One of the things that can push new people away from raw food is how much work it seems like. Which is funny, because over time people who feed raw start to take a bizarre kind of pride in exactly how complicated they can make things. (The same is true for price and variety, which is something I’ll talk more about later in the series.)
The truth is, the quantity of work depends largely on your local resources and your dog. The raw diet is composed of basically three parts–meat with bones, meat without bones, and organs. If you can get just the right things at the store, you can basically put any of that straight from the meat department packaging into a dish.
Sometimes you have to work at it, though. Silas, for instance, is a small-medium dog who can only eat food that comes in fairly large increments. Even the dainty turkey wings from Whole Foods might weigh a pound each, when his dinner is supposed to be six ounces, so I have to spend three or four minutes cutting each one into sections. I’ve also been driven to some time-consuming things–at Thanksgiving, I completely jointed and carved two entire raw turkeys in one evening. Silas also won’t eat boneless meat that’s in chunks or large pieces, so I have to mince it. (A pair of very good poultry shears are the #1 must-have for raw feeding.)
With that said, let’s walk through the process a little:
1) Buy meat. Now, depending on where you live, what your dog can eat, and your budget, this can be the easiest part or the hardest part. If Silas could eat chicken and beef, I could do all of his shopping at the regular grocery store while I’m picking up our groceries. I could, strangely, do the same in the extremely rural area where my parents live, because the “weird” meats, like liver, gizzards, necks, and backs, are all still eaten or used as seasonings. For most of what we buy, I have to drive about 45 minutes to the pet food specialty store.
2) Process meat. There are a few ways to do this, depending on how you shop. Some people choose to get meat in bulk, either because it’s cheaper or because that’s their best option, which really front-loads the work. These are the people that you’ll see defrosting chickens in the bathtub. I don’t buy in that kind of quantity. My maximum is about one month of food at a time. I do try to come right home from the store and cut the big bony pieces into meal sizes, but some things don’t need it. Usual process: defrost just enough to cut through, divide into ziploc bags with a few meals’ worth, and refreeze. Since Silas is still living on those turkeys I divided at Thanksgiving mixed in with some already serving-sized pork, my average daily work right now is: rummage in freezer, find something in the right category of food, put it down in the fridge to defrost.
3) Mealtime!: As with kibble, plunk food into dish. This gets more elaborate only because raw food people are often geeky control freaks, but my most complicated actual meal is maybe two parts. It takes longer than feeding kibble mostly because of the %$@&ed deli containers that organs come in. Or, if I was lazy on the prep work, I might have to cut something up.
4) Cleanup: Whatever makes you comfortable. I’ll confess, after years of mocking people mercilessly for it, I’ve finally given in to the disinfecting kitchen wipe. (Although I buy the Seventh Generation ones, which are ostensibly less toxic and horrible.) A quick swipe of the counter, if I spilled or dribbled, and a quick wipe around Silas’s eating area, and we’re all done. If you have kids, elderly, or otherwise immune-suppressed people around, you’ll want to be a good bit more careful.
If this kind of thing interests you, remember to enter my book giveaway for a copy of Lew Olsen’s Raw and Natural Nutrition For Dogs. Entries open until Friday.