that might be challenged. One example I think was Little Akira that we ended up buying a dog for, four years ago. She used to have 150 seizures a day. The dog was trained to recognise a seizure approaching, and it might be a simple thing to stop a seizure. The dog would just go over and put his head on her lap or something like that and pacify her, and that might assist with not having seizures. But there's so many different things that they can train these dogs, they're absolutely unbelievable.  

00:15:02 Chris:       When I was at a luncheon on Friday, you can't help but get a bit teary every time they put something up on the screen and watch what these dogs are doing for these children. It's a wonderful organisation. They're not supported in any way. It is just purely through sponsorship, and the lady who started the business, called Patricia, she's just the most humble person. I think they've now trained 250 dogs for families. The quality of life just changes for that family. They're allowed to go out now. They all go together and they've got this dog, so now they can go to the beach, they can go wherever. Whereas they used to just be too scared to be able to go out the door, essentially because it can be challenging out there. It just gives confidence to the child and also the family to go and have a life again. It's a wonderful charity of choice.  

00:15:52 Glenn:       Well, good on you, mate, for getting behind it. Not only just throwing some dollars at them, but also believing in the project itself.  

00:15:58 Chris:       Yeah, thank you. It's the whole business we love. They come around every week anyway, and all the girls in the office love it. They get a cuddle from puppies and from the older dogs. It's a wonderful organization  

00:16:10 Narelle:       Just coming back to the synthetic nutrients and AAFCO, and the feeding trials and things like that. I do talk a lot in my education about that, and  AAFCO meeting those standards isn't all that it's cracked up to be. And it certainly doesn't guarantee that your dog's gonna live a long and healthy life. But I can understand the need to do it as a company to have that complete and balanced claim on the label. Because unfortunately, a lot of consumers do need that reassurance and that peace of mind that everything is according to AAFCO. But the other thing people may not realise, you're right when you say that the standards are more applicable to kibble, because through the processing of kibble, the extrusion process and those high temperatures, they're losing out pretty much most of the natural nutrition that comes from the food, even the poor quality food that goes into kibble.  

00:16:59 Narelle:       And then it loses most of that nutritional value through the processing methods. So they do need to add a lot of synthetic vitamins and minerals and preservatives and everything else along those lines. But people don't realise that, because you are dealing with a raw product and you are freezing it, once it's packaged up that preserves the greatest amount of nutrients anyway. So I guess it's great that you've done the feeding trial to give people that peace of mind, but just the food itself is gonna have a much higher value nutritionally regardless, because just of the way you manufacture, the quality of the produce that you're using, the freezing process that you're using. I dunno if you wanna say anything more about that, but it's just a really good point about the standards aren't always required, I guess.  

00:17:48 Chris:       Yeah, and that is the challenge, obviously the pet parents just want that confidence that they're doing the right thing. And unfortunately with the marketing and some of these standards, it is questionable. But talking about Big Dog, we're sourcing as nutritious a product as we possibly can. We don't need to add those synthetics because they’re bio-available and the dog can digest them much more appropriately. And that's why we grind to a finer size as well with our ingredients to assist that digestive factor. But again, as soon as you start processing and heating more, the degradation of that nutritional quality within that product is obviously going down very quickly the further you go.Heat is obviously the worst out of the whole lot. Some of these foods out there, they're not even starting with much and then they're going through this entire process so they’re pretty well just a sterile product and then they've gotta add these nutrients back in to give it some sort of nutritional quality, unfortunately. Whereas we're starting with raw, fresh products, the process is very quick. Essentially once we start manufacturing a batch of beef, for example, we've really got that beef ground, minced, formed and in the freezer within two hours.  

00:18:58 Narelle:       Oh wow.  

