Sample Raw Diet How-To's
When we first start thinking about home-feeding our dogs, sometimes the task seems almost insurmountable, particularly for those of us unused to spending much time in the kitchen. As a non-cook myself, I often wondered whether I'd be able to face preparing my dogs' food on a daily basis. Surprisingly, many of us who home-feed our dogs are like this, and we all agree that feeding dogs is much more rewarding than feeding humans. Dogs never seem to complain about their meals, and they show so much appreciation and end up doing so well on our home diets that I think we all end up enjoying the whole process. I know this is what happened to me (and I still don't cook for myself, though I am working on a healthier diet).
Since getting started can seem so difficult, I thought it might help to see some examples of how people who home-feed their dogs go about it, what they feed, how they prepare the meals, and how much time it takes. Below are several different feeding regimens that people are using. I hope it will help others take the plunge. These tips were written many years ago. For more ideas, see my Sample Raw Diet and Sample Cooked Diet articles.
Here's the question that started it all:
How do you'all do it? . . . feed BARF to your pets, I mean?
Personally I've been making big batches of veggie/meat glop that I freeze in multiple containers (each with 2-4 servings). I unthaw one container at a time, keep it in the fridge and serve the glop first, in the evening. As soon as Java finishes her glop, she gets a serving of raw bones, which are also frozen (in individual plastic shopping bags). She gets the bones at the back door and eats them outside.
Preparation of the bones includes removal of most of the skin and meat, which I load into plastic tubs and freeze (you can see why my dreams for my new house include a chest freezer in the basement!). The not-as-meaty bones get loaded into individual bags, usually with say, the bones from a leg quarter, two backs and a couple of necks being one days worth. That's all chicken--Java's favorite. If I have something else, I'll usually give it after the chicken.
So, as I'm feeding pre-made frozen glop I'm accumulating chicken meat and skin. Then the big day of glop making occurs. I did this yesterday, and it's occurred to me that maybe I'm getting carried away with the size of the production. This is my nature--if I make spaghetti sauce, I'm making 8 quarts, minimum. If I make apple butter, I'll make over 20 jars. I tend to max out the containers that I have.
Well, this time I made so much glop that I had to use a dish pan (big plastic rectangular thing) to do the final mix-up of ground meat stuff and pulverized veggie stuff. I made 37 servings, so that's um. . . almost two
and a half gallons. As I stood in my kitchen packaging glop into tubs, mixing in the glucosamine-chondroitin powder (one scoop per 8oz, which is her daily serving size) oh, 'round about midnight, I began to wonder how other, possibly more sane folks manage the daily requirements of feeding Bones and Raw Foods.
So, how do you do it? I'd really like to hear from folks who prepare this stuff fresh every day. Do you do any prep work, or start from scratch each time? Do your dogs get this every single day, or just some of the time? How long does it take you to make up the food?
Julia Winter and Jammin' Java the Doggy Primeval
Four big dogs and two little ones
As other have already said figuring out WHAT to feed takes a bit of research on your part. There are great websites, books and email lists that can help.
But I CAN give you info on HOW to feed and do it fast. <g>
I'm feeding 4 German Shepherds, a Cocker and a Corgi mix. I can get them all pottied and fed, and get the ducks fed and watered, the baby ducks transferred to their outside pen (from their inside one), fed and watered, and let out and fed the chickens all within (on average) 30 minutes every morning.
Your most time consuming task is the packaging of the bulk items you purchase. You can skip buying in bulk but with 2 large breed dogs you'll save A LOT of money if you do!
Here's the basics I go through. Once a month I do a run to the processing plant where I get my supplies. I usually pick up about 120 lbs of chicken leg quarters, 40 lbs of chicken necks, 60 lbs of beef heart and 20 lbs of beef liver. I also try to pick up 20-40 lbs of another type of RMB like turkey or lamb necks.
