Jean Dodds takes on the subject of how raw fed dogs can have blood work that is different from the normal reference ranges of kibble fed dogs, and whether or not those differences should be alarming for pet owners.
There was no post for April because I only bought cases of chicken raw meaty bones (one a week) and 40 pounds of beef mix. Everything else I had already on hand. In March, I estimated my cost for April would be near $200, and what I actually spent was around $175.
In the next three days of April, I will feed 15 pounds of raw meaty bones, 10 pounds of muscle meat, and 3 pounds of organs out of my on-hand inventory. The amounts listed below do not include that food, so the numbers are accurate for the calendar month of May.
I feed four dogs — three Rhodesian Ridgebacks and a Canaan Dog. Collectively, they eat 5 pounds of raw meaty bones, 3 pounds of muscle meat, and 1 pound of organs per day. Monthly, that is 150 pounds of raw meaty bones, 85 pounds of muscle meat, and 30 pounds of organs.
40 pounds of beef mix (meat, heart, liver, and kidney)
24 pounds of pork heart
12 pounds of Blue Ridge Beef Natural Mix
10 pounds of turkey heart
8 pounds of beef heart
25 pounds of ground chicken backs
4 pounds of ground lamb ribs
20 pounds of pork kidneys
4 pounds of turkey organ mix
4 pounds of lamb and beef liver
2 pounds of beef lung
The Food Order:
1 case of Blue Ridge Beef Natural Mix (30 lbs)
3 cases of chicken backs or necks (120 lbs)
1 case of duck necks (30 lbs)
40 lbs of beef mix
1 case of beef heart (60 lbs)
For raw meaty bones, I’m going to order a case of duck necks, leaving the rest to be cases of chicken backs or necks. I have started using my calendar app to help me coordinate food pickups, with a standing reminder on Fridays to buy a case of raw meaty bones. For muscle meat, I’ve been trying to get my inventory into a place where I’m ordering by the case and rotating cases that I order per month. Finally, I’ve hit that point: this month I’ll be ordering a case of Blue Ridge Beef and a case of beef heart. Sweet!
Pike will be spending about half of May at Marsa’s house when he goes to the Maine shows without me, but I’m not going to bother to deduct that from the food order.
1 case of Blue Ridge Beef Natural Mix $60
3 cases of chicken backs or necks $60
1 case of duck necks $35
40 lbs of beef mix $50
1 case of beef heart $95
Well, this is another $300 month. January I spent $342, February was $315, and March was $311, so I’m still trending down! My cost per day has dropped from a few pennies over $11/day down to $9.68/day to cover all four dogs. Jackson, Loki, and Pike cost about $2.76/day to feed (from a high of $3.20 in February), and Clover is sitting at about $1.38/day. My price per pound for food is just over a dollar a pound, at $1.07.
Looking forward to June, I will need to order a case of turkey hearts to keep my rotation going, and stock up on organs, since I have enough to get me through May and that’s pretty much it. That’s in addition to the regular 40 lbs of beef mix and the weekly raw meaty bone cases.
I just put the food orders in for my new beef supplier and Blue Ridge Beef for the March orders, so I guess it’s time for another monthly look at the raw food situation.
I deviated a little from the plans I had made in last month’s post. Instead of ordering the 60 pound case of beef heart, I bought a 50 pound case of pork heart and 35 pounds of turkey hearts (Valentine’s Day sales!). I also didn’t order any organs from TQDF, because I got a bunch of lamb organs from our CSA. I also didn’t order the case of duck necks I had planned.
With the way my suppliers have their deliveries spaced out, it no longer makes sense for me to plan my “months” based on TQDF deliveries. For that reason, I’m going to swap to food ordering and planning based on actual calendar months now, instead of counting the time until the next supplier delivery. This does mean that my cost/day calculations for January and February can’t be directly compared to March, but going forward for the rest of the year the comparisons will be more equitable.