00:18:58 Chris:       Um, so that whole step is very quick. And you're quite right, we don't use preservatives or fillers or colours or anything like that. If it's not natural, we don't use it. So our only means of preservation is freezing, and it is essential to us that we do pull that temperature down as quickly as possible. We're normally pulling that down within 48 hours. You know, it's in a frozen state and ready to go. We can always get better with our efficiencies and our processes, and that's something that I and the team really do enjoy, how we can we do this better. And to be perfectly honest, we've had to, with the increase in volume that we've experienced with just pure growth through our business in the last couple of years. It can be challenging at times, but it's a lot of fun, that's for sure. Because we know the end product that we're gonna achieve and what we are trying to achieve and do for the pet parents out there is certainly a massive driving factor for us. 

00:19:51 Narelle:       I'm just wondering, Big Dog have quite a variety of different proteins that they use across their product range, which is great because as a company or as a clinician, I'm always promoting the idea of feeding a wide variety of different foods across time. And the great thing is, Big Dog has that variety that I can offer. But during, particularly, the last 12 months with Covid, have you faced any issues with sourcing a lot of those proteins to keep up with demand, or hasn't it really impacted your industry and your business specifically?  

00:20:22 Chris:       Yeah, it certainly impacted our industry. I do hear where some of our competitors are certainly challenged on or from a raw material point of view. But I think the beauty with us is that we have been working so closely with some of our suppliers for the last 20 years, they know what we need and are more than happy to have grown with us. Some of these biggest suppliers have just been terrific to work with, whether my order is 10 tons this week, or 40 tons this week, they're certainly working very closely with us. And through Covid, we've never really been let down, which I think goes a long way for our customers out there, which I'm talking about stores.  

00:21:00 Chris:       And nothing's more frustrating because they don't want to have customers coming through, and pet parents coming through and going, well, my dog can only eat this particular protein, where is it? It can be very frustrating for the pet parent as well, our customers don't wanna have to have that challenge. It's always been a step in our business plan to ensure that consistency is gonna be there, and the growth factor is gonna be there as well with our supplies. So when we do have to push the button to a certain degree it's there and available.  

00:21:29 Narelle:       I guess it's great that you're not having to rely on fresh produce being flown over from overseas when all the shutdowns with the Airlines and things happen, if you are using local produce. There are still challenges with border closures and I think it's great that you're using Australian produce and Australian farmers supporting them. I have a family background, half of them are farmers, so I am all for any company that supports local.  

00:21:51 Chris:       Yeah, absolutely. It's lovely to be able to assist as well to a certain degree. And that's a very genuine conversation I've had with some of our suppliers and the farmers, what were they gonna do with this product? Just 'cause it's got a small blemish on it? The bigger corporates won't accept it, or something like that. So they're just plowing it back into the  fields or something like that. But, you know, so much hard work that goes into play and then just one little blemish, they can't do it, but it's perfect for us, it's going through our process. We're gonna pulp it up and make it as fine as possible to a certain degree to help the digestion of the dogs and cats as I said before. But it's just nice to be able to give 'em something back rather than them wasting money and plowing it back into the field. It's a really nice story, and it's something from Big Dogs' point of view that we want to do more of, on the social media sites and on our website, is just talking about our suppliers and farms and what they actually do as well.  

00:22:46 Narelle:       Yeah, people may not realise, but the Big Dog website, it's so full of information and different resources and education points. I do highly recommend that people jump onto the website to read more about it, and any frequently asked questions they're all covered there about raw food feeding. I guess one of the main questions that does come up that I hear, and I'm sure no doubt that you do too, is about the risks and the dangers of raw food feeding. So I don’t know if you wanna speak about that a little bit and your take on that.  

00:23:17 Chris:       Yeah, absolutely. I think from a raw feeding point of view and for our pet parents out there, you've gotta understand that there will be some sort of bacterial load on these foods. It is natural and not all bacteria is bad. I think they get a bad wrap, you know, probiotics, et cetera, you know, that's bacteria. I feel sometimes pet parents don't really understand that there is gonna be some sort of bacteria within our products, but you know, that bacteria helps with the digestion, et cetera, et cetera. But the beauty here is even if the nasties are there, and there will be some nasties from time to time, if you've got a really good clean process, you've got really good supply chains that have good processes in place and QAs, et cetera, that doing their checks along the way, your bacterial load is very low.  