We get these boxes home and I start packaging. I use the Glad plastic disposable containers for storing the RMBs and beef heart. Beef liver gets stuffed into large freezer zip lock bags.
Now I USED to weigh each package to make sure I had the right amount, but that added a lot of time to the process. Now I just stuff the things until they are full and toss them in the freezer.
I also am grinding leg quarters for one of my Shepherds (dental issues) and the necks for my cats. Grinding 40 lbs of quarters and necks takes me about an hour or so. do NOT remove any fat, skin, etc. prior to grinding it's good for them!
The other leg quarters get hacked into pieces and stuffed in containers. I do this for the 2 little guys. If you have a large breed you can feed the leg quarters whole. I'll sometimes do that for my other 3 Shepherds. For me it's just easier to whack everything then try to figure out how much the little guys need and just whack that. Then there's the storage issue trying to mark the containers for whacked and unwhacked, so it's just easier to whack it all. Boy sounds like some type of mafia gathering! <g>
So one day a month I process all this stuff and fill my freezers. Takes me about half a day but I dawdle as I go. If I had to hurry I could probably do it all in under 3 hours.
Now I have two full freezers of dog food! Here's how each meal goes.
Morning RMBs. For the most part it's chicken leg quarters. It take me about 10 minutes to gather up 6 bowls, weigh each dog's amount (weighing is not necessary but I don't estimate well and end up with a fat Cocker if I don't!), squirt on some Salmon oil, stuff Tessa's supps into the ground chicken, put the bowls on the floor and get out of their way. While they are eating I wash out the containers (if they are empty) and the utensils I used. I then grab another container or two from the freezer and set them out to defrost. They will be ready to use by the next morning. Put any leftover stuff back in the fridge and I'm done.
Mornings - 15 minutes tops.
Evenings very similar. I gather up the bowls and get the food. Beef heart and liver. Sometimes it's ground turkey (I buy this already ground and in one lb tubes from the local store) or some other boneless meat I picked up on sale somewhere. Weigh out everyone's amounts, bowls down and it's gone in an instant! Clean up, put away leftovers, grab more from freezer if necessary and I'm done.
Evenings 10 minutes tops.
Now sometimes meals take a little longer. For example, on the days my guys get lamb neck bones they need to eat outside and be supervised. So we do that on the weekends.
Sometimes they get canned mackerel. Opening 6 or 7 cans only takes a few extra minutes in the mornings.
But for the most part its fast and easy.
Three dogs and one ferret
I have three dogs (and one ferret) on BARF; I prepare their meals every day in less than 15 minutes.
Meat, which I buy in bulk, is stored in the freezer in one- or two-day portions. Every night after dinner I transfer one bag from the freezer to the fridge for the next day's dinner. I don't remove the skin or meat from the bones, so meal preparation consists of removing the bag from the refrigerator and setting it on the counter or in the sink to warm up to room temperature while I prepare dinner for humans. After the humans eat, I open the bag and hand the meaty bones to the dogs. Two of my dogs eat on plastic place mats in the kitchen and one dines in her crate on a towel, so cleanup consists of tossing the towel in the laundry basket and rinsing the mats with hot water.
Veggies take a little more preparation, but not much. While the coffee is brewing in the morning I rough-chop two or three different kinds of veggies and toss them into the food processor along with ACV, oil, and the Condiment Of The Day (raw eggs, canned fish, cottage cheese, boneless meat, yogurt, leftover people food -- whatever's available). Process until pureed, adding a little warm water if needed to achieve the desired consistency. Shovel veggie glop into bowls and add extra supplements and/or meds to those that need them. Put bowls on floor, wash food processor and cutting board. By this time, bowls are empty and ready to be washed and put away -- and my coffee is ready, too!