1 whole turkey
1 sheep rib cage
37 pounds of turkey hearts
32 pounds of pork hearts
5 pounds of beef mix
1 pound of lamb hearts and tongues
12 pounds of ground chicken backs
7 pounds of lamb liver
6 pounds of beef liver
3 pounds of lamb kidney
2 pounds of pork kidney
4 pounds of beef lung
For the 31 days in March, I will need 135 pounds of raw meaty bones, 77 pounds of muscle meat, and 27 pounds of organs.
I have really got to do something about that last whole turkey and the sheep rib cage.
The Food Order:
30 pounds Blue Ridge Beef Natural Mix
40 pounds of beef mix
60 pounds of beef heart
1 case of duck necks
3 cases of chicken (backs or necks)
We have finally reached the tipping point where I’m ordering all my food by the case, to stretch over several month’s time. Oh for those halcyon days when I just had Jackson and Clover to plan for. Hahahaha!
My plan is to feed 20 pounds of beef heart, 12 pounds of Natural Mix, 28 pounds of beef mix, 8 pounds of pork heart, and 8 pounds of turkey heart in March. That will let the case of beef heart last me through the end of May, the pork hearts last me through the end of June, and the turkey hearts as well. Additionally, the case of Natural Mix will spread out through the end of April (and into May).
For raw meaty bones, the plan is three full cases of chicken, and 16 pounds of duck necks, which will allow the duck necks to cover two months. For organs, I don’t need to order any at all this month, but next month I will be ready to pick up another case of pork kidneys, along with a supply of liver and lung.
This, then, gives me beef, pork, turkey, chicken, lamb, and duck, which is a very good spread of variety for March.
The Cost Breakdown:
30 pounds Blue Ridge Beef Natural Mix $60
40 pounds of beef mix $50
60 pounds of beef heart $95
1 case of duck necks $40
3 cases of chicken (backs or necks) $66
Hmm. This is the third straight month of the food order cresting $300, but it’s also the third straight month of decreases from the previous month. I’ve managed to shave a full dollar off my cost per day from January — I’m down to a cost of $10 per day to cover all four dogs. It’s about $2.85/day each for Jackson, Loki, and Pike, and about $1.45/day for Clover.
I had hoped to have my rolling stock in place for this month’s order, but based on my calculations, it will hit in April. Based on what I have on hand right now, in April I will only need to order a minimal amount of beef mix, the normal amount of raw meaty bones, and organs. I estimate my cost for April will be closer to $200.
The scientists’ concern was that owners were unwittingly using the LIDs as an alternative to the more expensive and supposedly better controlled veterinary-prescribed foods. The expectation was that the therapeutic foods would contain only what their labels claimed, while the retail LIDs would be contaminated with other ingredients. What they found however, was that both retail foods and veterinary-prescribed foods have the potential to be mislabeled. (Oops).
This post is going up early, but it’s because I’ve got a recommendation on a new beef supplier, and he just put out a call for orders today, for a January 30 delivery. If I like his product, he’ll take over as my primary beef supplier, although I’ll still pick up a case of Blue Ridge Beef Natural Mix from time to time, because the Natural Mix has green tripe. The new guy has a beef mix that is ground beef, heart, and liver, making it very similar TQDF and BRB analogues, but without green tripe. Additionally, Amy’s found a source for 60 pound cases of beef heart at a price that’s well under what I would be paying through our normal supplier.
From today to the March Top Quality Dog Food distribution is 52 days. In that time, I will need 258 pounds of raw meaty bones, 148 pounds of muscle meat, 25 pounds of liver, 13 pounds of kidney, and 13 pounds of beef lung. TQDF has a distribution on February 15, which is when I will pick up organs and some variety meats to last me through March.
This write up will only include the raw meaty bones I actually purchase in February for cost calculations — January’s raw meaty bones were covered in the January order post, and March will be covered, well, in March.
