Homemade Dog Food; Why? We love cooking for our dogs. Maybe it’s the opportunity to really know what’s in their food and to select healthy ingredients.
Maybe it’s the cost savings over premium treats. Or maybe it’s just the boundless enthusiasm with which they greet our cooking.
Dogs don’t worry about presentation. They don’t concern themselves about the look of the plate it’s served on. Dogs just want to enjoy the food you’re giving them. They relish it with an enthusiasm that tells you that you are the next Julia Child.
But we’ll be honest: It does take time to cook for your dogs. If you’re considering a homemade dog food, be sure to consider your schedule. Especially if you have large dogs, the time spent cooking the amount of food you need for a homemade diet is substantial.
There are ways to streamline that cooking process, including cooking in bulk. Here are some tips for making the process as easy as possible.
Best Dog Food Ingredients
Cooking your own dog treats and meals can be a money-saver—as long as you think ahead and shop with a plan. Here are some tips for buying ingredients inexpensively:
Look for “last chance” meats, fruits, and vegetables. Although they’re still safe to eat, these foods that are close to their expiration dates are often deeply discounted at grocery stores for a fast sale.
In the case of fruits and vegetables, their ripe or slightly overripe state may make them less palatable to humans, but they’ll be more easily digested by your dog.
Check local farmers’ markets for bruised or slightly damaged fruits and vegetables. (Many markets welcome well-behaved dog shoppers as well!) Locally grown produce isn’t just an eco-friendly choice, but a great way to save money and get foods at the peak of freshness.
Buying bruised produce can be a great way to save on dog meal ingredients; many farmers will even give them away, especially if you’re making another purchase.
Buy less desirable cuts of meat. Organ meats are inexpensive and make an important component of your dog’s diet. If you are feeding a homemade dog food, up to 10 percent of your dog’s meal should include organ meats: liver, kidney, gizzards, and tripe. (Of that 10 percent, no more than half should be liver.)
While these may not be at the top of the list for human shoppers, they’re very popular with dogs—and they’re an important nutritional
What Organ Meats are Good for Dogs?
Liver: The liver is a great source of vitamins A and B as well as iron. While it’s a wonderful food (and a real favorite with most dogs), limit liver to just 5 percent of your dog’s total diet so that your dog doesn’t get too much vitamin A.
Heart: Heart is actually considered a slice of muscle meat, not an organ, so you can add more hearts to your dog’s meal without worry—which is a great thing because it’s one of the most reasonably priced meats and one of the most nutritious. The beef heart contains thiamin, folate, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, CoQ10, vitamin B, amino acids, and more.
Tripe: Cow stomach lining (although tripe can also refer to sheep, pig, goat, and deer stomachs) is sold in commercial grocery stores—but it has been washed and bleached and isn’t nutritional. (You’ll see that the tripe in the grocery store is sparkling white; it’s used to make Menudo.)
Green tripe, rich with nutrients from the cow’s diet, is made from the lining of the cow’s fourth stomach, the abomasum. Green tripe isn’t sold by butchers. Many pet parents feeding a raw diet will purchase frozen or dehydrated green tripe from commercial vendors.
Buying Meat in Bulk
If you decide to commit to homemade dog food—especially if you have large dogs —buying in bulk is a great way to save money. Meat is the ingredient that makes the most sense to buy in bulk—it can be expensive, and freezing it requires very little prep work.
Regardless of whether you’re preparing a cooked or a raw diet for your dog, buying meat in bulk can simplify meal preparation and save money at the same time.
Consider these ideas:
- Share a bulk purchase. Often, homemade feeders who live near each other band together to purchase a side of beef or other large cuts as a group.
- Ask other homemade feeders in your area to point you to good local meat sources: meat processing plants, wild game processors, and local butchers.
- Visit ethnic markets, which can be an excellent source for many organ types of meat and less-common cuts that aren’t usually available at large grocery chains.
Equipment You Need
Although your home kitchen has everything you need to prepare your dog’s meals or treats if you decide to get serious about homemade dog food, a few things can make the process much simpler:
Electric food grinder: A food grinder is a very handy way to prepare an appropriate mix of meat and vegetables. Grinding your own meat is much less expensive than buying ground meat, and you can cut away the fat to prepare a healthier meal.
Although less expensive grinders are available for $30–130, only heavy-duty commercial grinders in the $300–400 range are capable of grinding bones.
Even with the more expensive models, grinding bones may void the warranty, so check with the manufacturer before purchase. Without bone in the meal, you’ll need to supplement your dog’s food.
Supplements to balance Homemade Dog Food
Food dehydrator: Buying dehydrated meats and vegetables is convenient, but it’s expensive! Make your own dehydrated jerky and chews on the cheap with a food dehydrator at a fraction of the cost.
A food dehydrator is also excellent for drying vegetables and fruits during the peak season for use in later meals. Prices start at about $35 for basic dehydrators, although models with more controls can range from $200–300.
Food scale: To ensure that you are feeding your dog the proper amount of food every day, it’s important to measure his food, both in terms of cups and weight. A digital kitchen food scale ranges from $10–50.
Freezer: Small chest freezers that provide storage for bulk meals for your dog start at about $200, ranging up to $1,000 for top-of-the-line models.
If you’re a new dog owner the following article will show you a list of potential costs you might face the first year.