By Diana Chantry
One of the great things about working in Sustainable Agriculture is the people you get to meet. We’re all connected by our shared interest in what’s best for the environment, our desire to support the local economy and our disdain for crappy meat. Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Kasie Maxwell, founder and owner of SFRAW, a San Francisco based buyers’ group with arguably the best fed pets in the Bay Area. SFRAW, in addition to providing access to all natural animal meats, has their own line of food, treats and apothecary products. As a community, SFRAW also offers classes, online resources, and an onsite vet, all of whom are “bucking the industrial trend” in favor of a more natural diet and husbandry for pets.
Some of you may have heard of raw feeding pets, or may even be active raw feeders. The idea is simple: feed your pet a wholesome, nutrient dense diet consisting of uncooked meat, bones, offal & other whole foods raised with integrity. Kasie first got into raw feeding when her 9 year old cat presented with serious health problems in 1989. Her veterinarian’s prognosis was grim: they suspected that Kasie’s cat may have had a disease that was only officially diagnosable in necrosis and she was given 3 months to live. Determined to never say die, Kasie decided to change everything about her cat’s husbandry and go raw. The results were so dramatic that Kasie actually dropped out of the pre-vet school program, stopped working as a vet tech and started doing wildlife rescue & rehabilitation using natural medicine and whole food diets to heal sick wildlife with higher success rates. Not only did her cat recover and live several more years, passing away of natural causes at the ripe old age of 22 years old, but she also saw a huge improvement in previous, unrelated behavioral and physical health issues.
From there, Kasie was hooked. She got her hands on as many resources as she could find, discovering that raw feeding can be curative for a lot of animals and can ease chronic issues like endocrine disorders, renal issues, cancers, seizures, IBD, skin problems & allergies, fleas and the list goes on. As it turns out, when cared for in this manner, cats can possibly live to be 30, which is a horrifying fact considering that the average lifespan of a domestic housecat is 15.
“Animals are failing on conventional diets,” Kasie tells me, “people come to us when conventional medicine and diets fail.” While she says that raw feeding is not a cure-all, she has seen so many pets thrive on it that she recommends anyone with the means to do it give it a try. “If you can get them (cats) to eat raw, feed them raw!”
Having been in the sustainable ag industry for a while, I’ve come across many people who successfully raw feed their pets, but was frightened away from trying it myself by my own vet. When I asked Kasie about this attitude, she assured me that this is not an uncommon response from veterinarians. It came as little surprise to me that Hill’s (a pet food company) provides the curriculum for vets and vet techs, reinforcing the notion that industrially manufactured kibble and canned food is the best thing to give pets.
Considering the quality of meat coming from Confined Animal Feeding Operations, and the fact that we need to cook it to hell and back to make it safe for human consumption, I can see why raw meat is viewed as risky. Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend eating raw CAFO meat to my worst enemy (okay, maybe I would… because it would kill them.) But pastured meat is- literally – a different animal. That’s where the SFRAW buyer’s group comes into play. Kasie started SFRAW in 2003, the goal being to get like-minded people together in order to the buy the cleanest, highest quality meats, liver, hearts, bones and other offal in bulk from local ranchers for making pet food at home. By the very next month, SFRAW had 150 members. Kasie says she never imagined she’d have the thriving membership of 600 people (including breeders, rescuers, new pet owners and vets) working together to give their pets sustainable, healthy food and support local ranchers.
Raw feeding is a controversial topic among animal lovers, but Kasie and her crew are living proof that it can work when done correctly. If you have a pet and are curious about raw feeding, I highly encourage you to check out SFRAW. The mentoring community Kasie has created is an excellent resource for raw feeding newbies and, in addition to the wealth of information and one on one attention you will receive as you transition your pet, she can recommend a vet who will be supportive of your feeding choices- which she believes is vitally important. SFRAW’s webpage is currently undergoing a makeover, but their facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/sfraw) and blog (http://sfraw.wordpress.com/) are great places to start and get involved! You can also sign up for one of their classes here, OR click here for a list of recommended veterinarians.
Kasie Maxwell has worked and lived with animals her entire life. Over the years she has worked as an assistant to a veterinary homeopath, veterinary technician and assistant, working student for an A-circuit hunter/jumper stable, trainer for a Hanoverian stable owned by a rider on the Belgian Olympic Equestrian Team, petsitter, wildlife rehabber, and has served as a foster home to many rescued animals. Kasie grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and lived for a while near Eugene, Oregon earning her B.A. degree in English from the University of Oregon. Her animal family includes a newly adopted Irish Wolfhound and SFRAW “shop dog”, Faldum; a wily kitty named Briar; three turtles and doves.