When I first started, this seemed like a very time-consuming production. Now that I've been doing it for a while it's so easy that I even pack the food processor and use the same routine when we're on the road.
ellen & the Perfect Puppies(tm) and Bella the Near Deer
I have 3 boxers.....and am lucky enough to have a friend who runs an organic garden and gives me the food she doesn't sell. I also grow some and use fresh/frozen/ or canned as needed. Once a week we chop veggies and run through food processor. Freeze what we aren't going to use for the week (for weeks when we don't have time).
Mornings are veggie glop mixed with ground turkey (or occasionally canned mackerel or tuna or salmon), a bit of olive oil for each, kelp, and glucosamine/chondroitin for the gal with arthritis.
Second meal of the day is a turkey neck (very lean and good sized....takes awhile to chew! I was using chicken necks but there was so much fat on them that the crew was gaining weight).
We add occasional yogurt, eggs, fruit, etc. as available (yogurt at least twice weekly).
The one boxer boy is a rescue and our vet feels this is probably the first time in his 7 years that his feet and ears haven't itched and hurt from allergies (when he was on kibble). That is one reason we use just poultry.....the other 2 do fine with beef or pork (although my female will do anything for fish!) although my vet (who is marvelous) was initially skeptical about BARF, after seeing how all three dogs look, she has recommended it to others to explore.
She said their teeth were cleaner than dogs whose teeth she cleaned herself!
Cheryl Feight, Burbank, SD
1 Belgian Terv & 1 German Shepherd
Since I grind the chicken wings, I finally realized that I can just throw in the vegetables and grind them with the wings in the electronic meat grinder. (See http://www.holisticat.com/grinders.html & http://www.pierceequipment.com/video.html for info on meat grinders). I usually do a family size pack of wings, which last me almost two weeks. I freeze several gallon bags of food, defrosting as necessary. In the morning, I put a yam in the microwave before I get in the shower. Then I give the guys each a half a yam, and a cup of ground chicken wings & vegies. In the evening, my husband feeds them, so they get a cup of Steve's Real Dog Food , and a cup of California Natural . I also mix in eggs a couple of times a week
I'm still saving for a Vita-Mix , as someone told me that you can just throw the chicken wings in it with the vegies, and it will grind it right up, and is much easier to clean than the meat grinder. But they're $400! Maybe soon......
1 rottie, 2 standard poodles and a terrier mix
I feel like I'm cheating (G) I have our health food store keep their juice fiber for me. I come by every few days and pick up *bags* of their "garbage fiber." I then take it home and go thru it to remove any big pieces of carrots, apple skin, cucumber skin, green stuff not juiced etc etc. I then put the fiber in daily amounts (4 dogs, 1 rottie, 2 std poodles and a terrier mix) into gallon baggies and flatten the fiber in the bag (this makes it easier to store/freeze and defrost). My husband has gotten really good at finding good meat buys (he is a disabled vet, who is home and does most of the shopping) and will often bag the bones for me in daily groups (we usually do chicken backs - the 20 lb terrier gets a 1/2 back which is easy to cut if you have a strong knife and a rubber mallet to pound the knife with-G) and the rest get a whole chicken back. For the 4 dogs I usually use 5-6 big handfuls of fiber, add to that a "satin ball 's" meatball (also frozen in a flat format), Yogurt, 2 - B complex (stress formula with C, I open the capsule and pour out powder), flax seed oil and liquid iodine. Oh for the rottie and the old girl poodle (12 1/2) I add each a rounded scoop of Sundown's "Joint Formula" (which is hydrolyzed collagen [available at Walmart -- click here to learn more about hydrolyzed collagen and other joint product ingredients]) the rottie has bad hips and this seems to be helping a lot.
So my hardest part is remembering to defrost dinner (G). Oh I do add some Innova to my old poodle girls veggies, I know how hard it is to change to a "totally healthy way of life as you get older" and she will eat veggies after 11 yrs of kibble, but she prefers the little bit of 'good' junk food with her veggies. Lets see, Oh my other thing I do is when I feed my kids their bones I will give 1st to the terrier (she is the slowest) then to the speed demo chewer the rottie, and then the male poodle, of which I hold on to the bone with a pair of pliers or tongs to make sure he doesn't choke down the piece whole and then hand hold with my other hand for the 12 1/2 yr old poodle girl. I don't need to hold hers but I feel like I'm helping her (silly isn't it). I think that is it.
