Specifics on Feeding Raw

May 16, 2011

I received an email from a friend asking about raw feeding and how it can be affordable.  This is my response to her — I thought it might be useful to some of you who gag at the expense.  Walmart always has the chicken leg quarters for about $.70/pound, so if no other meat is on sale, and you don’t have hunter friends to supply you with game, the chicken mixture works.  Also, many of the stores mark down meat that must be sold that day — if you hit the store very early in the morning, you can pick up some really good cuts for a very nice price.

I bought a grinder on ebay.  It is made by KitchenStar and was about $120.  It has 2.6 hp, 2000 watts.  (Mine is named Bruno.)  It will grind poultry (backs, legs, thigh bones) — and fish bones.  I use the coarse blade.  You’ll need a good poultry shears, a good large kitchen knife, a large acrylic cutting board, and a kitchen scale that goes to tenths of an ounce.

I just bought the makings for a 26# batch of food.  20# fresh chicken leg quarters ($ .70/pound), 3# of fresh chicken gizzards ($1.22/pound), 2 pounds of broccoli, 1 pound of carrots, 1 pound oranges, 1 pound apples, 2 pounds of squash, 3 garlic cloves.  I strive to keep the cost below $1.00/pound so I can afford to feed this way.  Sometimes I use beef liver for the organ meat, I watch for pork and beef sales (often miscellaneous pork chops are $1.17/pound – and the grinder will chew them up).  A whole turkey after a holiday is usually a good buy.  I cut the meat and veggies into pieces that will fit down the hopper of the grinder.  I have a large plastic tub into which I grind.  After I’ve ground up all the makings, I mix them thoroughly together – hands work best – eewww – and pack the mixture into plastic food containers.  I own about 30 of the 25 oz. containers.  Each holds enough for one meal for the three dogs that are here.  I supplement at night with 500 mg of Vitamin C, brewer’s yeast with garlic, and Missing Link Plus.  If you know someone who hunts, ask them to have the “trim” packaged for you in two pound or five pound chubs (depending on number of dogs).  That is the best because it has no vaccines or growth hormones.

In the morning I feed raw chicken necks.  The dogs each get the same weight of chicken necks in the morning that they get of the ground food at night.  Nola, who is 6-1/2 months old eats 8.6 oz. of food twice a day.  Holmes who is a big boy at 20 months old eats 11.3 oz. twice a day.  My old retired girl who is small (25 pounds) eats 4.3 oz. twice a day.  The puppy and Holmes were weaned to raw food and know nothing else.  Inca was not and her first couple of meals when she came to me, she looked at me like I was trying to poison her.  Since I didn’t offer her anything else, she tried it and liked it.  I treat the dogs like I did my kids – “This is dinner – take it or leave it.”

On this blog, if you look for Raw Feeding under “categories”, you will find a number of posts about raw feeding.  Back a ways – when I was getting the grinder, I posted a Youtube video of someone preparing dog food.

NEVER thaw the food in the microwave because the bone will attract the heat and become brittle.  If you forget to take a container out to thaw, set it in warm water.

I hope this helps.  The dogs’ coats gleam, their teeth are clean, their breath is fresh, the poops are small and pretty non-stinky.  I only see my vet for required shots and hip/elbow x-rays, etc.


  1. DeAnn says:

    We haven’t found quite as many good deals on the chicken necks and backs… but we do pretty well. We buy stuff on sale (I figure if I get it for $1.50 or less I’m doing well. We don’t have a grinder yet, but work with ground beef, turkey or chicken. We also lucked into a sheep ranch and get some of the older or injured animals… Smooch has been enjoying ground mutton for a few months. It’s not for everyone and not all of our dogs are RAW eaters (we have grown labs too)but it’s not as hard as some people think. The corgi girls look great! Can’t wait until hunting season, we’ve got some avid hunter friends so hope to get some good bones etc… Oh, we’ve been feeding RAW for 5+ months. Smooch glows!

  2. Taryn says:

    Done your way, feeding raw is inexpensive. I think people see the price of store bought (prepared) raw dog food and think they can’t afford to feed it. These days, even a super premium kibble is quite pricey! And organic canned, egads! That’s even more than the pre-packaged raw. So, it really depends on time/effort abilities, budgets, etc. I feed raw but confess to having more money than sense 🙂 so I buy the pre-packaged. My guys switched over without a moment’s pause. The second I put the first bowl down, it was inhaled! There was no digestive issues either from the switch.

    Now my vet is very anti-raw, so we have a don’t ask/don’t tell relationship. He doesn’t even like Great Life kibble that has a freeze dried raw coating. He always mentions how great their teeth are, beautiful coats, perfect weight, shiny eyes, perfect bloodwork, and so on, but refuses to give credit to the raw diet. Go figure!

    • myeye says:

      I started with the pre-packaged, but my raw food store lady closed her store when the landlord doubled the rent. I decided that I needed to prepare my own to get the cost under control. For the batch of food I discussed in the post, I will spend about an hour and a half. By far the bulk of that time is spent cutting up the chicken leg quarters (or dismantling a whole turkey, or whatever else I’m feeding). Since I live in the boonies, I would spend that much time going into town (not my little village) to buy pre-made raw. The dogs do get bone-in meat to gobble up, in addition to the chicken necks which are cartilage and meat.

      My baddogs deserve to be healthy AND to look great. 25# of the “product” is about two weeks worth of dinners.

