Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Raw Food Diet: Our Average "Menu"

One of the most common questions I hear from people starting their dogs on a raw diet is some version of, "So, what exactly do I feed?" I know this was one of my first questions when I was starting raw as well. It's all great to do the research, learn about proportions and percentages, understand why your dog needs X, Y, and Z ingredients. But when you get to the grocery store and stand amid the meat aisles, it can be a little intimidating and confusing. So here is a general run down of what I feed the boys, where I get it, and how much of each I feed.

Please note: Every raw feeder will compile a slightly different raw diet for their dogs. How often you feed bone or organ will depend on the individual dog. What meats you include in the "menu" will depend on your geographical location and the mix of ethnicities found in your community, as well as the price of each item, as price varies greatly from one place to another. This is to serve as an example only, and should be tweaked for your individual dog and the meats available to you.

The General Overall Diet Plan

I follow a Prey Model Raw (PMR) diet for my dogs. The PMR diet consists of roughly 80% muscle meat, 10% edible bone, 5% liver, and 5% other secreting organ. These percentages are modeled after an average prey animal that a wild canid would catch and eat.

Variety is important, not only in species of animal fed, but also in cuts of meat. I attempt to feed about 50% white meat (chicken, turkey, fish) and 50% red meat (beef, pork, venison, bison, elk, etc.). For organs, the majority of the organs that I feed come from beef or pork. For bones, I feed only chicken, turkey, fish, and some pork bones (ie. small ribs).

What to Look for at the Grocery Store

First, I look at the price tag. I like to keep things under $2/lb if at all possible. Being in Canada, the prices are somewhat skewed, so many raw feeders that I know in the US aim for about $1/lb. For the sake of variety, I will occasionally go over $2/lb, but have been lucky enough not to have to do that too often.

Common items that find their way into my shopping cart include:
stew beef
beef roasts
beef heart
beef liver
beef kidney
stew pork
pork shoulder
pork hock
pork roast
pork liver
pork kidney
pork ribs
pork brisket
whole chickens
chicken drums
chicken legs
chicken hearts
chicken gizzards
chicken livers
turkey wings
turkey drums
turkey thighs
salmon heads
whole trout
pollock fillets

Items that are too pricey in my area, but may be available readily in other areas, include:

What About Wild Game?

Definitely! Make friends with some hunters and ask for the scraps and organs from hunting season, or pass the word around that you are willing to buy last year's frozen meat to make room for new meat from this year's hunting season.

You may be able to purchase boneless or bone-in elk, deer, moose, etc. from butchers, and that is fine as well. I find that it is more expensive that way, but take advantage of any deals you can get your hands on.

If you are taking fresh caught meat from hunters, be sure to freeze it all for at least one month to kill off any potential parasites. This includes wild caught fish as well.

What Exactly Counts as "Organ"

An organ is anything that "secretes". These include: liver, kidney, spleen, pancreas, thymus (also called sweetbreads), testicle, and brain. Items that we often associate with organs, but more accurately count as muscle meat when taken in the context of a raw diet, include: heart, gizzard, tongue, tripe, stomach, intestine, and uterus.


There are a number of extra items that I include in the boys' diet. These include eggs (shells included), green tripe (available raw in patties or chubs, or canned), canned fish (sardines, tuna, salmon), and chicken feet (great natural source of glucosamine). I will generally offer one of these items once or twice each week.

An Example Menu for One Week

(This is an example only. The actual cuts and meats that I feed each week will vary depending on what I have in the freezer at the time.)

Monday: chicken drumstick, boneless beef
Tuesday: beef liver, trout
Wednesday: turkey wing, boneless pork
Thursday: chicken hearts, boneless venison
Friday: pork kidney, boneless beef
Saturday: chicken quarter, chicken gizzards
Sunday: boneless beef, green tripe

I offer organs about twice per week, with the amount of organ in each serving equalling half of the daily amount of food. How much organ you can feed at a time will depend on your individual dog. Some people give a small amount every day, others can get away with feeding a whole meal of organ. My dogs are fine if they do not have bone every day, but some dogs require at least a little bit of bone each day to prevent loose stools. There is some trial and error when deciding what will work best for your dog. Don't be afraid of a little bit of loose stool or constipation. Pay attention to the dog's stools and adjust the diet accordingly. Too loose = feed more bone. Too loose after an organ meal = feed less organ at each sitting. Too firm = feed less bone at each sitting.

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