00:24:07 Chris:       That's what we aim for too. Your bacterial load arrives at us. We start with a low bacterial number and then we process accordingly as quickly as I said, two hours, it's through, it's all under nice load temperatures. The bacteria don't get that opportunity to proliferate either, because they proliferate between 10 and 60 degrees roughly, especially the bad ones. So we're keeping it under that all the way through, and then we're freezing as quickly as possible, so the controls are there along the way. Now does that mean that our raw food has no bad bacteria? No, that doesn't mean that at all. It just means that we've got good bacteria, it means we've got bad bacteria, but it's all a numbers game. And we wanna support the good guys so we throw in stuff as well. With our new formulations that are coming out, some of our products are gonna have kombucha, kefir, it's gonna have highlights of other probiotics that's going in to support the good bacteria to outnumber the bad bacteria and then you're not really gonna have an issue at all. That's my take on it.

00:25:04 Narelle:       That's great, and I guess people are quite closed. Do I say close-minded, or just maybe …

00:25:09 Glenn:       Ill-informed.  

00:25:10 Narelle:       Ill-informed is a better way. There's so much around the risk of raw food feeding, but many people don't realise that kibble is a major source of a lot of nasty bacteria like salmonella, and it can survive in a bag of kibble for extended periods of time. A lot of the outbreaks when it comes to food poisoning related to dog food, there's probably more examples coming from dried foods and dried treats than there is from the raw food side of things. And it is common sense. We're meat eaters in our house, so you know, every day I'm handling raw meat for us. And it's the same common sense, hygiene principles apply whether it's for a dog or a human. 

00:25:53 Glenn:       It’s kind of a bizarre argument to have really considering this is gonna be around no matter what, and dogs are known as carrion. They pick up things off the ground,if there's possum poo on the ground, they're eating all that sort of stuff and everything anyway. So how could you entirely know that it came from the food to begin with? And I absolutely agree, if people have got bad feeding practices and or bad, let me say bad manufacturing practices, that's definitely gonna affect the gut health and the systematic health of a dog no matter what. It doesn't matter whether that's kibble or raw. However there is always, as you and Narelle previously said, there's always going to be some bacteria around on the food anyway. And it's like the old medical saying, the difference between the poison and the cure, is in the dose.  

00:26:39 Glenn:       You know, we have to have some of that bacteria in our system for our system to be able to combat that as well. And it's gonna be there no matter what. So I think from my understanding, and I don't have the field of scope that both of you have in this area, I'm more a passenger where you guys are in the driver's seat in this. But from my point of view, I think this came down to more of a spin doctoring and a marketing point of view to deter people from doing this when there's considerable investment with other types of practices. But that's just my skeptical mind thinking out loud.  

00:27:10 Narelle:       I'd agree with the bias that's been put out there to consumers by certain companies of dog food.  

00:27:17 Glenn:       Well, you've got an investment in, you know, like a hefty investment in something. Wouldn't it be in your best interest to protect that market if you can have a bigger slice of it rather than share it with somebody else who's gonna start taking some profits off you at the top end?  

00:27:30 Narelle:       It's no secret either that I've started to do some technical writing, for Big Dog and I've got a really strong research background, so I'm always looking at what's out there in the scientific literature. And when you do actually take the time to look at the studies, it's not all against raw and as a source of pathogens. There was this amazing study, it was a worldwide study done where they assessed nearly 16 and a half thousand households across the globe who feed raw to their dog's pets. They were looking at transmission of pathogenic bacteria from the raw food to the people who lived in the house and whether someone got sick in that house, I think it was only 0.2% of the pet owners or household occupants actually got sick with what they thought might be a bacteria from the meat.  

