RAW: My Personal Q&A on how to avoid a RAW Recipe for Disaster

 My motivation to move to raw was founded on the following objectives: (1) I want to control the allergies in my allergic dog, Angel; (2) provide the balance of the dogs with wholesome food where I control the ingredients; (3) optimize ingredients for price and nutritional value; (4) optimize my time; (5) control weight; (6) minimize vet bills.

The pet food recalls are scary.  One of my friends lost a dog recently to contaminated pet food.  That's close to home, and it got my attention. Like many, I bought kibble and supplemented with canned food to make it more exciting.  However, their teeth did not look so good (despite various specious claims that kibble cleans teeth).  Providing them some real bones (supervised) to chew on was my first venture.  They loved them AND each of them had gleaming teeth without undergoing anesthesia and having their teeth cleaned.

Also, treating a dog with allergies can get expensive quickly.  When we got Angel, she had a staff infection and smelled like an old sponge.  With four dogs, having different foods for different dogs is not optimum.  Switching to RAW has made every meal exciting to them.  Our switch was easy.  None had gastric upset or any untoward effects. All appear to be thriving.  (I do have one holdout, Daisey, who vacillates between liking it and not!)

As I took the plunge into RAW, I had this panel of questions that I had to answer for myself prior to beginning my odyssey into RAW feeding (and certainly into the odyssey). I want to avoid the 'ahem' Recipe for Disaster--and truthfully, I was close to having a disaster.

  • Can I do this? With the wealth of information available in books and on the web, and with a decent ability to separate the good from the bad and the truly bad, I concluded yes.  Dog diets are like people diets:  there's lots of fact and opinion out there (to include moving to RAW from commercial diets), and I was prepared steep myself in understanding the facts, weighing opinions of others, and trusting my own homework. All bodies (dog bodies, human bodies, cat bodies, horse bodies) require some biological imperatives in terms of nutrition. Undertaking this effort meant that I needed to understand those biological imperatives (just as I had to do with my children, husbando and myself all these years).  It isn't rocket science; but it is a science, and one would do well to understand the basic principles.
  • What are the risks to my dogs, and can I overcome them?  I believe the main risks are these--and I believe that these are not remote risks:
    • Failing to provide nutritional completeness.  Risk mitigation includes
      • vigilance in assuring maintenance of  calcium:phosphorus ratios; 
        • mitigated by providing appropriate bone/meat ratios (see below).
      • use of appropriate supplementation to ensure no gaps  
        • Understand the vitamins/minerals needed and the ratios needed. These are published, and I've included links to these on my Pet Nutrition page.  I highly recommend Steve Brown's work in Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet which you can find on Amazon here.
    • Making my dogs ill from poorly handled raw materials 
      • This was easy.  I've never made my family sick in 3 decades of cooking for them.  It was unlikely I was going to make my dog sick, particularly given that I'm feeding them food for human consumption AND in the event of existing salmonella, my dogs' systems could handle this.  
        • keeping dog bowls clean and processing equipment clean ensures no cross contamination. 
After concluding that I could overcome the risks, then, I had to determine how I was going to manage the processing of the food..

Do I need a grinder?  I concluded a resounding yes. I have 4 dogs, so my usage profile is going to be much different than someone with small dogs or just one large dog.  

Bone=calcium | meat=phosphorus.  regular bone appears to have about a 2:1 ratio (I found it in a study, and also here at RetrieverPro),   Failing to maintain appropriate ratios or amounts over time may cause all manner of problems.  NRC recommends 1:.75 for adults and 3:2.5 for puppies (each per 1000 cal).  So getting both the ratio and the amount correct is important.

The Merck Manual describes these disorders here. Well meaning people who cook/prepare their pup's food without calcium supplementation have a recipe for disaster.  (And it is downright scary to read in various places what some well-meaning people feed their animals.)  Ultimately, over time, we cannot fool biological imperatives, and there is no arguing with the body's functional response to wrong inputs.   Peteducation.com also has a great article that you can find here.

