A Photo Guide to Making Raw Dog Food

I wrote the other day about accumulating and prepping all of my ingredients for making a batch of raw dog food. Sean and I decided that if we were going to make a batch, we might as well make a big batch — and that’s what we ended up doing. Here’s a photo series of the steps involved in making a batch of raw dog food.

If anyone wants more detailed instructions, visit this page. Bear in mind, though, that what works for my dog might now work for yours.

The first step I usually do is to grind all my vegetables. I buy vegetables here and there, as they’re on sale or available, and then I grind them and freeze them into plastic containers — one for greens, one for carrots, another for fruit (my guys love bananas, melon, apples and pear). Then I partially nuke sweet potatoes and squash, and rice them using a ricer before freezing them into batches. The day before I’m going to make my dog food, I get them out and thaw them.

I’ve been getting a really good deal on whole, frozen salmon lately, so I bough ten of them and tucked them into the freezer. I poach them, mix them up with canned Jack mackeral, and put the whole lot through the grinder, bones and all.

The veggies and fish get mixed up with my yogurt, eggs, nutritional yeast, molasses, apple cider vinegar, pressed garlic cloves, hemp hearts and flax seed (I got a good deal on some at the co op, and decided to add some to this batch of food). I mix it all up in a giant corn pot (or lobster pot, or stock pot) that I got at a yard sale. I buy these giant pots any time I see them at a garage sale or second hand store – they’re perfect for mixing up dog food.

Sean grinds the turkey necks, hearts and livers for me — another reason why a tall guy is always useful to have around the house. We use a basic grinder from Northern Tools, and it’s lasted me a year and change so far, with two blade changes. I don’t expect it to last forever, with the amount of work we ask it to do, but I’m OK with that. If it wears out, I’ll probably buy the next model up. We buy our beef already ground, so it just gets mixed into with the turkey.

Did I mention we decided to make a big batch of food? So big, that I had a panic attack about where we were going to mix it all. Usually, we have a three quarter pot of meats, and a quarter pot of mixed gunk (that’s our ‘technical term’ for it). I then mix it all together in a third big pot, but this time, there was no way that would work — we had two full pots of turkey and ground meat, and a full pot of mixed gunk.

So, we improvised, and used this big wheeled bin. Here it is, about half way full, with Tessa watching the proceedings with interest.

Hey, are you wondering ‘how on earth do you mix up this much dog food?’. Easy – you stick your arms in. Up to the elbows. Pretend you’re one of those big food processor dough hooks, and blend, blend, blend. Then, look down, see that you’re covered in bits of raw meat gore all the way up to your armpits, shriek, and jump into the shower fully clothed.

Here’s the finished product, with flecks of heart, liver, bone and greens. Mmm! Getting hungry yet?

We measure out the food into large sized, zip lock freezer bags – to be more exact, slide lock bags, which are easier to close. We buy them at the dollar store, because the same bags otherwise would be $5 per box.

We put five cups into each bag, and by the time we were done, we’d covered the island twice, for a total of sixty bags. That is a lot of dog food.

We used to just stack the bagged food in the freezer, but found that the occasional leaking bag could make quite a mess. Now, we put the bags into plastic storage bins, which we then stack in the freezer. It’s easier to lift them out, and I can still stack things on top of them (in whatever room is leftover for people food, which sure isn’t much). We ended up with five of these totes.

Finished! And a long day’s work it was, too. For those curious about these things, we ended up with sixty bags of five cups each raw, or 300 cups of food. Ignoring our time and work, the total cost was just under $95. Not bad, really.

Here’s Tula, enjoying a bowl of the finished product. I, on the other hand, enjoyed a well earned nap.

Addendum: Oh, and can I just say how stupid I feel for having defended the right of Bernann McKinney to love her cloned Pit Bull, only to learn she’s actually an on the lam, sexual predator whack job? Nice one, universe. Thanks for the metaphysical slap upside o’ the head.

A Plethora of Preggos & Chicken Banana Pudding Soup

I’m sorry, I know alliteration is the red headed step child of blog titles, but I couldn’t resist — It’s finally become apparent that Penelope wasn’t just being moody and picky and even more Princess-y than usual. She’s actually pregnant.

Which means — yay! Two sets of stinky bum, puppy breath, sock chewing little darlings to terrorize the old timers.

The downside, of course, is that if Paris is actually pregnant, too, I could be in for some fun times. Fun as in ‘no sleep, no eat, never leave the house again, clean up more dirty newspapers than should be humanly possible without losing your mind’ fun.

So far, though, she doesn’t look pregnant. She’s not getting all milky moo cow looking, she’s not gaining any weight (more than she usually carries on chunky physique, that is), and her baboon butt has disappeared. None of that bodes well for puppies, although to be quite honest it does bode well for my chances of ever getting any sleep after Labour Day weekend rolls around.