00:28:21 Narelle:       But when they actually cultured to determine if it was, I think it was 0.02% of households, they could actually match the bacteria from the meat with the bacteria that the person had that was causing their gastro. Which is pretty negligible and it just really highlights that the risk has been blown out of proportion. People just accept that without actually understanding the data, what the science is saying. It's the same with the risk, or the fear that dogs that are fed raw, shed a lot more pathogenic species of salmonella in their faeces. Now all dogs have the potential to shed bacteria in their faeces, that's just what they do. But studies have shown and there was a paper about it, I think there were assistance dogs going into hospitals and they assessed all the poos of all the dogs, and some that were raw fed had no salmonella whatsoever in their stools.  

00:29:12 Narelle:       And some that were a hundred percent kibble fed had a lot of salmonella. So it's not a guarantee just because the dog's raw fed that suddenly you're gonna have this massive load of pathogenic salmonella in your house and it's just not the case. That's my 2 cents on the risks of raw food feeding, and honestly, most of our listeners have pet dogs, I'm sure you have dogs too, Chris, but it's unavoidable that we're gonna get a tongue on our face or in our mouth, when we least expect it from our dogs and we are all not sick and dying. It's just living with dogs.

00:29:45 Chris:       A hundred percent. And even without the food or whatever food that that dog eats, they naturally have some of these pathogenic bacteria within their systems anyway, and humans are the same. We carry some of these pathogens, we're not sterile. Unfortunately some of our pet parents do take the advice of some professionals out there that don't really understand nutrition and don't have that background in bacteria and just the basic understanding of the bacteria. And as soon as a dog gets sick, or diarrhoea, or something, its what do you feed? I feed raw. Oh, that's what it is, that's the challenge. That's the problem there. You've probably got salmonella, it just opens up. It really is a lack of knowledge and understanding out there and unfortunately some of these  professionals  they're not helping us in any way shape or form. That’s for sure.

00:30:36 Narelle:       It's a good point though. Our dogs carry bacteria, we carry bacteria and you know, we carry pathogenic bacteria, but it's like we've said previously, it's all about the proportions and what’s flourishing at the time. And even with our own health, we're more likely to get sick and have that overgrowth of pathogenic species if our immune systems are compromised. And a big, the biggest contributing factor to poor immunity in what I see day to day is poor diet, whether it's for us or whether it's for our dog. A dog on a commercial kibble that's just full of rubbish and synthetic ingredients, I do think their immune system is compromised and they are more likely to get sick. And if there is any bacteria around it, it's maybe more likely to sort of take over for those dogs. But put on a raw food diet that's more species appropriate and less artificial, I think it just puts 'em in a better place. We're all talking to the converted among ourselves on this topic.

00:31:36 Glenn:       But there are people who are listening to this podcast who don't understand all those metrics. They just don't have an idea of it. Basically, what I found as a consumer myself is how easily led you are by marketing sometimes. 

00:31:54 Narelle:       Depends on the integrity of the company.

00:31:56 Glenn:       I'm not saying that all marketing teams do that 'cause some marketing teams are absolutely brilliant and they do work within the realms of science, and they do consult and their advocacy of products is actually quite good. However, there are some out there who are just purely preserving the bottom line. I've seen that evidence in biases before where certain companies are influencing a lot of professionals out there who are not asking the questions. They're just toeing the company line. So whatever the myopic mantra is, they're spilling out at the end of it. I mean that's even getting into education portals where people are basically being educated and coming out of that education with their degree, believing that what they're told is the end story. So they start pushing the company line as well until they start realising, hang on, I'm talking about a side.  

00:32:42 Glenn:       But there are so many more sides that I haven't even considered. Especially people who are science-backed, actually using that knowledge and that empowerment to actually go, let me research further into this. And they're looking out and consulting with people like yourself and Narelle and everybody who's in the industry and going, wow, there's an entire world outside of my education portal that has now educated me further on a balanced spectrum about it. And if you know anything about me, Chris, my whole background, especially in dog training, is all about considering everything, not just considering half of a whole.  

