BARF dog food: composition, benefits and risks

Dog barf. BARF is a popular, natural way of feeding dogs. The abbreviation stands for Biologically Appropiate Raw Food. This means that your four-legged friend will be fed meat and bone instead of chunks or wet food.

  • How do you feed BARF to your dog?
  • Is this safe?
  • And is it easily available?
  • Read all about feeding BARF to your four-legged friend in this article.

What is BARF?

BARF is a natural way of feeding dogs. The letters are short for ‘Biologically Appropiate Raw Food’, although they are also known as ‘Bones and Raw Food’. Both names cover the load.

Because what does a dog eat from its own nature? Meat and bones!

In the past ten years, more attention has been paid to the natural diet of our pets. Dog owners as well as nutritionists and vets openly think about this. The meat industry has picked up on this, resulting in a wide range of ‘natural’ food for your four-legged friend.

Australian vet Ian Bllinghurst is believed to be the captain of the current BARF current. He was inspired by holistic veterinarian Juliette de Baïracli Levy, whose work advocated raw meat in the 1930s.

But what exactly does a BARF sign mean?

The dog’s menu is composed of meat bones (50% bone, 50% meat), muscle meat, organ meat, pureed or cooked fruit and vegetables, supplemented with extras such as raw eggs.

The following proportions are roughly maintained:

But why would you choose these products?

Read also: Dog bone and dog bone »

Why meat and bone as dog food?

The BARF movement is based on the natural diet of wild ancestors. In our modern house dog, this is the wolf. This is known as a true carnivore , or a real carnivore.

This means that the digestive system of the wolf is entirely focused on processing and digesting meat and bones. And much less on starch and fiber, for example!

The dog that lives in our house today is a descendant of this carnivore. And although he seems miles away from his genetic ancestor, nothing could be further from the truth. Research has shown that the modern digestive dog resembles the wolf like two drops of water.

With one exception.

The dog has lived side by side with humans for many thousands of years. We humans are omnivores, also known as omnivores. A large part of our menu consists of carbohydrates and starch, for example in bread and porridge.

Carbohydrates and starch are digested in the body by the enzyme amylase. The wolf, however, has very, very little information in its genes for the production of this substance.

Recent research (2013) shows that the dog has adapted somewhat to humans. They have more of this amylase-producing information in the genes. Although this makes the dog far from a carbohydrate eater.

Yet they can digest bread a little better than the wolf, for example. However, we still see little absorption of nutrients. In addition, eating too much or regularly carbohydrates or starch can lead to health problems, such as irritation of the gastrointestinal system and rash.

This makes feeding meat and bones, popularly called BARFs, a lot more logical. But does everyone think this is a great idea?

Advantages and disadvantages of BARF at a glance

Where advocates of a specific diet, there are also opponents. What are their main points in the discussion about this diet?

Many BARF advocates find that you meet a dog’s natural needs by arranging its diet fresh and raw. In addition, the addition of grains and fragrances, colors and flavors contained in kibble food would cause all kinds of health problems.

Opponents point to risks of harmful bacteria, such as salmonella and campylobacter . The added preservatives and possible heating of meat would only give the dog extra protection against this.

BARF advocates

  • Provides shiny, healthy coat
  • Provides healthy teeth and good oral hygiene
  • More natural activity for the dog
  • Less and firm stools
  • Diet is adapted to gastrointestinal function
  • Solution for digestion problems and skin allergies

Opponents BARF

  • Harmful bacteria can cause gastrointestinal complaints
  • Increased risk of blockages
  • Risk of internal damage
  • No balance with regard to vitamins and minerals

The risk of injury from sharp, splintering bones and blockage due to excess calcium is also argued as a counter-argument.

Is BARF not safe at all?

Is BARF safe dog food?

Putting together a dog diet can be quite complicated. Not only should the dog get enough variety on its plate. The proportions of important nutrients must also be correct.

Otherwise, your dog has a chance of shortages or surpluses, which entails health risks. A BARF diet is therefore only safe if the owner thoroughly studies the details.

What is important for a safe BARF diet?


When your dog has been fed chunks and wet food on his plate for years, it is important that his gastrointestinal system can slowly get used to the transition. Not only does it require a different technique of eating (more gnawing and chewing), but also the digestion of BARF products is different.

That is why you can give more and more BARF with fewer lumps in a period of 6 weeks. In addition, it is important that you start with soft meat bones from small animals, so that the frame of your dog can get used to this. Think of duck, chicken or pheasant.

