• Hahnbee Choi

The "Secret" Ingredients

Updated: Jan 17

If someone handed you a bowl full of corn, wheat, & by-products and topped with heaps of synthetic vitamins/minerals and said "Here's your complete and balanced meal!" you probably would want to eat somewhere else ASAP and maybe write a very aggressive Yelp review (at least I know I would). Or what if you point out how unhealthy the meal is because it is loaded with carbs and artificial vitamins and minerals and they simply reply, "But it meets all the minimum nutrient 'requirements'".

This is the epidemic we face in so many dog food brands today. Yes, I'm talking about synthetic vitamins and minerals.

What Are Synthetics?

Synthetic vitamins and minerals are high concentrations of vitamins/minerals derived from sources that aren't listed. These nutrients are extracted and/or isolated vitamins/minerals that have been synthetically produced in a lab and tested for potency before hitting the shelves. Basically, they're artificially made nutrients that are tested numerous times to make sure that they are delivering somewhat of the same benefit as it's whole food equal.

Why Are They're Added

Synthetics are added for various reasons but the main highlights are...

  • When dry food is heated to high temperatures many vital nutrients are lost and they need to be added back in.

  • To balance any formula (raw and/or kibble).

  • Synthetics can even be used to neutralize free radicals when low-quality meat is used.

Synthetic vs. Natural

The debate has been going on for years: "Are synthetic better or worse than naturally derived nutrients?". Some sources even say that synthetics are dangerous. This is because the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. Although synthetics may contain one main vitamin or mineral they tend to lack some things that natural sources don't, such as trace minerals. Trace minerals cannot be found in synthetic due to them being crafted in laboratories. Fabricating synthetics can be awesome for those who lack certain vitamins/minerals but even too much of a good thing is bad.

Not too long ago, a huge recall of Hill's Pet Food was made due to toxic amounts of Vitamin D in dog food. Too many of these vital nutrients caused hundreds of dogs to die due to toxicity. Some food had over 70 times the recommended amount of Vitamin D.

It was unknown why there were such lethal dosages of Vitamin D in the food. It might have been the mathematician's fault for miscalculating or maybe the mixing machine had caked a little pile of the synthetics and it finally fell into the unlucky kibble batch - there's really no way to know. But what we do know is that these killed hundreds of beloved pets leaving hundreds of families devastated.

It's still unclear how synthetic vitamins and minerals are absorbed and used in the body. Some synthetics may be more easily absorbed while others may not be bioavailable at all. This causes deficiencies as well as toxicity in pets all over the world. When feeding real fresh foods, the vitamins themselves are not being fed but the whole array of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and co-factors are being put into the body for optimal absorption and use. Without these extra compounds, it is highly unlikely that synthetics would be used the same way in the body as their natural counterpart.

For example, studies show that natural vitamin E is absorbed twice as efficiently as synthetic vitamin E. The uncertainty and dangers of mixing so many synthetics together with unknown risks to achieve "balance" are what causes infestation such as the Hill's recall and many more.

The Deadly Truth

A supposedly "trusted" well-known dog food brand kills.

How are we supposed to trust any companies if they're only in it for the money?

Now don't get me wrong... I do believe there are some great dog food companies that use biologically appropriate ingredients and know what they're doing, but these are as rare as a rocking horse's droppings.

If you look at dry and even "raw"(depending on if it been treated with HPP) ingredient lists, you'll see that over 50% of the list are words you can't pronounce, better known as synthetics. How are we supposed to trust when we read "balanced & complete" when the nutrients are coming from synthetics?

Seeking The Truth

How can you tell if the food you're feeding has synthetic vitamins and minerals added? If you grab a bag of food and it states it "natural" or "organic" with "added vitamins and minerals" there's going to be a synthetic pre-mix added. AAFCO requires this stealthy labeling since synthetics are not natural derivatives...

Below are ingredient lists of multiple raw and kibble brands that utilize synthetics. Highlighted in yellow are the synthetics used.

Side note: Probiotics are added so I highlighted them. But they are not a vitamin/mineral.

Some ingredient lists have even more synthetics in their recipe than whole foods. Balanced nutrition can be achieved with whole foods.

It's important to note that synthetics vitamins and minerals do serve a useful purpose. For example, if a dog has a shellfish allergy then a zinc supplement must be used as oysters are unable to be fed. But replacing all nutrients needed with synthetics to easily cover nutrient gaps should be avoided when possible. If/when feeding supplements it's best to get the naturally derived version and not to feed blindly as too much of anything can be harmful. Make sure to feed a chelated nutrient as the mineral will be bound to carbon (or another organic compound) making it more bioavailable. Whole mineral oxides such as copper, zinc, manganese have some of the lowest absorption rates.


Since I've shown you the dark side, let me show you the good. Brands that are fiercely passionate about providing biologically available nutrients, raw, supplements, and even some kibble. Whatever you are feeding your dog, mad respect. You are doing the best for YOU!

The #effsynthetic movement list:


  1. Wildly Blended: Kinnlee works so hard and creates such amazing thought out products.

2. Kin+Kind: This brand has awesome fruit & veggie supplements mixed with coconuts. They also have a berry (it tastes super good FYI) & turmeric recipe which has amazing anti-inflammatory properties.


*while I will always recommend a low carb, fresh, and whole foods diet, I know realistically that is just not feasible for everyone. So I listed some kibble brands I would feed if I had to.

1. Carna4: This brand is 100% synthetic free. YAY!

2. Nature's Logic: This is another brand with absolutely no synthetics!

Raw Food

1. DIY: In my opinion, this is the best way to know exactly what you're feeding your dog and know they are getting the vital nutrients they need to thrive.

2. Raw Feeding Miami: They make their own in-house grinds of various proteins that are high quality and of course, synthetics free.

3. Answers Pet Food: Answer's pet is my favorite premade raw ever! The added step of fermentation and high-quality ingredients used in their formulation makes this brand a must-try for all fresh food feeders!

4. Bones & Co: My second favorite premade brand after Answer's.

Whole, fresh, and natural foods were formed by mother nature herself and she knows best. The fresh food form of nutrients is what the body is going to be the most favorable way of nourishing the body. The time to feed fresh nutrients is now.

Thanks so much for stopping by & Always Keep Exploring!

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