00:33:17 Chris:       Absolutely. Just one other point there I'd like to make, 'cause you're spot on there NArelle with the stimulation of the immune system by eating raw, natural and healthy diets. The whole digestive process is much more efficient as well. And also the microbiome is much healthier. And again, as I said before, it's a numbers game so the good guys outweighing the bad guys as it's going through that process, and even the pH of the stomach of the dogs as well from a raw fed to a processed diet. So there are a number of factors along the way which ensures, or which can control those numbers of bad bacteria if they found their way through the process, they get destroyed anyway. It really is an important part, when we're talking about the raw foods, and the microbiome and the bacteria and that they all play their parts. I'm not gonna bog everybody down talking about that today.  

00:34:07 Narelle:       It's true though. A healthy dog has a pH gastric acid that within 15 minutes, I've read in some papers, should be able to pretty much kill any pathogenic bacteria that are coming in, which is why they can eat dead animals and poo and whatever else is rotting on the ground and be fine with it.  

00:34:23 Chris:       Probably a good point about it is probiotics. We've just released a new probiotic product as well. We have a particular strain that's a spore strain, so it can actually form a spore, a shield around itself, so it can bypass the digestive process. It can't be destroyed, but that low pH acidic environment there, so it passes through and gets into the intestine and colon where it needs to be. Same as with the other strains that we have in our probiotics, they're micro encapsulated and that's done specifically to bypass the digestive process so it doesn't get destroyed along the way. Unfortunately there's a number of probiotics out there, brackets, bacteria that as soon as they hit that gap, they're just destroyed and you're wasting your money, so it's the same principle really.  

00:35:07 Narelle:       Yeah. I don't think people realise when it comes to quality control with supplements, particularly with probiotics that are so fragile, that there's a real science behind getting a quality product that's gonna do what it claims that it will do. So I'll probably have to do a podcast on probiotics specifically to talk about what people should be looking for in that regard. But it's really fascinating, I didn't realise about your new product. Is it out yet, Chris? Or in the works?  

00:35:33 Chris:       Yeah, we've just released it. It’s called Big Dog Probiotic. It is brand new. We've had one out there, but we've really revved up the level of CFU per gram. So we're gonna be hitting around 20 billion per dose, which is huge and there's five, six strains there. One, as I said, is a spore and the other, the lactose, and they're microencapsulated to ensure that they get right through. We're blending that with a green banana starch, the resistant starch there, that's the prebiotic. And then there's enzymes involved with it as well, so it's a terrific product. We've had some really good results coming back from it, but it's all about those numbers as well, you know, that it's so high in specific strains that will compliment the dog's digestive system. 

00:36:17 Narelle:       It's fascinating, I didn't know about the probiotics, so I apologise that I wasn't on top of that, but it was only yesterday I was listening to a webinar on postprandial endotoxemia. It was a human based webinar, but the whole endotoxemia occurs, so the listeners know, when the gut becomes more porous and allows lipopolysaccharides through into the bloodstream, which are an exotoxin from pathogenic certain pathogenic bacteria. But once that gets into the bloodstream, this scientist from the US was saying it could pretty much be contributing to most chronic disease states, whether it's autoimmune, polycystic ovary syndrome, you know, all the metabolic syndromes, type two diabetes, things like that. But what he was talking about in the presentation was, the huge benefits of spore forming bacteria in helping to reduce that endotoxemia that happens particularly after we eat and the gut becomes more porous and blocking that uptake of the lipopolysaccharides, which then fuel that chronic systemic inflammation and various disease states. I just love that Big Dog has incorporated some spore forming bacteria or one species into their product. I think that's great. I'm really gonna have to do a podcast on probiotics and talk about all the different research out there. Because a lot of pet food supplements are so vague in their labeling, but you really do need to know what's in there because different species have certain health benefits or not. Anyway, we'll talk about that another day, I think probiotics.  

00:37:51 Chris:       Yeah, it sounds like another podcast for you.  

00:37:54 Narelle:       Be really exciting.  