1 sheep rib cage (still haven’t decided if I will use it)
1 whole turkey (about 9 of ground raw meaty bones when processed)
6 pounds of chicken backs
30 pounds of Blue Ridge Beef
16 pounds of beef heart
8 pounds of turkey heart
10 pounds of pork heart
13 pounds of beef liver
6 pounds of pork kidney
8 pounds of beef lung
I will need to order 84 pounds of muscle meat, 12 pounds of liver, 7 pounds of kidney, and 5 pounds of lung to make it to the March 14 TQDF distribution, plus approximately 40 pounds of raw meaty bones every week until then (I go to Mayflower on Tuesdays).
The food order:
30 pounds of duck necks (1 case from Mayflower Poultry)
160 pounds of chicken backs (4 cases from Mayflower Poultry)
6 pounds of TQDF beef lung
10 pounds of TQDF beef liver
10 pounds of TQDF beef kidney
10 pounds of TQDF pork hearts
10 pounds of TQDF turkey hearts
30 pounds of beef mix
60 pounds of beef heart
This gives me five protein sources: duck, chicken, beef, pork, and turkey. The 60 pound case of beef heart will be split between February and March. The duck necks provide some RMB variety from chicken backs, and in March I’ll pick up a case of meaty pork neck bones to do the same.
The January CSA pickup didn’t have any organs available, so I’m hoping to pick some up at the February pickup; they usually have lamb organs available. Last spring I got a huge box of lamb hearts, livers, and kidneys from them and if I can score it again this year, that will be fantastic.
The cost breakdown:
30 pounds of duck necks: $37.50
160 pounds of chicken backs: $88
6 pounds of beef lung: $10.50
10 pounds of beef liver: $16.50
10 pounds of beef kidney: $16
10 pounds of pork hearts: $19.95
10 pounds of turkey hearts: $18.50
30 pounds of beef mix: $37.50
60 pounds of beef heart: $70
Now that I have inventory on hand, the savings are starting to roll up: $315 for February vs $342 in January. It’s not a huge amount, but it will improve as the year goes on. $315 spread over 52 days is about $6.05/day (compare to January’s $10.37/day). It’s around $1.72/day each for Jackson, Pike, and Loki, and $0.86/day for Clover (January’s figures were $3/day for each Ridgeback and $1.50/day for Clover). My cost per pound is still hovering just a smidge over a dollar per pound, at $1.03.
Almost four years ago, when I told Nathan I wanted to take Jackson to a full raw diet, he asked that I keep the cost per day to under $3.00. I’m doing pretty darn good!
Top shelf: Blue Ridge Beef in 5 pound chubs and chicken backs in tubs.
Middle shelf: Blue Ridge Beef in tubs, and a whole turkey.
Middle wire basket: Pork kidneys.
Bottom shelf: Chicken backs in tubs.
Bottom wire basket: Split sheep rib cage.
Door: Top left shelf is beef and sheep liver, sheep kidney, and a sheep “split.” (I don’t actually know what the split is.) Top right shelf is 3 Talenti containers with ground pork kidney and beef liver. Middle left shelf is another Talenti container with organs. Bottom wire basket has a lone turkey wing joint.
Next weekend we will pick up our TQDF order. Between now and then I want to thaw the last turkey (it got abandoned when I cut my finger in early December) and run it through the grinder. I haven’t decided if I’m going to use the sheep rib cage or not because I’m leery of feeding whole bones like that since Jackson’s tooth extraction. Poultry parts I’m still comfortable with (save turkey — that gets ground).
I skipped doing an order write-up for December because we were traveling. Embarrassingly, I mis-calculated how much muscle meat I would need to get to the first distribution in January, and my poor dogs got very sick of chicken, chicken, and more chicken over the past few weeks. However, variety has been restored with the Blue Ridge Beef pickup last Sunday, and you’ve never seen four dogs scarf down their breakfast so fast as they did this morning.
TQDF sent out the specials email this weekend, so it’s time to do a write-up. I was scraping the bottom of the freezer going into this month, but I suppose that gives me a fresh start for the new year! It is 33 days until the next TQDF distribution.
