So before we dive into raw feeding I'm going to preface this with something: This is not meant to shame anyone feeding kibble to their dogs, but rather to give you a glimpse into raw feeding if you are interested. Moisture content is lacking in kibble, so even adding a tiny bit of raw to a kibble diet can be extremely beneficial to our dogs. Plus, our dog food industry is not transparent. When I make my own food, I have no doubt about the source of meat and what I am feeding my dogs. That is a great thing!
There will be a future article with supplemental things you can add to your dog's current diet to give it a kick start. In the meantime, let's delve into the raw food making process in my house.
First off, stuff toget you started:
- meat grinder (I have a separate article on choosing grinders here. Since grinders warrantied for bone run upwards of $700 I have yet to buy one.)
- Bone meal (as stated above I'm not grinding bone so we need to balance the phosphorus with calcium)
- Storage containers - These are plastic, glass is typically best as greasy residue can form on plastic.
- Scale - This is extremely helpful for folks just starting out. It allows you to get a feel for what certain pounds look like. As you get more comfortable, you'll be able to "eyeball" your mixture.
- Meat pans for processing - These are so handy for big grinds. I shoot for 10-15 pounds per grind.
Next get your ingredients ready. Now for folks brand new to raw there are two books I've used to begin: Real Food by Dr Karen Becker and Raw Meaty Bones by Tom Lonsdale. I also have a couple new ones I'm going to read through this winter just to learn more.
So for a grind, I start with my muscle meat. When I first started raw feeding 7+ years ago I used the following percentage: 75-80% Muscle, 10-15% Meaty Bone, 10% organs (5% liver in this.) As I've learned more that percentage has only shifted a bit. My blend is now as follows: 5-8% vegetables/Fruits, 10-13% organs (5% liver always), and 79-85% muscle meat with added bone meal. If I have some raw meaty bones such as turkey necks, chicken necks, or chicken quarters around I may feed those as part of a meal or a meal as themselves depending on the day and my dogs.
If I had a rockin' high power grinder, my percentages would probably be closer to: 5-8% vegetables/fruits, 10-13% organs (5% liver always), 20-23% ground raw meaty bone, 65-56% muscle meat. Ball park, again depending on my dog and what they need. Raw feeders become aquainted with dog poop and what they are watching for. Hard stool that is white isn't good but soft unformed stool isn't good either. Happy mediums are a good thing!
This blend was comprised of a bit of lamb stew meat (discounted heavily at the store so I picked it up...lamb is expensive), some ground beef picked up from Blue Dog Provisions at a discounted price, chicken liver, beef heart, kale, spinach, oregano, blue berries, raspberries. To be honest this is a very ritzy mix as I typically feed about 65% chickenin the dog's diets. It is darn affordable - thigh and leg meat deboned runs $0.98 a pound so that's my favorite go-to muscle meat!
I usually blend my whole meats first, followed by organs, and finally vegetables/fruits to smoosh all the meat out. This is a quick process, I timed myself and it took 45 minutes to make 15 pounds of food for my dogs. This included weighing my portions (I wanted to be accurate), taking beautiful pictures for this post, packaging the mixture up, feeding my dogs, and also cleaning! Whoop! That's an easy meal for sure.
This is the end result. I probably would add a couple other vegetables to this blend like a bit of yellow squash or butternut squash but overall it turned out pretty good. Remember raw is all about balance overtime. So my next mix will have some squash and probably zucchini along with carrots, celery, broccoli, banana, and other stuff. It will also have chicken thighs/legs, beef heart, beef liver, chicken gizzards, and a bit of venison trimmings given to me by a friend last fall. Which brings up a great point: If you have friends that hunt, beg for trimmings, ask them to keep undamaged organs, or birds that they aren't going to smoke. This is a great-affordable way to feed raw to your dogs.
For sake of sanity, before you start your grind, have a clear table space AND a clear sink space to rinse/wash everything. Otherwise you'll end up with stitches at 11 PM on a Saturday after you drop a grinder part on a glass and injure yourself.........but that's just hearsay.....I'd never do such a thing to myself.....ever. And if I did, I would certainly giggle through the whole ordeal and tell my husband it's the price of good food while he rolled his eyes.
Having some awesome nutrition available to my dogs really feels good. It's certainly a learning process, and it does take time. However, it doesn't have to be as daunting as people make it out to be. The expenses can be managed by buying in bulk and catching discounts on meats when you can. Overall, the improvement in my dog's well being, behavior, and their teeth makes me happy to keep working at raw feeding. And based on how excited they are to eat, the dogs aren't complaining either!