It is also worth noting that a diet HEAVY in raw meaty bones oversupplements for Calcium and Phosphorus both on a ratio and absolute basis.  It was important for me to understand these requirements and how they translated into the food that I was preparing for my dogs.  Frankly, I started with a ratio that was high and amounts that were too high because I was using what I thought to be sound recipes--my RMB's were too high a % even though I was using chicken leg quarters.

Steve Brown's work helped me immensely in understanding these requirements along with my other research.  Balance really is key.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND getting Steve Brown's Book  Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet.  I wished I had found it sooner, though I do not believe any harm was done.
    • Why did I buy a $511 grinder?
      Sure, I could just toss them chicken/turkey necks etc  but I'm unwilling to deal with gulping/choking risks and mess
        •  Angel, an American Bulldog, cannot eat these well due to the mechanics of having a squished face and underbite characteristic of brachycephalic dogs.
        • if they are eating in the house, or the dragging of the edible part in the dirt outside, grinding it gives them and me a safe, mess-free and eating experience.
      Well, if I was going to go through the trouble to grind poultry bone, then I wanted to be sure that I had a machine worthy of the task. (Plus, whole meats have less salmonella risk than ground meats so long as the surface of the meat is not contaminated). I elected to go with a #22 sized grinder by Weston.  Other manufacturers make this size.  And Avantco has a #22 with a 1.5 HP motor (v. the 1hp that Weston has).   No sense in taking a labor intensive undertaking and making it more labor intensive + adding additional measures frustrating.  And, the math (of course!) made the payback period quite short:  just 11 weeks on a machine that will last the balance of my lifetime.
      • Supplements:  To balance a cooked diet (which of course can include no bone), BalanceIT has a supplement that costs about $1.89 per day for one dog.  For four dogs, that number is $5.80 in addition to the cost of the food. That is $174 per month, or $2,088 per year.  Nope!  I do supplement with NUPRO, but 20lbs costs $99 shipped free from Chewy.com.  That is at least a 6 mos supply, or 1/10th the cost.  Nupro is not a full supplementation, but it goes a long way toward helping my pickster, Daisey, transition.  I do supplement with oils. A grinder gets paid for pretty quickly (3.5 months) using that math.
    • Commercial RAW (to rehydrate):  Yes it is convenient--just add water.  For my crew, the weekly feeding cost of a one supplier of dehydrated would be $81 (v. the $35 per week it costs now) or $4,200 per year. Nope!  So in 11.1 weeks I have achieved payback on my grinder investment (511/$46 weekly savings = 11.1 weeks) which I can also use to make good stuff for the family to eat!  But wait, wait, there is more....
    • Commercial RAW (ground):  At $15 per lb from at least 2 suppliers (and that is a delivered cost if I purchase $86 worth), that computes to $75 per day (@ 5ish lbs per day).    That's $525 per week.  That's a 1 week payback on the grinder. I don't pay $15/lb for my own food.  I sure as heck will not do that for my dogs.  There are other less expensive options, but one has to go through a RAW feeder group, and that is still at a premium per lb price than I am paying on my own sourcing.  And my own sourcing for my dogs is linked to my food sourcing.  The amount of time that I would spend putting in a large order, breaking it down etc, is likely more than I would be spending sourcing as I have.
    • Isn't my time worth something?  Actually, my time is worth quite a bit--but lets' evaluate by doing some math:  My last 'grind' took 45 minutes start to finish (to include cleaning up) and I made 22lbs of food at a total cost of $1 per lb. (Chicken legs, livers, gizzards and vegetables).  The price differential is $14 per lb ($15-$1=$14); accordingly, my savings (using this $15/lb model) are $308 for 45 minutes of work.  I'll take that! In fairness. that's a bit of hyperbole, because I would never buy something that expensive.  Nevertheless, even paying another $2 per lb, means that I'm saving $10 per day. That adds up to $3,650 per year.  
    Ultimately, it is not rocket science, but it is a science worth understanding, particularly with respect to proteins, fats, and calcium/phosphorus ratios.  


    Post a Comment