00:37:55 Chris:       Leaky gut et cetera. There's a lot of information coming out about that now and there's so many more studies on probiotics, it's really very interesting. That's why they're saying that our gut's our second brain and that's all coming from the interaction of the bacterium, the microbiome obviously. It's interesting too, people like yourself, Narelle and myself, some of the other listeners probably aren't so excited about it, but it is exciting.  

00:38:23 Glenn:       Well you find that's a growing audience. I think people are more educated these days and that's why they're demanding more, and that's why people like you are being more transparent, and more companies need to get on board with that sort of advocacy in this industry as well because people are being more educated. There is a rise in what people are actually looking at and how deep diving they're going into these subject matters now.  

00:38:45 Chris:       Absolutely Glenn, I think that's why we are seeing that growth that we're experiencing. Our pet parents are so much more educated and it's a breath of fresh air and they just won't tolerate bullshit, which is also a breath of fresh air as well. They go and they do their research and that's all that we're trying to do at Big Dog. We're gonna tell you as much as we can, but you are the pet parent. You need to feel comfortable in what you are feeding your pet because you do have other influences coming at you as well. So we'll give you the information and then you just make that decision. And if you need any more, we're here to help, but pet parents are much better educated and there's a whole number of reasons for that as well, there's a lot more studies and research and information from pet companies putting that out as well. But the internet, that certainly helped in the last five, six years, that's for sure.  

00:39:35 Narelle:       Yeah, we'll start to wrap it up, Chris, but what's your opinion on the future of pet food in Australia now? I know you do some collaborative work with the pet food industry of Australia and things like that. Where do you think things are gonna be heading going forward?  

00:39:51 Chris:       There is obviously some work being done there from the PFIAA, which more or less is assisting with putting standards and legislation in place for Australian pet food, which I think is great. That comes from all brands as well, it's not just raw feeding and dry whatever, there's a number of us there. We're just working our way through those standards right now. But again, it can only be put forward to the government and the legislation will take place from there and then we can follow. I really hope that the transparency factor is broadcasted quite clear and loud, and I think that that's definitely a focus for us with advice moving forward from a labeling perspective, ingredients, blah, blah, blah that's going in there. From a raw food side of things,  

00:40:32 Chris:       I think this category is just going to continue to grow and it's shown that in the last two years it's been the leading category in pet food stores, which is really exciting. If you actually look at the numbers on what raw pet food really represents in the amount of food that's fed to all of our pets out there, it’s so so small. So there is so much room for us to continue to get some traction. My goal is for raw food and these diets just to be a common food that's just accepted, and that everybody understands the benefits and why they're feeding, and be accepted on all levels too. So not just a pet parent and a pet store, but I want vets, I need professionals all understanding why, if they're gonna offer that advice on nutrition, they need to cover all their bases on what they're saying and telling the pet parent. But I think it's exciting.  

00:41:32 Narelle:       I agree. I definitely think the industry is growing and raw food feeding is going to become bigger. But there are a lot of challenges with certain industry professionals in getting over that hurdle, around that mindset that raw food is dangerous to our pets. But I think that’s what we're all doing in our individual way, trying to educate and get the message out there that it isn't something to be feared, actually something to be promoted. We've really appreciated your time. I know you're a busy man and particularly this week with Covid and lockdowns where you are, still trying to manage your business and staff, so thank you so much for your time today.  

00:42:09 Glenn:       Yeah, thanks Chris. It's really been great having a chat with you, and keep up the great work mate.  

00:42:13 Chris:       Yeah, thank you very much, I really appreciate the time here with you guys today. I am available anytime and I am lucky to be able to slip away from that. I've got a great team behind me there, and to all the pet parents that are listening, supporting us. Thank you as well.  

00:42:26 Glenn:       Well hopefully somebody will come back with a question one day that we can all collaborate again and, and have a chat. Maybe there's some questions about something that you're doing, or a product range or anything like that. Where did the name Big Dog come from before we close out? Where did you pick that from?  