7 pounds of beef liver from my CSA
2 pounds of TQDF beef lung
11 pounds of TQDF pork kidney
1.5 pounds of sheep liver
1 whole turkey (approximately 9 pounds after deboning)
1 sheep rib cage
The food order:
1 case of BRB Natural Mix
1 case of BRB Breeder’s Choice
10 pounds of TQDF whole turkey heart
10 pounds of TQDF whole pork heart
25 pounds of TQDF whole beef heart
10 pounds of TQDF beef liver
8 pounds of TQDF ground beef lung
4 cases of Mayflower Poultry chicken backs or necks
1 case of Mayflower Poultry duck necks
So, with Pike in the house, I’ve been doing a little forecasting on how much we would need to spend for food. I’ve anecdotally been advised that, as much as possible and as my budget permits, red meat is where it’s at for our tamed living room predators. Well, “budget permits” is heavy on my mind now. Chicken is cheaper than beef, a lot cheaper, but as much as possible I do try to make sure my dogs get a fair amount of beef, and I use pork and turkey as needed to get variety. When available, I buy an “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” beef mix from Top Quality Dog Food that usually has a little bit of everything in it: beef, chicken, turkey, pork, white fish, salmon, rabbit, lamb … whatever they have for scraps to use up and can fit into the grinders, I guess.
All that said, in an ideal world where I bought dog food every 31 days, my dogs are currently eating:
167 pounds of raw meaty bones (around 76kg)
94 pounds of muscle meat (around 43kg)
16 pounds of liver (around 7kg)
8 pounds of kidney (around 3.5kg)
8 pounds of ground beef lung (around 3.5kg)
Per day, they are eating around 5.5 pounds of raw meaty bones, 3 pounds of muscle meat, and a pound of organs (with some rounding going on because my spreadsheet rounds to the nearest whole ounce). For the metric readers, that’s 2.5kg of raw meaty bones, 1.35kg of muscle meat, and about half a kilo of organs.
The cost breakdown:
2 cases of Blue Ridge Beef: $110
25 pounds of beef heart: $46.25
10 pounds of beef liver: $16.50
8 pounds of beef lung: $14
10 pounds of pork heart: $19.50
10 pounds of turkey heart: $18.50
4 cases of chicken backs: $80
1 case of duck necks: $37.50
OUCH. I know that’s way above what I normally spend in a month, even accounting for adding a whole Ridgeback’s worth of food into my orders. However, this is a complete month’s worth of food at a single time, without having the benefit of sale months to stock up. Everything this month is a non-discounted price. TQDF did a HUGE sale on hearts in February of last year, which I stretched out over several months, so I’m counting on that to bring my average price per day down this year as well.
This works out to be $10.37 per day (for the next 33 days). With a little rounding, it’s $1.50/day for Clover, and $3/day each for Jackson, Loki, and Pike. My cost per pound is $1.09.
Considering I know people who pay a stunning $8/pound for commercial dog food blends, I’m going to take that $1.09/pound and be DAMN happy with it.
Here’s the solution from yesterday.
First, break down the turkeys in ground meat and ground raw meaty bones, adding 18 pounds of ground turkey and 9 pounds of ground raw turkey bones to the inventory.
Next, because Clover’s portions can be sent whole and frozen, set aside the two bags of chicken backs, and 3 tubes of Blue Ridge Beef to send to Amy. This requires no work on my part.
Third, Loki’s portions can be covered by the food already ground and in tubs (with the exception of the organs), so those also don’t need to be thawed and repackaged. Set aside six tubs of ground raw meaty bones and 11 tubs of muscle meat for Loki, with the bags and tubes for Clover. This will take up a whole shelf in your freezer.
That leaves Jackson and Pike, who need to have their food ground, in bags. One bag per day, per dog, then frozen. Begin by grinding the 40 pounds of chicken necks at the same time you grind the turkey necks, because you will need a total of 44 pounds of ground raw meaty bones between the two dogs. Overnight, thaw 24 pounds of muscle meat, 8 pounds of liver, and 8 pounds of kidney. Grind the liver and kidney together to make an organ glop.
