My husband and I can’t say the word “chores” without our dogs running to the door so they can help!
We’re lucky to be able to raise some of our own farm animals for food (for ourselves and our pets). But we count on butchers to process our ducks, chickens, goats and sheep.
Beef is a large part of most raw feeding programs, including ours. We’re not able to raise beef, just as most raw feeders probably can’t raise their own pet food. But we have a wonderful farm near us for organic grass-fed beef and raw milk.
They’ve used many different butchers over the years for their slaughtering. Farmers can’t slaughter their own animals so they use custom processing services. This is when a butcher shop does the slaughtering and cutting for them.
The farmer typically offers a quarter, half or whole animal. The customer pays the farmer the agreed price per pound of hanging weight. The farmer then pays the butcher for cutting and slaughter costs.
If you can do this, you’ll likely find the total of these two payments is much less than other sources. They’re cheaper per pound than retail cuts, commercial frozen raw … or buying through raw pet food brokers.
Finding A Farmer
So, how can you find a farmer to sell you their meat? Start by checking …
- Organic directories
- Farmers markets
- Farm co-ops
- Food co-ops
- Butcher shops
This can get you some names of farms, and sometimes, referrals. Online raw feeding forums may also be helpful.
Check your state Department of Agriculture too; some states offer directories of farmers. For example, MN Grown is a division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. They offer advertising to their members for an extra fee.
Ask These Questions To Find The Best Raw Meat For Your Dog
Be ready with questions so you can find a farmer who meets your expectations. You want to find a farmer who offers the best meat for your dog’s raw food. Here are some of the things you might want to ask about:
- Are the animals pasture-raised? (That’s important for omega-3 and vitamin content.)
- What do they eat?
- How much space does each animal have?
- Was the animal born on your farm or bought from elsewhere (if so, at what age)?
- How old are the animals when slaughtered?
- Is your property organic? Or do you use herbicides, fertilizers or pesticides?
- Do you feed genetically modified (GMO) alfalfa or hay?
These questions will help you assess the quality of the meat you’ll be buying. The questions about age are because you won’t want to give your dog bones from an older animal. They can be too hard for many dogs to chew and digest.
How To Cut Your Raw Dog Food
Now that you’ve found your farmer, what’s next?
Most farmers will already have a butcher shop they work with. When you place your order, the butcher will ask about your cutting instructions. The form should look something like the downloadable PDF I’ve included here.
I included more items on the form than you might see. Most butchers won’t deal with the tripe. And strangely enough, many butchers don’t know what the gullet is! But these parts are nutritious and delicious for raw fed dogs! So be sure to ask about them.
Be prepared to explain your needs. They don’t get these requests very often. Most people want to eat steak and hamburger, so they waste the rest of the animal!
This may not be for everyone, but my husband and I often harvest the parts of the cow or steer the butcher leaves. Our farmer has the animals humanely shot on the premises to lower their stress levels.
The butcher often leaves the innards there so we can take the tripe and other leftover organs … like the tongue, trachea and gullet.
Meal Planning For Your Dog
It takes some planning to have a smooth feeding routine. My dogs hear the sound of butcher paper unwrapping no matter where they are!
Here are some ways I simplify the process …
- I make up appropriately-sized packages of muscle meat, organ mix and raw meaty bones for the freezer.
- I often partially thaw bigger pieces of muscle meat. This includes heart or tongue. Then, I cut them into one ounce pieces. (They’re easier to cut if they’re partially frozen).
- I spread the cut pieces out flat on the butcher paper to refreeze. That way, they don’t stick together when I put them back in a large container.
- Another helpful practice is partially thawing organs and cutting them into 1 oz pieces … or blending them together. I often include a little banana for prebiotic power.
- I try to have each day’s meals ready thawed in the refrigerator.
For my dogs’ breakfasts, I mix the muscle meat pieces and organ blend alone. Then I add a small amount of pulverized vegetables. (You can grow your own or buy organic.) I also ferment the veggies in whey … for the probiotic boost.
Remember to label everything for the freezer!
Add Bones To Your Dogs Raw Food
Beef bones fall into two categories: raw meaty bones (RMBs) and recreational bones.
RMBs might be neck bones, oxtails, or ribs. These are softer, non-weight bearing parts of the animal. Your dog should chew up, swallow and digest RMBs. Your dog’s size determines what RMBs she can handle.
Recreational bones can be harder or larger bones that your dog can gnaw on, but not chew up and swallow.
Recreational bones are important for your dog’s mental and physical health. They can provide hours of entertainment. The chewing strengthens the jaw, neck, shoulder and even back and hip muscles.
Marrow bones from the legs of ruminants (like cows) are the most popular. Other bones that dogs relish are knee caps, pelvic bones, ribs and hip joints. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, watch her with recreational bones to avoid broken teeth!
Your Dog Deserves The Best Raw Food
I hope this article has inspired you to support your local farmer and butcher.
They’re both jeopardized by the growth of big business and the rise of ready-made foods. Every town once had a butcher shop, but local butchers are becoming few and far between. So … buying meat through local farmers helps them thrive … and support their families.
And by using all “inedible” bits, you (and your dog) as the end consumer can honor the existence of the whole animal.
The freshness and quality of meat will benefit your dog’s health too!