Andrea Linn, St Petersburg, FL
My old diet for two Shar-Pei
I pretty much make mine fresh every day, though now that I'm down to two dogs, I grind veggies every two or three days, refrigerating the unused part (I use a junior-sized food processor and one load makes the amount I now use for two or three meals). [Update: I now make large batches of veggie glop and freeze them in muffin tins]. Nattie has decided that she will only eat her veggies if they're steamed, so I cook up something different for her each day -- broccoli, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, summer squash, chayote squash, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, cauliflower, celery, bok choy, jerusalem artichokes, the only thing she won't eat is leafy greens *sigh*. I also use frozen veggies. Both dogs get fresh crushed garlic, approximately one clove per day. I add some yogurt or kefir, organic apple cider vinegar, kelp and alfalfa. I give each dog a raw egg two or three times a week, and liver or kidney on the other days. Occasionally I add canned pumpkin or veggie baby food or use them instead of the pureed veggies (Nattie likes them better, generally). I mix it all with three or four ounces each of ground meat -- I have used Halshan's meat and veggie mix, ground turkey, hamburger, beef heart, ground pork, ground lamb, ground ostrich, ricotta cheese and cottage cheese. I am actually currently experimenting with feeding veggies only every other day; on the days they don't get veggies, I feed around four ounces of muscle meat and two ounces of liver or kidney per dog. I then add the individual supplements, mostly salmon oil, but also Yucca Intensive for Piglet if her arthritis is bothering her, and Probiotics for six months for any dog that has been on antibiotics. After they eat, I hand out pills dipped in cream cheese (vitamins B, Ester-C with bioflavonoids, and E, and selenium every other day). The whole thing, including clean-up, takes about fifteen to twenty minutes.
In the evening, they get chicken necks or backs (including most of the skin) or six to eight ounces each of Grandad's ground chicken necks, backs and frames, or once a week they split a can of Jack Mackerel or Pink Salmon (which has been on sale lately). Occasionally, they get beef, pork or lamb necks or lamb breast instead. They also get more pills dipped in cream cheese (Ester-C with bioflavonoids and salmon oil gelcaps). This usually only takes five or ten minutes, including clean-up.
I also give a few supplements away from meals: Bromelain and Quercetin for Nattie's allergies, and Flexile Plus (glucosamine/chondroitin) and Green-lipped Mussel for Piglet's arthritis. These all work best if given at least one hour before or two hours after eating.
It's become such a routine, I hardly notice any more. I think it helps that the food processor is quick and easy to clean, just three parts. I use the same mixing bowl every day and plop everything in the sink as I'm done with it, then wash them all, including the dog dishes, with soap and I'm done. To me, doing a little bit every day is easier than doing one huge batch periodically. Actually, this has now changed, and I do a batch of veggie glop and freeze it in muffin tins, I use one veggie muffin per day. The only thing I have to do in large batches is bag up the chicken necks and backs into meal-sized portions when I buy a case every couple of months.
Mary Straus and the Shar-Pei girls, Piglet and Nattie, Pleasanton, CA
10 dogs (including 5 puppies), & 3 cats
I also use muffin tins though without oil. I make a huge batch of veggies with some yogurt and egg (to process smoothly) generally at least 8 quarts. This fills 5-6 muffin tins. I then buy tubs of liver, freeze as-is. Rolls of ground turkey, freeze as-is. Occasionally hamburger or other ground meat which I form into muffins and freeze, and when I can find a 10 lb roll of hamburger and thus get inspired make modified satin balls . I then take out the # of veggies I want, the percentage of meat I want and the variety, toss it into a bowl, defrost, add whatever I have on hand and give that. Works great. I do NOT give veggies every day, more like once a week to the adults and every day or every other day to the puppies. I individually pill supplements to each dog depending on what I'm giving at the time.