Both Tula and Penelope went off their food slightly, but Tula got her appetite back in about 48 hours. Of course, 48 hours is practically a hunger strike for Tula, but it was still worrisome. Penelope, who usually sucks down food like a vacuum cleaner on steroids, has been more stubborn about it. My usual raw mix wasn’t cutting it, and neither was lean chicken breast, ground beef and rice, or anything else we tried. Just as I was starting to get worried, I remembered we had a leftover box of Honest Kitchen ‘Embark’ in the freezer. I figured it was worth a try, and mixed her up a bowl.

Now, if you’ve never fed it before, Honest Kitchen has a sort of steep learning curve. It’s raw, but it’s been dehydrated, so initially it looks like a box of upscale chicken soup mix (if soup mix commonly had grass clippings and banana chips mixed into it).

Banana chip on top - and the yellow lumps are chicken
Dry Embark – Banana Chip on top. The yellow lumps are chicken

You mix it with water, and it turns into a sort of slurry. Leave it sit for a while to re hydrate, and eventually it looks like.. well, like grass clipping, banana chip, chicken pudding soup.


Re Hydrated raw dog food
Re hydrated Embark – yummy!

But here’s the thing – after a week of refusing to eat more than two bites of food at a time, Penelope took one sniff of the bowl of green pudding, and sucked it back like it was the most awesome thing she’d ever tasted. She hasn’t let up since. Oh, and it gives them tiny little non smelly poops, which is an added bonus.

I’d always liked it in the past for weaning puppies, but now — big convert over here. Penelope gives Honest Kitchen two big, pregnant thumbs up.

Speaking of which, here’s a photo taken this morning of her chunkiness. Sorry for the bad stack, but it was starting to drizzle, and a grape can only hold a dog’s attention for so long.

Pregnant Penelope at four weeks and change

My dogs eat better than I do…

Raw Sweet Potatoes

This morning I whiled away an idle Sunday morning grinding and chopping vegetables and fruits for my dogs.

I pre baked sweet potatoes and squash. I diced Dandelion greens and Colt’s Foot (most of which I gathered from my ill tended yard and gardens, I’m ashamed to admit, but at least it’s a cheap and chemical free source of food). I chopped melon, ground it, and drained it in a colander. I put twenty pounds of carrots through my long suffering food grinder. I cored and cubed apples. I mashed bananas. I crushed garlic cloves. I seeded and chopped summer squash and zucchini and cucumber.

Then I mixed it all up, added fresh, organic cider vinegar, and packed it into my freezer.

Next week, I’ll pick up my fresh order of turkey necks, hearts and livers, and 40 pounds of lean ground, grass fed beef. I’ll stop and pick up two dozen free range eggs, two cartons of organic, pro-biotic yogurt, a carton of unsulphured molasses, some nutritional yeast, and six cans of water packed jack mackerel (to go along with the three whole salmons I have in the freezer, that will get poached tomorrow night).

Then I’ll spend another whole day chopping, grinding, mixing, weighing, batching and freezing. No one ever said feeding dogs raw was easy…

Oh, and what did I eat this morning? Two cups of coffee and a caramel rice cake.

Yup, it’s true – my dogs eat better than I do. Maybe I should just eat their food – after all, it’s not like this is commercial dog food, with its long list of scary and nauseating ingredients. I know where every ingredient I feed my dogs came from, and with the exception of the canned fish, all of it is as organic and chemical free as I can possibly buy. There’s no mystery animal parts, no chemical preservatives, no greasy fats sprayed on top of it it.

Of course, if you ask the AVMA, or the pet food industry, I’m a bad dog owner. I don’t care about my dog’s health, since I’m willing to risk their very existence by feeding them this home made swill of mine. I’m not a professional, you see – not like the folks over at Menu Foods, for example, or the American Veterinary Association.

According to all of them, people like me are conducting poorly planned science experiments on our dogs, feeding them this, feeding them that, and none of it ‘complete and balanced’, those buzzwords of the commercial dog food manufacturers.

In spite of this, I’ve managed to muddle through almost twelve years of raw feeding, with some experimentation here and there and some changed recipes. I’ve gone from using pre made mixes, to feeding whole raw parts (that didn’t work so well on most of my dogs – too much food bolting and choking), and now to my home made raw stew.

The basics are pretty simple, really –

50% or so turkey necks and fish with bones (salmon, sardines and mackerel, primarily)
5% liver, kidney, giblets (organ meats)
5% heart
25% muscle meat (beef, sometimes mutton or pork)
10% ground vegetables, fruit and greens
the rest is a mix of eggs, dairy, nutritional yeast, molasses, yogurt and cider vinegar

We also feed leftovers from our meals – scrambled eggs, roast meat and chicken, pastas, salad, etc.

Somehow, in spite of the fact that we’re breaking all the ‘rules’ given to us by the big pet food companies on how we’re supposed to be feeding our dogs, myself and the rest of the raw feeding world are managing to raise healthy, disease free dogs and cats, with no melting bones or salmonella poisoning or other horrific complications.

Bear that in mind, the next time you read some scare tactic inducing piece of big brother comissioned reporting on the ‘risks’ of raw food for your pets.