Having good premade raw around is both a blessing and a curse. Pro's include – it's so easy. Doing it all yourself comes with problems. First, I'm particular about the meat I buy. It usually involves me traveling a bit to get the stuff I want from the people I want to support (outdoor reared essential, organic ideally). If I buy my meat in a supermarket it comes in a heap of plastic packaging, which makes me sad just looking at it. Secondly, finding bits of kidney, heart and spleen on the main street isn't easy. Also, the storing and feeding of meat on the bone can be a bit of hassle. Premade raw dog food (from suppliers I trust) sorts all that out for me. Vary up the flavours, stick a few bits on top here and there so I can pretend I'm adding my own je ne sais quoi, throw him regular meaty bones for tail-wagging, teeth cleaning hassle factor and they'll be among the best fed dogs in the country.
I see only two con's of relying on pre-mades. The first is the increased financial cost of my laziness. However, as an ex-manufacturer, I just want to say this - they deserve every penny. We have a very slanted view of what really good food should cost. I'm struck by a little factoid I heard recently – 40 years ago we spent 40% of our income on food. By 10 years ago, it was only 10%. No idea how accurate that it is but the sentiment is surely spot on. We are used to cheap food today, most of it crap. Few of us want the meat we consume to be ill treated but few of are prepared to truly pay for the alternative. As square footage increases per animal, so does cost. You want them fed and treated organically, and local, obviously, all that adds cost. You want suppliers to provide clean meat, low on pathogenic bacteria, but you don't want chemicals and you want your raw dog food manufacturer constantly surveilling the entire process, ensuring all is as it should be.
In this way, ingredient costs can easily triple, destroying margins, but it doesn't end there. Manufacturing costs rise as you struggle daily to meet the highest standards. Awards do not come cheap to a company, so when they sport a few, pay attention. It doesn't end there. You want compostable packaging? Impeccable service? Innovation? Lastly, you need the company and the folk running it to be suitably rewarded. They must thrive if the company is to last. They deserve to be well paid for their hard work. The alternative is a company that struggles for funds and inevitably looks to cut costs. The first to the butchers block is ingredients.
The other downside of pre-mades is the fact they spoil you. When Brexit took my Paleo Plus away there was an initial, embarrassing moment of panic where you think “oh God, I'm going to have to do this myself!”. For a man in my position, I have to admit the feeling nearly short circuited me. Then you look at your very, very small dog, pull up your big boy pants and get to work.
DIY raw dog food is so easy. At least it can be. I love making it myself though granted, I don't have three Great Danes looking for 5kg of meat and bone per day. I like knowing what's going in to him. It keeps the quality up and the cost down and for me in Ireland it has the added benefit of reducing air miles.
When first getting into DIY you must take a moment and think about what you're doing. Don't just barrel in, buying a heap of ingredients to bloodify your kitchen with and then, after all your hard work, spend the next three weeks worrying if you did it right. You need to plan.
First up, the magic ratio most raw dog food manufacturers loosely adhere to is 8:1:1, that is 8 parts fresh meat muscle, 1 part bone, 1 part organ meat (liver, kidney, spleen mix, for example) as that's what a rat or rabbit looks like, should you suck all the water out of them. That's called the Prey Model. Lots of folk feed just that (at least a variety of mixes based on that ratio). Others, and I'm among them, believe a little ground plant matter (10% say?) is a very likely inclusion of dogs out and about and brings with it a variety of benefits for the animal which we return to in another article.