Thursday, June 10, 2010

chow time

I'm frequently asked what I feed my dogs
, and at least half the time the primary question is whether or not I recommend a BARF (Bones And Raw Food)diet. The current trend towards BARF diets isn't quite as new as it appears to the general public, since breeders (and many private owners) have been preparing their own food for their dogs forever. I support the trend in general, but when it comes to advising my own puppy buyers I tend to recommend good quality kibble (currently recommending Solid Gold "Wolf Cub" for my shepherd pups, maintaining them on it for at least one year; recommending Canidae ALS or Taste of the Wild for the adults and rat terriers) because most people won't be painstaking about ensuring a balanced diet if they prepare food for their dogs.

However, if you're willing to be meticulous and are dedicated to the task, a BARF diet is great for adults. I'm leery about using it as the exclusive nutrient source for puppies since their skeletal and organ systems need a careful balance of vitamins and minerals, but adults seem to flourish on it.

When I last ordered in a pallet of kibbled food, the cost just bowled me over. So much so that it drove me to lug home 150 pounds of chicken while muttering about second mortgages on the house. The jury is still out in my mind as to which is cheaper, homemade or store bought. With some persistence you can locate chicken at 39 cents a pound, beef liver similarly, and the occasional beef chuck or roast for around $1.99.

As one might guess given the price differential, my dogs eat a lot of chicken. A LOT of chicken. Now, I'm fine with feeding raw chicken if I raised the bird myself and know how it was processed (a delicate word for rendering my pretty birds that sit on my shoulder and peck my boots into dead carcasses). But store bought chicken evokes scenes of bacteria-rife processing plants so I haven't yet convinced myself to go for the "R" in BARF with any real commitment. BAF food doesn't have the same ring, but the dogs don't mind.

Thus, I cook my chicken. This used to involve every enormous pot on every burner, hours of stink from the bubbling over that such large batches invariably did, and then more hours of waiting for it cool enough to debone, followed by the bagging and freezing of the finished product. It was exhausting and often spilled over into a sleepless night getting all that meat safely stored away. This meant I didn't do it often and the dogs weren't getting as much "real food" as I like to provide.

A fellow breeder encouraged me to get a meat/bone grinder, and finally she wore me down until I did. I recently had my first stint. Oh glorious time-saver! Like anything else, there are pros and cons. But overall, it does seem that it'll cut the processing time to a fraction, not to mention making all that nutrition from the bones available to the dogs. I still cook it but it is so much faster when ground. Speaking of which, time to feed the dogs and put them (and me) to bed!