WHERE DO I FIND GOOD MEAT?
There are many different places to obtain meat; it definitely helps to be creative. The Yahoo! Carnivore Feed Supplier list is also a good way to find suppliers in your area. Here is just a sampling of places from which to get meat:
You can search on the internet for businesses or farms that ship meat directly to you. Two examples of many would be Hare Today and Riveriene Farm. There are also numerous reptile supply places that have mice, rats, and rabbits as well. My only advice is to make sure your pet likes rabbit, mouse, rat, or whatever you want to order before you actually place a big order; perhaps place a small order first and see if you and your pets like their products and service.
To keep down the costs, it is recommended that you buy in bulk and stock up for a month at a time if possible. If not, no worries. Keep an eye out for sales in the meat department and stock up when you can. Check with local restaurants, stores, or butchers to see if they will consider ordering you a case of whatever you need (at 'restaurant price' or a bulk price) the next time they place an order with their supplier. While not necessary, a separate freezer for raw meaty bones can be a worthwhile investment.
WHAT ABOUT HORMONES AND SUCH IN MEAT?
If one is concerned about this, then consider feeding free-range, organic meat whenever possible. This can be pricey, but you may be able to get good deals from markets or seasonal deals from the producers/suppliers themselves. Check out the Yahoo! Carnivore Feed Supplier list as well. If you are just shopping in the supermarket, here are some tips:
Avoid meat that has unusually red coloring and says 'color added'. Check the label for tiny print that states coloring was added. The chemicals that give the meat its red coloring can bind up valuable nutrients like vitamin B and make them less accessible to your pet. However, the good intestinal flora in your pet's intestines help synthesize vitamin B, so if you feed color-added meat occasionally—as part of a varied diet—it is not a huge deal. Make do with what meats you have available, even if it includes the occasional color-added meat.
Check packages of chicken pieces, etc. carefully for anything that says 'salt and sugar added', 'flavoring added', 'preserved with _______.' Avoid meats that have added flavoring (hickory, barbecue, mesquite, lemon, whatever). If one is worried about salt and sugar added to the meat, soak the meat for a short while in water before feeding. Do not soak for too long, however, because you do not want to leach the nutrients out of the meat. Alternatively, feed it to your dog as is and make sure your pet has access to fresh water at all times.
If hormones and additives do not bother you in your selection of meat, then do not worry about it. If you are concerned, then look for free-range, grass-fed, or organic meats at a good price. Or stay away from supermarkets and order directly from butchers, co-ops, and ranchers.
Raw feeding is as expensive as you want to make it. If you can only afford Wal-Mart chicken quarters, then feed what you can afford. Any fresh, raw food will bring about positive, healthy changes in your pet. If you can buy grass-fed, organically grown meat, then feed that to your dog. Regardless of what you feed, make sure you feed a variety of meats (including fish and eggs) and raw meaty bones and organs. If you can get whole carcasses, then great. If not, just do your best to approximate a whole carcass by assembling "Franken-prey"—a little of this meat, some of this organ, these RMBs, etc.
WHAT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS?
Supplements are few and far between. There is no need to be adding multivitamins, or kelp-alfalfa powder, or algae and spirulina, etc. You can if you want, but if you are feeding a varied prey-model diet, it is a simple waste of money (and you run the risk of oversupplementation of certain vitamins and minerals, which in turn bind up other necessary minerals, etc.). It is HIGHLY recommended that you just stick to the food before adding any sort of supplement or vitamin—no 'just in case' supplements.
There is one supplement that many raw feeders use: Fish Body Oil. This is used to supplement Omega-3 fatty acids lacking in grain-fed, domestic meats (grass-fed, free-range meats have an appropriate Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio). We do NOT use Cod Liver Oil (CLO), because CLO is high in vitamins A and D, and too much of these can cause problems.
Fish Body Oil (FBO) can be obtained at any vitamin shop or section in the supermarket. Search for cold water marine fish-derived FBO, since this is the best. A large dog can easily receive one or two 1000mg capsules per day, although you may want to start with one to see how your dog responds. Sometimes one capsule is all that is needed.
Usually FBO does not need to be administered daily unless the dog needs to receive FBO as part of therapeutic treatment for some condition or illness. FBO can be given every day, every few days, once a week, or as needed depending on your dog and the weather (drier times of the year mean drier skin). FBO helps keep the skin oils balanced and keeps skin soft and supple. While the raw diet does this anyway, the balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids obtained by giving FBO capsules is beneficial.
If you do not want to supplement with FBO, then it is suggested that you feed fish regularly if you cannot feed grass-fed and finished meats.
Another common supplement is glucosamine and chondroitin, which is given to dogs with arthritis and joint problems. However, many raw feeders find that their aging pets do much better on raw food and no longer have a need for supplemental glucosamine. Allow older dogs or dogs with joint problems time to adjust to the raw diet (approximately one month, more or less) before adding or taking away glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation. Additionally, consider adding more natural forms of glucosamine and chondroitin to the diet in the form of beef or lamb trachea, chicken feet, etc.
