Adventures in Raw Feeding Part 1

A long time ago (read that as 4+ years or more) I adventured into raw feeding.  I didn't have great references and the reading I did do was very ambiguous about raw feeding.  So as I tried it out and did it with my dogs I wasn't happy with the rotation of food.  We did have a 80% muscle, 10% organ, 10-15% bone, and 5% vegetable ration, but I always felt like there was a missing piece, that perhaps they weren't getting balance like they should.

To be quite honest the way I went about it was painful!  I bought 3+ months worth of raw food, thawed it, packaged it all for a couple days meals, and then refroze it all.  It was tedious, difficult, and quite frankly really gross.  Just picture 40 pounds of turkey hearts thawing in a bathtub....that's a lot of blood and waste if you dont' do it right.  And trust me, your neighbors will ask questions if you start hacking up raw meaty bones in the back yard with a clever.

This routine lasted 6 months before I threw my hands up, said never again, and went back to feeding kibble.  I had hated the raw prep process, how difficult traveling was, and the lack of information.  I feed Petcurean Go and have been for the last few years.  I love this food, the high quality ingredients, and how healthy my dogs are...for the most part.  However, I hate the condition of their teeth.  Freya occasionally has eyes that aren't as clear as I would like.  Both the girls seem to get sore quicker and take longer to recover from exercise than they did on raw.  I know some of this is age.  You don't reach 8 years of age as a dog with hip dysplasia or 6 years with back problems without some pain, but, I want to help them be as comfortable and happy as possible.  

So I started diving into raw feeding research again.  I knew if I wanted to do it, I had some pretty high expectations:

  • I wouldn't be chopping chickens up or feeding whole raw meaty bones (Freya is missing a couple back molars and gulps bones like candy.)
  • It needs to be affordable (I pay roughly $70-80 for dog food every couple weeks, this is a drop in the bucket compared to my personal junk food habits so I don't worry about it too much. And if you've ever looked into commercial raw...holy expensive batman!) 
  • I wanted a balanced diet that was complete.  For peace of mind and my dogs health!

Thus entered these books!

I started with Dr. Becker's Real Food for Health Dogs & Cats first, because I knew it had recipes in it that I could follow and hopefully keep my dogs balanced.  In reading it seemed fairly straight forward, but as I finished I knew it would take some brainmatter to fit it all together. Between choosing Omega 3 sources, rotating protein sources, making mineral mix, and choosing Sardines/Salmon....well let's just say I had to mentally process and reread a bit.  So I'm in the process of making notes, shopping around, and seeing what it would take to follow the recipes.  What I've learned thus far:

  • Super 1 has hands down the best selection of whole animal organs including: chicken liver, chicken hearts, beef heart, beef tongue, beef liver, and occasionally turkey organs.  Tizer meats worked with me on getting beef organs in the past, so it's great to know they may be another good source too.
  • Costco has the best selection and best price of ground turkey (because I can't seem to find individual boneless turkey meat anywhere...)
  • Supplements/Mineral Mix ingredients are best found at Real Food Store or Natural Grocers.  They carry a higher quality and the brands I feel like I can trust.
  • Grinders are a huge expense. Decide if you can live with bone meal supplements as you save up for a grinder capable of handling chicken/turkey bones....or bite the bullet and buy a mack daddy of grinders with a bone warranty (I'll post on this issue later.)
  • Read your meat labels, know your sources, and shop carefully.  Not all Salmon, Sardines, or eggs were created equally.  What they are fed, how they are fed, and how they were harvested matters.

And that's what I've got so far.  This has been a great adventure!  I'm going to ease into raw slowly...for several reasons, but mostly the price tag...and possibly my husband's sanity.  If you have some affordable, local, meat sources I'd love to hear about them so please give me a shout out!

Bree :)