Safe storage and preparation

Is the pH of the dog’s stomach sufficiently adapted to feeding raw meat and bones? And is your dog healthy and fit? Then you have a small chance that the bacteria present in the meat will cause problems.

In addition, the meat offered for BARF must also meet a strict quality mark. This means that it must be so safe that we humans can eat it (after heating). This means that there is little chance of a dangerous bacterial contamination.

After purchase, the meat will have to be protected against spoilage. Ideally, you freeze the meat at -18 ° C.

It can be defrosted twice after purchase. First you divide it into portions and then freeze it again. Until you thaw it again and start feeding.

This freezing will also dampen the bacterial populations present.

Always ensure good hygiene and clean everything neatly. Leftover juices or bits can become usury spots for bacteria and vermin. Do not allow the raw meat to come into contact with your own food.

As an extra safety measure, pregnant women are strongly advised not to work with raw meat.

To feed your dog correctly, responsibly, you need to know what the different parts of the menu stand for.

Your four-legged friend’s BARF menu consists of five parts. Bones with meat, organ meat, loose meat (muscle tissue), fruit & vegetables and finally any extras.

Meat bones

Meat bones make up the bulk of the BARF meal. This should ideally consist of 50% bone and 50% meat. They are important for your dog’s calcium and phosphorus supply and ensure an active, satiating eating style.

However, you cannot give all bones at the transition to BARF. And some are even dangerous!

When moving to the BARF menu, it is important that your dog gets used to eating meat bones. Therefore, start with soft bones from small animals, such as pigeons or chicken necks and backs.

If this goes well, you can feed duck necks, guinea fowl bodies and salmon or rabbit.

The next step is the body of the duck or pheasant, turkey necks, rabbit heads, salmon heads and rabbit backs.
After this you can switch to the bones of larger herbivores (herbivores). It is important to never give load-bearing bones, they are too hard! So you feed for example roe deer or lamb ribs, but no legs.

Beef ribs and roe deer necks can also be fed after this.

The most important rule when feeding (meat) bones is that they must be raw. Cooking poultry or rabbit bones can cause splinters that can seriously damage the gastrointestinal system. The risk of splintering is greater with small bones (such as chicken) than large ones (such as beef).

Organ meats

Organ meats are important for essential vitamins and minerals of the diet. By varying this, the dog gets a good composition of it. Suitable organ meat is heart, but also rumen, lung, liver and kidneys.

However, never allow this to exceed 5% of the total menu, to avoid surpluses.

Meat (muscle tissue)

In total, the muscle tissue content can be 30% of the BARF menu. But don’t forget that this should already make up 50% of the meat bones. This often only needs to be added in small quantities.

It is an important source of vitamin B12, zinc and amino acids.

Fish is also a good part of the diet. Add this about one to twice a week.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables can be a good addition to the vitamins and minerals. It is important that this is boiled or mashed before feeding. The digestive system of the dog is not made to break down plant structures.

As a result, the majority of the nutrients in the plant cells will leave the body undigested. Sin!


As a final 5% you can add extras such as dairy, eggs or natural oils. However, be careful with this, many dogs are sensitive to dairy. Therefore, always discuss your nutrition plan with a nutritionist.

Can I feed BARF together with chunks?

As you can read, putting together a BARF menu is quite a job. Preparing the food can also take a long time. Mainly for time considerations and convenience, countless owners have opted for feeding chunks in recent decades.

But with a BARF diet, can you easily feed chunks in between, when you don’t have enough time?

Combining BARF food with chunks is generally not recommended .

This has to do with the acidity of the dog’s stomach. This has a very low pH during a meat diet, in order to break down harmful bacteria and hard structures such as bones. With chunks, however, this is not necessary and the pH will be a lot higher.

If you feed both BARF and chunks, the stomach may not become acidic enough. This can cause the dog to suffer from his gastrointestinal system, because the digestion does not go well. But the protection against harmful bacteria is also compromised, which means they can infect the body.

Where can I buy BARF for my dog?

You can go to the butcher for your BARF products, but the meat industry has also picked up the demand for these products. That is why there are a lot of brands that offer good products. You can get this at a specialty animal store, but also order online and have it delivered.

Browse the Internet for this and choose what suits you. Try different brands at a leisurely pace and see what your dog responds well to.

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