WHAT DO I USE FOR TREATS?
You can feed a variety of treats—store-bought or home-made. Try to steer clear of grain-based treats, however, since even small amounts of grain can cause adverse effects (itching, etc.) in a grain-sensitive pet. Also avoid treats that contain soy, corn, excess sugar and salt, and preservatives like BHT and BHA.
Freeze dried liver treats are great; just do not overdo them or your dog may have runny stools. If you are feeding a lot of liver treats (freeze-dried or otherwise), try to feed organs other than liver during meals. Dried lamb, beef, or pork lung are also great treats, and can be broken into small pieces. Many pet stores carry these. Additionally, you can purchase meaty treats from several places online. The following list was compiled by a fellow raw-feeder. I personally have not used any of these companies, so do not consider this an endorsement; this is just here for your information and perusal.
Crunch Real Meat Treats by Stella and Chewy's
Freeze-dried treats made from free-range meats.
Elinora's Royal Natural Snack
Dried Icelandic fish skins.
A variety of chews and treats.
Nature's Variety Prairie
Freeze-dried treats, jerky, dried rabbit ears (which can be found at SitStay.com), beef pizzles, etc.
Real Meat Treats by Wilderness Foods LTD
95% real meat treats from grass-fed New Zealand meats.
Single-ingredient freeze-dried treats.
In addition to carrying many of the above products, SitStay.com also has a wide variety of treats, including beef tracheas, pizzle sticks, tendons, fish treats, Real Meat Treats, etc.
A small store that supplies treats geared toward raw-feeders.
JB Pet Supply
JB Pet Supply offers treats like Charlee Bear Nutritional Snacks, Wellness Pure Rewards, pork/beef/lamb lung, bully sticks/pizzle chews, etc. Look under 'Bones and Treats' to browse their selection.
Other treat choices are hot dog pieces (use judiciously due to the nitrates and nitrites, or find natural uncured hot dogs), cubed cheese or chicken, peanut butter or yogurt drops, pieces of dried meat, or pieces of fruits and veggies. Yes, fruits and veggies—a small amount for treats is not going to bother the dog at all. Just remember they come out the other end in the same form they entered.
Commercial liver treats, chicken treats, meat treats, etc. are good as long as they do not have a whole lot of grain, salt, added sugar, and preservatives (although some people feel that the minimal amount of preservatives and grains in these treats are negligible; it is a personal choice).
Beef heart can be dried, and makes excellent treats. You can dry your own liver treats, or beef heart treats, or chicken treats, etc. Here's how:
Dried fish skins also make a wonderfully chewy treat.
The bottom line: know your dog, its tastes, and what works best with it. If your dog will do back flips for pieces of carrots, then great! Use what works as long as it is not harmful (i.e. do not use something like chocolate or onions for treats!), and rotate or combine several different types of treats to keep your dog interested and to provide even more variety to his diet.
For extra information and tips on stuffing Kongs and other treat-dispensing toys, please visit the Training with Raw Food page.
WHAT ABOUT RECREATIONAL BONES?
Recreational bones, or rec bones, are bones for good chewing that do not get consumed.
When people think of rec bones, they think of precisely the wrong bone to feed: long marrow bones, cow femurs, or knuckle bones. These bones are very dense and hard, and can easily chip or break a dog's teeth. When vets tell you that raw bones break teeth, these bone are typically the ones they are thinking of (and rightly so!). Ironically, it is also the same kind of bone several pet food companies recommend feeding dogs in order to clean their teeth.
A rec bone can be anything your dog cannot consume entirely. For some dogs this might be a beef rib or two, or a beef neck bone. Stay away from the heavy, dense bones. You want a bone that is not incredibly dense but will still wear down slowly. What bone you select depends on your dog's chewing abilities.
There are alternatives to rec bones. Bully sticks, also known as macho sticks, are excellent chewy treats made from dried bull penises. Dried muscle meat or tendons can be a good recreational chew, although they are generally only available in sizes suitable for smaller dogs. A Kong stuffed with ground or cubed meat and frozen is another excellent treat option, and is one of the only times you should feed ground raw.
Do, however, stay away from rawhides and other synthetic chews. These contain preservatives and other unhealthy things for your dog. Rawhides are not completely digestible and can cause stomach upset and gas. Pieces of rawhide swell in a dog's stomach, and can also pose a choking hazard by swelling in the throat. Synthetic chews made from 'natural' ingredients can often contain inappropriate things for your pet like grains, milk, and chemical additives. Additionally, they are often highly processed and are too hard on a dog's teeth (they usually say "bone hard" but are WAY harder than any raw bone save cow femurs). Others can be bitten off in chunks and swallowed; this may not be a problem except for the fact that they may not be very digestible. Greenies are an example of one such treat.
When thinking of recreational bones, think 'raw' or 'dried meat', think 'still meaty', think 'real food', and think 'not big marrow bones'.