Then it’s just a matter of spooning the right amount of raw meaty bones, muscle meat, and organs into bags, and labelling with the dog’s name. The remaining organ glop can also be put into tubs to take with Loki.
You know how, in high school, you were a snotty know it all who challenged your teacher on “When will we ever use this stuff in real life?”
No? Just me? Okay. Whatever.
Anyway, it turns out I totally use algebra every day in real life. Here’s what I spent a fun hour working on today.
Jackson and Pike will be boarded with Marsa for 14 days. Clover will be boarded with Amy for 14 days. Loki will stay with me for the 14 days.
(The “other” column is the amount I can feed them of treats, bites of my food, chew items like bully sticks, etc.)
Using those numbers, I can figure out how much I need to send with each dog … but! … the food I have on hand isn’t nicely divided up by ounces. Some of it is whole, some of it needs to be ground, some of it is ground already, and so on.
40 pounds of raw meaty bones, ground, in 4 pound tubs
40 pounds of chicken necks, whole (these will be ground)
10 pounds of chicken backs, whole, in 5 pound bags
17 pounds of muscle meat, ground, in 1 pound tubs
10 pounds of muscle meat, ground, in 2 pound tubes
10 pounds of liver, whole, in 1 pound bags
15 pounds of kidneys, whole, in mixed weight bags
And I have 3 whole turkeys, which each yield 6 pounds of muscle meat and 3 pounds of ground raw meaty bones.
From all that, I have to figure out how to divide up what, to send with whom. Pike and Jackson’s portions need to be divided into bags — 1 bag, per day, per dog (these will be given to Marsa frozen, who will thaw them as needed prior to feeding). Marsa will handle dividing the bags into meal portions. Clover’s portions can be sent whole and frozen — Amy will handle feeding Clover like she feeds her own dogs while she has Clover. Loki’s portions can be left frozen in tubs and carried in our cooler — his food does not necessarily need to be divided into daily bags.
As an exercise to the reader, given the above data and constraints, how would you handle dividing up this food to (1) make sure everyone has enough food for the 14 days and (2) minimize the amount of work you need to do in thawing and re-packaging food?
I’ll give you my solution tomorrow.
First, let me say I’m kicking myself right now for not buying pre-holiday when turkeys were 59 cents per pound. Even so, I found today the all-natural, no antibiotics, no hormones etc. etc. turkeys were 89 cents per pound, and they had the smallest amount of injected “flavorings” available in the store. I couldn’t find any that were just straight turkey, sadly.
So, I bought 70 pounds of whole turkey (they averaged about 14 pounds each, and I bought five of them). Since they were fresh, thankfully I didn’t need to thaw them. We put three of them in our spare refrigerator (yes, I have one of those, as well as the dog freezer) to be dealt with tomorrow.
The other two turkeys I set to de-boning, using a combination of this (incredibly fascinating) video from chef Jacques Pepin:
and this video from preymodelraw.com.
This was my first time deboning any bird, so I know I left some usable meat behind on the carcass. That’s okay, it got saved to be turned into poultry stock in the future, so it’s not going to waste.
I found that the two birds I deboned tonight had a yield of about six pounds of muscle meat, and three pounds of grind-able raw meaty bones. My grinder isn’t up to the task of grinding the larger turkey bones, so I ground the wing tips and first joint of the wings, the tail, and the necks from the giblet bags. The drumsticks, thighs, and body of the bird got deboned for straight muscle meat, along with the gizzard and heart from the giblet bags.
With a yield of about nine pounds from each fourteen pound bird, that gives me a price of around $1.40/pound for the turkey meat, which is cheaper by 25 cents than the cheapest option from my raw suppliers, so I’m still coming out way ahead. Extrapolating out my yield, I can expect to get 45 pounds of food from 70 pounds of turkey (and tons of bones left over to make stock for soups).
If you’re wondering why I ground everything, turkey tendons are much, much stiffer than chicken tendons. I know of a single verified case where the tendon in the wings was implicated in an intestinal puncture, so I err on the side of caution with turkey. Everything goes through the grinder, even the muscle meat.