I love the raw food movement. I love it in human nutrition (more raw fruit and veggies!? Yes please!) So when it comes to my own pets, I want only the best for them. I want them to lead long, happy, healthy lives filled with tasty food, training fun and learning, games and healthy rewards. I don't want to put unhealthy things into my own body, my family's bodies, or my furry and feathered friend's bodies either....now for a whirlwind tour of my thoughts on feeding a dog organic and/or raw. To skip this and head straight to the recipe, scroll to "Recipe" below :)
For those of you still with me.....thanks muchos. I appreciate you guys and your support :) Now....When I was debating what to feed my sweet little furry friends, it felt like there was a lot of confusion and mystique around feeding your dogs a raw diet, and around feeding organic. A lot of the time I feel like people hold true to one end of the debate or another. I've heard everything from "how can you feed your dog kibble and dry food? It's unnatural: heat destroys the enzymes and creates a nutritionally inferior product! And look at all the dog food recalls due to contamination from disease (salmonella, e. coli, etc.) or heavy metals, or _______!" On the other hand, I've also heard (almost the same argument) from the dry-food only crowd. "How can you feed your dog raw meat!? It might be natural, but so is dying from foodbourne illness! Don't you know about the cases of contamination with salmonella, e.coli, topical-disease-causing-organism, etc. in uncooked meats, or the imbalanced diets leading to nutritional deficiencies?"
Hmmmm.....what is a concerned pet owner to do?
I think the raw foodies and the conventional foodies both have a point. Both raw foods and cooked foods can harbour disease. A poor and/or imbalanced diet is going to result in nutritional deficiencies, decreased lifespan and increased rates of illness.
I also think, just like in humans, that there is no "one right way" to achieve optimal nutrition. Though there is this commonality of needing to fulfill nutritional requirements, no two people or dogs are identical. Different bodies, digestive systems, conditions, diseases, metabolisms, allergies and intolerances, activity levels and taste preferences, all mean that a meal plan isn't a "one-size-fits-all" situation.
Practicing safe food handling, food prep and cleanup techniques will go a long way no matter how you feed yourself and your family. At the moment, I'm torn. We travel a lot and our pups come with us. That makes feeding raw more difficult, though I've seen some committed people do it. I also don't think I know enough about canine nutrition, at least at this point, to feel confident making a recipe that will fulfill all of their needs.
What this ends up meaning for us (for now at least) is a hybrid diet for the pups. They are free fed kibble, with our favourite brands being Orijen and Acana, though we have experimented with a lot of different brands and different recipes within a brand.
We also supplement their diet with raw meaty bones (beef, uncooked so they don't splinter), fresh veggies and fruit, bully sticks and pizzles to chew on (which are reportedly safer than rawhide as they are less likely to swell in the intestine causing an obstruction (a dangerous and sometimes fatal condition), and some organic canned dog food. Certified Organic canned dog food is the only way I've found that you can get a meat based, soy-free AND 100% organic dog food, as the dry dog food industry does not yet have a poultry meal or other meat meal that is certified organic. Check the label, as even if the first ingredient in the dry food is "organic chicken", the next ingredient is usually "chicken meal" and is not organic.
Gosh Urban Homesteader, why are you getting your panties in a twist over this?
The reason I find this so frustrating is not because I'm a crazy organic food fanatic, but because I feel that it is misleading the consumer. If the food is labelled as organic, or gives the impression that it is organic, there shouldn't be a non-organic ingredient involved unless it is pointed out to the consumer as being non-organic. Particularly when the non organic "chicken meal" is actually the primary meat ingredient in dry kibble after the water is removed from the organic chicken. So the organic food that you're paying your hard earened dollars for, isn't actually as organic as you were led to believe. If a dog food is properly labelled (aka: honest!) then the consumer can make an informed decision (whether that is to feed the food knowing that one is at least reducing pesticide load in their dogs, or to choose another food that they find to be nutritionally superior even though it is not organic), rather than paying a premium for a food that is not as advertised. So one has to be careful and read the ingredient labels very carefully so that you end up buying what you wanted to.
Anywhoooo, we also supplement with raw food made by local companies, and make a few of our own as "treats" (pretty much too healthy to be called a "treat", but the pups get so excited about it that they can be used as treats!)
So onto how to make these delightful little additions!
You're going to need:
- 2/3 pound lean ground beef
- 1 package chicken hearts (approx. 20 hearts/package)
- 1 package chicken gizzards
- 1 cup cooked squash (we used Butternut Squash as we were having it ourselves the night I was making these) , puréed
- 1/3 head romaine lettuce (approx 1-1.5 cups), finely chopped
- 1/4 cup cucumber, shredded
- 1/2 pear, finely diced (great way to use up fruit that is past its prime but still good for chickens or canines to eat)
- 3 pumps salmon oil (approx. 1-2 Tbsp.), we use the Grizzly Wild Salmon Oil brand. You can also substitute another oil of choice, such as olive oil, hemp oil, flax oil or sunflower oil. I just prefer the Salmon Oil's Omega 3:6 ratio (higher level of omega-3s than omega-6s than in vegetable based oils) in this instance.
Tools you'll need include:
- sterilizing agent (Thymox for us)
- paper towels
- hand sanitizer
- 1 metal bowl
- 1 metal spoon for stirring
- 1 spoon for scooping the squash
- 1 mellon baller to take out the pear core
- 1 sharp knife to cut up the chicken, lettuce and fruit
- food grater to grate up the cucumber
- metal cookie sheet
- wax butcher freezer paper or wax paper
- 1/4 cup measuring cup for creating evenly sized portions
1. Prepare your work surface to make sure it is sterile (we like Thymox, as it is an all natural but effective alternative to bleach) and that you have a clean metal cookie sheet with wax freezer paper or wax paper covering it before you start. No fun to have chicken on your hands and not be able to access the paper until you rewash your hands only to get them dirty again a moment later.
2. Dice the chicken hearts and gizzards into cubes 1cm in size.
3. Add the ground beef, puréed Butternut squash, lettuce, pear and Salmon Oil, and combine with spoon until thoroughly incorporated.
4. Using the 1/4 c. measuring cup as a mould, pack the mixture into the cup and tap the portion out onto the wax paper.
5. Once finished, put baking tray into freezer overnight. The next day (or once frozen), put the portions into ziplock bags, label with recipe name and date, and freeze until you need them. Thaw in refridgerator until ready to serve. Discard any uneaten food after their meal (though if there were leftovers, I'd be quite surprised!) FYI: In the Summer serving them partly frozen is a nice treat to keep the pups cool.
6. Sterilize your tools, counter, hands, and anything else that came into contact or possibly could have come in contact with the raw meat.
7. Give to your overjoyed canine friend and bask in the warm glow of the pantry-love that follows :)
Happy Urban Homesteading! Here's to our joyful, goofy, playful, snuggly, healthy, happy hounds :)