Adventures in Raw Feeding Part 2 - Grinders

So what you feed depends on your grinder.  Let me tell you, there are 10,000 options out there.  When picking a grinder, consider the following:

  • Number of Dogs to Feed
  • Bone In or Bone Out?
  • How much do you want to spend

Number of Dogs to Feed 

This is a big one. If you have to make enough food for 3 dogs, think 2-3% of their body weight, that is a long of food.  Especially if you make a couple weeks worth or even a month.  My dogs weigh: 38, 40, and 55 pounds.  This means that with all of them combined I'll need at least 2.6 pounds a day (78 pounds a month.)  That is a lot of food to grind, especially if your grinder only does 1 pound a minute....and you have to chop everything before it goes into the grinder.....get what I mean?

Bone In or Bone Out?

If you are grinding bones with your muscle meat and organs you'll have several things to think about.  The biggest factor is whether the grinder can handle raw bones.  Even simple low end grinders can mangle bones, but this isn't without some frustration, annoyance, and eventual burn out of the grinder.  There are grinders on the market that are warrantied for use in ground bone/muscle meat and designed with raw food in mind.

How much do you want to spend?

Grinders can cost as much or as little as you want them to.  However, I've found that there are some happy mediums you can look at.

For example, if you choose to supplement with bone meal rather than grinding bone you can get a small beginner grinder on sale for about $50 at the local sportsman stores.  This wouldn't handle bones, or win speed awards, but it would get you started with some options.  The model I found was the CHARD #5 at a local sportsman store and it was on sale.  Grand Total: $40.  While you are there grab a couple big meat trays too ($10 a piece).

The next step would be to get a 450+ watt grinder that could handle bones.  You will still need to do some prep.  And you certainly can't just shove a whole chicken quarter down it and hope for the best.  You could also find these at the local sportsmans store or order online.  A good example is the WaringPro 885 models or STX internaltional 3000.  Both range from about $99 to $160 in price and could handle some bone in grinding.

The dream grinder for me is the Weston #32.  This is a 1.5 HP grinder that is warrantied for grinding up rabbit, turkey, and chicken meats with the bone in.  Grand cost?  $700. And the other factor (and I'll get into this in my next post), is that bone in grinding will save you some cash every month.  There is a huge difference in price per pound when bones are included :)  So overall I think what you save by grinding bone in would help you pay for that whopping $700 commercial grinder.

The Allure of Dog Treats

We've all been there.  We're marching the isles trying to choose dog treats and find ourselves surrounded by beautiful packages.  Bright colors, fun designs, and happy dogs on the front.  How often do you look past the bag and read the ingredients?  Or do you just trust the front of the bag when it says No By-Products and Grain Free! 

Freya loves Lamb Lung, string cheese, and pot roast!

Freya loves Lamb Lung, string cheese, and pot roast!

This past week all I've done is research dog treats, because I want to offer more variety for you all.  Let me tell you, company names can be misleading, packaging claims are far from the truth, and those lovely grilled chicken breasts on the front aren't what's going into the treat.  And before you say, my dog LOVES XYZ TREAT, I'm going to stop you and say one simple thing.  I love caffeinated pop, especially for breakfast (don't judge,) and it isn't even sort of good for me.  Let me tell you a little secret, your dog will love single ingredient or minimally messed with treats even more than your sugar, grain, fat filled treats! 

Believe me, nothing gets my dogs doing backflips more than freeze dried lamb lung, baked chicken breast, or some lean stew meat.  They love single ingredient stuff!  I used to swear by a few brand name treats, and to be fair there are good ones out there.  However, more often than not, the flashy packaging and allure of gluten free, grain free, cage free, antibiotic free, by-product free, or whatever else they claim catches us.  The real telling sign for a treat are the ingredients and where an ingredient is coming from.

So in a treat ingredient list, you have to start at the beginning and work your way down.  For example, if I saw the following ingredient list: Chicken, Ground Rice, Ground Barley, Malted Barley, Vegetable Glycerin, Tapioca, Natural Flavor, Cherries, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Lecithin, Phosphoric Acid, Rosemary, Turmeric, Sorbic Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Mixed Tocopherols, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Propionate.

I'd know that the largest amount of this treat is chicken because it's right at the beginning.  However, I'd also know that the ground rice, ground barley, and malted barley combined probably outweigh the chicken.  Why is this a problem?  Barley, especially malted barley can send your dogs system into yeast overdrive.  So while chicken is the first ingredient and there isn't soy, wheat, or corn, you still have a high grain content in this treat. 

The other sneaky ingredients in this treat are things like salt, which no dog ever ever needs.  Another sneaky one is cane molasses, which is the equivalent of sugar, corn syrup, and glucose.  Sugars and the grains that dogs metabolize to sugars (like wheat, corn, and others) are good to avoid because they lead to yeast production and some strange behaviors.  Just drink pop for a week and take vitamins, then see how you feel.

Next, start to get curious about sourcing of your meat products.  Where is the meat coming from, cull lots, Canada, Organic Farms, Australia, Brazil, irradiated piles?  It's good to know what's going into your dogs treats.  The good companies boast about USDA inspected facilities and human grade meats, which is a great place to start!

Next time you find yourself surrounded in that treat isle, start asking questions, flipping bags, and doing some research.  You'll be shocked to see what you find.


Picking a Dog Food

So you just added a puppy or dog to the family.  What the heck do you feed them?! 

Typically people choose based on whether a vet recommended it, a friend recommended it, or what they've always fed.  The problem is, when did you last turn over the bag and look at the ingredients?  They change constantly and dog food regulations don't hold up when it comes to quality food.  So ask yourself the following when you finally do flip that bag over:

  • What are the first 3-4 ingredients? 
  • Are they quality sources of protein?
  • What is the protein content (%)? 
  • Is the source of protein a meal, by-product, fat, or ...?  
  • Does this food have a corn, soy, wheat, brewers rice, beet pulp filler?

Good foods have 3 sources of protein in the first three ingredients, a high percentage of protein, and no corn soy, wheat or other fillers.  Fillers are deceptive because you'd think whole grains would be beneficial for dogs.  Trouble is, they're predators and fillers in food turn to sugar then fat.  Give a toddler cotton candy and vitamins for a month, then try to manage would that go?

I like to read dog food reviews at this website.  It is non-partial and they tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly of your food choice.

The Truth About Pet Food also keeps a great log of current regulations, recalls, and facts about pet food production:

The best food currently available at the Helena, MT area health food stores:

  • Petcurean - Go!
  • Honest Kitchen
  • Nature's Logic
  • Northwest Naturals
  • Stella and Chewy's
  • Open Farm

If you are feeling adventurous you can also start feeding raw, or supplementing your dogs food!  We'll talk about this in the future, so stay tuned!