For meat, I buy 3 cases of chicken backs at a time and divide into one and two gallon bags. This is either 2-3 feedings depending on what else they get and when (along with the size of the bag!)
My prep time averages out to 10 minutes a week BUT I'm not a measuring person, am fairly relaxed. Considering the pups are still growing well and looking good I'm relaxing.
The owner of Sealth who is a new BARFer reported today that after buying a food processor BARF is a snap! She gets chicken wings and gives 3-4 a day, and has made veggie patties that include all the supplements. Her vet said he's looking great though he advised her to immediately feed him kibble <G>. So not bad overall! Also proof that puppy buyers CAN feed this way if given the info.
Heather Campbell, SeaCrest Keeshonden
11 adult dogs and 6 puppies
Well, it does take a bit of planning. I give 1/4 cup of grain every day and I rotate the various grains. I have a list on my refrigerator, beans, bread, oatmeal, corn meal mush, potatoes, etc. I forget what all, but about 8 or 9 different types of carbs. After I feed in the morning, if I see that we are getting down a bit and probably don't have enough ready for the next morning, I will throw the big old pot on the stove and make something. I keep the recipes with the amounts in the plastic containers that I keep stuff in, like the brown rice is 8 1/4 cups of water to 3 cups of rice, some salt, some corn oil to keep things from getting too gunky. The rice and beans I will flavor with some kind of meat, either make crock pot chicken (cook whole chicken for 24 hours in the crock pot and mush up with a potato masher, one chicken makes about 8 cups if the crock is 1/2 filled with water, I freeze into 2 cup portions and just dump into the rice when it's done) or a can of mackerel or salmon. Beans I usually throw in a 1 lb tube of ground turkey and it cooks with the beans.
My husband doesn't mind doing the veggies, I leave a note on the counter when we are getting low to remind him and he takes whatever I have gotten on sale that week and grinds it in the food mill for me. Fruit is either dried or fresh. I tend to keep the dried for the mornings where I have overslept! Winter fruit is bananas, apples or oranges, we are just getting ready to start serving some variety now. They love strawberries, and I get them as many as I can in the spring time. I buy 10 lbs of blueberries each year and freeze those, too, just dump them in a container or bag and freeze. Fruit is cut up fresh each day, I do have a couple who wolf their food and will sometimes either puke up the grapes/blueberries or we see them go right through. I am going to start crushing them up somehow. Maybe add this to the veggie grind stuff. Every other day I alternate eggs and chicken gizzards. I buy the gizzards in a 40 lb box, in 5 lb bags. I thaw 5 lbs, then rebag into approx one pound bags. Then refreeze.
In the morning, after feeding, I take out a bag of gizzards (if they are due for this the next day) and a 5 lb container of chicken to thaw during the day.
Also, I make my own yogurt, a gallon at a time, in two 1/2 gallon containers. When I open the second container, it's time to think about getting another gallon of milk and making some more. I do get the bowls ready in the evening, I put their vit. c in, the alfalfa, and the other various additives. It takes maybe 5 minutes in the evening, then about 10 minutes in the morning. This is for 11 adults and 6 babies (who are growing big and strong and loving their daily runs in the woods and fields!).
It's a pretty rare day where I have to have Jerry grind veggies, make yogurt, make grain and thaw gizzards all in the same day. Sometimes we will have two things that need to be done. But after a while (like forgetting to bring out necks for the next day!) it gets to be a routine and you don't even think much about it except to see the dogs salivating when you approach with a food bowl and know that you are feeding them the best way you can!
You can contact me if you have any comments, but I regret to say that I can no longer respond to questions about individual dogs. See my Contact page for more information. My name is Mary Straus and you can email me at either or