  3. Ashley says:

    I feed raw as well, only I do the species appropriate raw diet, so there’s no grinding etc involved. Our dog gets mostly meat, some bone, and a little organ, as nature intended. I found a really great group on Yahoo called “RawFeeding” and they are tremendous about helping people figure out how to give their dogs (and cats!) the best they need to be as healthy as possible. There are people on there that have been feedings raw for years and years, so there’s plenty of experience. =] I am amazed and just over the moon with how great Reese’s teeth and coat have completely transformed…pearly whites and soft, shiny coat! She sheds so much less too! And her breath…just astounding how NICE it smells. LOL I don’t mind it if she licks my face now. ;-]

    Good on you Penni for doing so well by your pups! And, thanks for sharing your methods for everyone out there to read…I’m sure there are plenty of people who will appreciate it (and their dogs/cats will probably benefit eventually too!) =]

  4. Cheryl says:

    I’ve been raw feeding since a little before Chase came to stay for a while. I have to say, the poop factor ALONE is worth it! Honestly, it hardly smells at all and is a FRACTION of the size it used to be on kibble! Plus, what it did for my old dog and his arthritis was amazing. I was able to take him off all anti-inflammatories and he quit limping for the first time in a couple years. My older girl is still quite appalled when faced with a chicken quarter that she has to rip up and eat all by herself–but she manages–although she keeps trying to tell me that it is absolutely barbaric and would prefer that I cut it up for her.

  5. kaye says:

    I love feeding raw and have a very tight budget. I think the chicken necks/backs are very affordable. Their are two local groceries that do them and you just call every now and then to see when they will be cutting them up. I also do the grinder thing and I have my name and phone # at all the pet stores that sell pre-made raw, and ask them to call me if anything goes on sale. Right now I’m buying k-9 chubs at .50Cents for a 1 lb chub and 1.00 for a 2 lb chub. Pretty Good and cheaper than grinding!

  6. Julie says:

    I also feed raw and hope to be able to continue to. Unfortunately, one dog is allergic to chicken and beef….so it makes it a bit more difficult. Up here there are some independent raw providers who act more or less like a co-op, which is helpful if you have a large enough freezer.

    Penni, your dogs are very lucky you take such great care of them!

  7. C-Myste says:

    DeAnn – there’s also a region-specific raw feeding group at PacNWRaw@yahoogroups.com. While most people are in the Portland through Seattle corridor there are a few of us from outlying areas as well.

    We’ve been feeding raw for four years next month. These days I find it cheaper than good kibble. We buy chicken necks or backs at $19.99 for a 40-lb box. We do grind them these days, after having blockage issues with Alice (it wasn’t food, but still . . .) Tom does the grinding a box at a time and it doesn’t take him long. We don’t grind vegetables in with it, but throw them in the bowl separately. We keep big bags of frozen green beans and California mix on hand, but also use whatever stems or left-overs we have from the human vegetables. Broccoli, asparagus, apples, potato peels; they eat just about anything.

    For those who haven’t found cheap choices of chicken, you might ask at a local store; one that has an actual meat department that is. The 40-lb boxes aren’t displayed on the shelves. Food 4 Less in Medford orders and receives boxes regularly but you have to ask.

  8. Jeri says:

    I hope to go back to raw after we move, although I’m with Taryn…I have more money than sense (or time), so will likely stick with prepackaged. But the available of prepackaged stuff will be MUCH higher in Denver than it is in Alabama, I’ll just have to see whether I can find something for a reasonable cost. 😛 I do a mix of stuff now, I have Sojo’s that I mix with regular ground meat, and some high quality kibble. My only issue with it is that when I feed a lot of Sojo’s, I seem to find a lot of carrot pieces in the backyard poop LOL…my haphazard “method” of feeding hasn’t translated to better or less poop. Since my new yard is about the size of a postage stamp, that will be very important to me.

  9. Gotta factor in the freezer, too, and space to house same. And electricity to run it.

    Having been asked several times by Wilbur’s vet and tech (at his checkup in April) if he could really possibly be as old as 12, I’m sort of in “it ain’t broke” mode………

    (Yes, he really is. I’ve had him for 11 years, and everyone thought he was about 1 when I got him. 🙂 )

    • myeye says:

      One of the reasons I feed raw is that I stress my dogs. I take them strange places, ask them to perform. In addition to conformation showing, they herd, track, do obedience and rally. I think that when a dog is being stressed regularly you must take extra measures to keep it healthy. I bought a 21 Cu. ft. freezer for dog food. It’s energy efficient (as anything that size can be), and I keep it full — which reduces energy use. I weighed the cost of the freezer against the cost of driving back and forth to buy raw food frequently and against the cost of my time shopping (besides, I HATE shopping in person). The freezer and the raw food won out in my particular situation.

      The beddog — who hasn’t a care in the world — could probably eat kibble and be fine, but that too is complicating — so everyone reaps the benefits of raw feeding.

  10. Kathy says:

    I got my grinder, knife, cutting board, scale and meat shears. I was up at a USDAA trial and if I would have had a cooler Bonnie would have given me organ meat. Is it better to mix chicken w/ chicken organ meat or is it ok to mix chicken w/ beef heart, tongue etc.? If I find a good deal on meat freezing is ok too, right? One more ? if I use fresh fish is it ok to scale, deface and de-fin and tail and use all the rest of the fish? I’m going to have lots and lots of questions.

  11. kaye says:

    the only thing I would add is that my vet said to always freeze everything first, and then of course, defrost. So if you are lucky enough to get fresh venison from a hunter friend, be sure to freeze first because of bacterial issues.