00:42:41 Chris:       That's a good question. Well, when we went to register the name, it wasn't Big Dog. As I said, I was 26 and pretty naive at that stage, and I just sent my wife in to go and register one name, it was actually called Blue Dog to tell the truth. That was after one of my favorite greyhounds at that time. Anyway, she got there and processed it and they said, well, you can't have that. It's already taken. So my wife literally just rang me, said, well, what have you got? Anything else? I said, Nope, and she started rattling off and she said, Big, she said, Big Dog. And I said, that's it, that's a good one. I'm sorry, there's not a lot of thought put into it originally, but  that’s how it came up,  

00:43:22 Glenn:       It came from necessity, so there you go.  

00:43:24 Narelle:       If any of the listeners have questions around Big Dog and their products, what they're doing, they're best to jump onto their Facebook page, Big Dog Pet Foods. The website, bigdogpetfoods.com is full of resources for pet parents, so jump on there. If you wanna ask me a question, you can find me on my Facebook page, Natural Health for People and Pets is the one associated with the podcast. You can go to my website, naturalhealthandnutrition.com.au or email me at narelle@naturalhealthandnutrition.com.au. And don't forget, in June, the 5th of June, it's a Saturday, I am doing my full day canine nutrition seminar, so it's going to be awesome. The feedback from previous seminars has just been fantastic. It's a full on brain draining day of all things around canine nutrition from behavior, raw food feeding, commercial foods and allergies, because allergies always comes up as such a big topic for pet owners. The first 30 people who attend will be given a free three kilo box of Big Dog raw patties.  

00:44:35 Glenn:       Extremely generous. 

00:44:36 Narelle:       Really generous of Big Dog Pet Food, thank you. Jump onto my website to read more about the seminar and the details, and to purchase your ticket. Don't miss it because the demand from other States is huge. When people know what it's about, they just wanna be part of it, so jump on that for sure.  

00:44:55 Glenn:       Also a big shout out to Jean as well from Big Dog.  

00:44:58 Narelle:       Yeah, love Jean. She's been amazing with coordinating things with me over the last 12 months. 

00:45:09 Glenn:       Jean's been, Narelle talks very highly of Jean and what she's doing and how she's working with you and your product and everything like that. So nothing but big ups for Jean.  

00:45:18 Chris:       Thank you, she's very passionate and she's a naturopath as well. She's very passionate about our industry and our business and keeps me in line, that's for sure.  

00:45:28 Glenn:       Well, she's doing it for all the right reasons, which is why we're giving her big ups.  

00:45:31 Narelle:       Just that point, sorry, I know we have to wrap up, but just the fact that Jean's background is as a naturopath, I love that she brings that perspective to Big Dog and just the philosophy around everything that you're doing. Her background is just so in sync and it's such a synergistic and beautiful relationship. I think that natural medicine and the Big Dog Pet Food brand. When I found out that that was Jean's background, we can talk for hours if we get on the phone, not on business time, of course.

00:46:03 Chris:       I think that's the beauty  as well. We've got two food scientists, a naturopath and we've also got another gentleman who looks after our supplements division, Alex, who's also studying nutrition which should be completed within the next 12 months. So it's nice to have a bunch of us that can bounce ideas off and whatnot, especially with product development and that sort of stuff as well. It's quite exciting. And just talking about probiotics as well, with your next conference Narelle, let's throw some probiotics out there as well for your guests. 

00:46:33 Narelle:       Wow.  

00:46:33 Chris:       We'll sort something out for you. That's  

00:46:35 Narelle:       That’s awesome, thank you. That's very generous. Now people have no reason not to come to my seminar.

00:46:40 Glenn:       Well, the big logos that you're getting from Big Dog.  

00:46:42 Narelle:       Yeah, I mean I wanna go just to get them.   

00:46:47 Chris:       We'll see what we can do for you, Narelle.  

00:46:49 Narelle:       All right, thanks Chris, we'll leave it there everyone. Thank you for listening and catch you next time. Thank you.  

00:46:55 Chris:       Thanks guys. 

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