Four Feet and Food (now with some training too!)

Doing our best to keep our furry children healthy by being vigilant about what we feed them and how we also keep them mentally stimulated.

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A Vegetarian’s Best Friend– a meat grinder?

After my first round with preparing Chile’s raw meat diet I was a little discouraged by how long it took me and how much it grossed me out.   Also, as mentioned in my previous post, I had not been able to give Chile the turkey necks which are supposed to be part of her weekly meal plan.  I tried asking the butcher at Jimbo’s if he could grind them for me , unfortunately the gentleman that had helped me before wasn’t there, and this new guy told me they wouldn’t grind the necks.  When I relayed my dilemma to Sabine she suggested that I might want to invest in a meat grinder.  She recommended the Tasin TS-108.  I am obviously meat grinder ignorant so I sent the link for the Tasin to my co-worker Rob, who I know makes sausages, to see what he thought or if he had another one he might recommend.  Rob told me this is the first time a vegetarian has ever asked his advice on a meat grinder but that the Tasin seemed well equipped for what I needed it to do (including grinding some bones) and that he is now thinking about getting one for himself!   So I ordered the grinder and it arrived shortly before Christmas.  With all the craziness of the holidays and our being out-of-town I didn’t get around to using it until New Year’s day.  Let me tell you, it is fabulous!  I was done preparing a week’s worth of food in less than half an hour.  Without the grinder it had previously taken me over an hour.  After ordering the Tasin I had watched a couple of videos on ts108_electric_grinderYouTube to learn how to operate it properly.  During the first run through I didn’t have the grinding plate on properly so the meat wasn’t coming all the way out of the chute and gathering on the sides of the plate.  I realized I must have done something wrong because that’s not how it looked on the video.  It was pretty easy to figure out the problem and fix it so that I had a properly functioning grinder that was a cinch to use!  The cleaning was a lot less difficult than I anticipated too.  I would recommend this grinder to anyone thinking about making their own pet food and particularly those that are nauseated by man-handling raw meat like I am.

At this time we are still transitioning Chile from her commercial raw diet to the fresh one by gradually adding more and more to her daily meals.  I thought I could handle changing Chile’s diet in conjunction with all the hosting we were doing in December but was reminded, by the Universe once again, that I’m not Super Woman and decided to just take it slow.  So far we haven’t noticed Chile having any problems with digesting the new food and no upset stomach or diarrhea has been observed.  I definitely think having the grinder will make all the preparation more convenient in the future and will make it easier to keep Chile on a fully homemade diet.

(Side Note:  I have not tried grinding the turkey necks yet because they took longer to defrost than the rest of the meat and were still partially frozen at the time. I will try those later this week. )




This is Love

I cook the occasional chicken roast or steak for my husband or guests but handling pounds of raw meat is something altogether different, and I have to admit, the first batch of raw food I prepared for Chile made me sick to my stomach. I also didn’t realize that raw turkey smells a lot worse than raw chicken!  But for Chile I sucked it up and kept on going, trying to suppress my gag reflex as much as possible.  As with the handling of meat for human consumption, I was very diligent about using a separate cutting board for all of the raw meat and thoroughly cleaned my work areas during and after the preparation.  Chile’s new diet also recommends she be given raw chicken and turkey necks each week to chew and consume.  These are parts of a bird I had never seen up close…and let me tell you they aren’t pretty!   I was very wary of feeding them to Chile because historically she’s not the best chewer and usually sends large objects down her gullet like a pelican as soon as they are swallowing size.  With some coaxing from Sabine I presented Chile with her first chicken neck last week (served on top of an old sheet).  She absolutely loved it!  She did a pretty good job with the chewing and only swallowed the last bit.  She showed no signs of an upset stomach following her treat so I guess she handles it pretty well. Although I still find the prospect of feeding her the neck of something disgusting, I was actually excited to feed her another one last night because she enjoyed it so much…now that’s love!

DSC_0870(I am still way too grossed out by the turkey necks to feed them to her but who knows I might warm up to those too…doubt it, but who knows?)






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Learning to Navigate the Meat Aisle

Did I mention I’m a vegetarian?  Ovo-pesco-lacto vegetarian to be exact, meaning I eat eggs, seafood and dairy products but no land animals.  I have been a vegetarian for the last ~16 years after I learned where most of the meat products in America come from and how inhumanely the animals raised for slaughter are treated.  That being said, I have no judgements against humans that do choose to eat meat and  I realize that dogs and cats have to eat a  meat based diet to stay healthy, but I have never spent much time in the meat aisle or gotten to know the butchers who work in the deli of the local market.  In San Diego, we are very fortunate to have a local chain called Jimbo’s that carries tons of organic produce and only sells meat that comes from farms that raise their animals humanely. I know some people take issue with paying for items marked “free range” or “cage free” because there is no clear cut guideline that needs to be followed for this label.  The animals could be let outside for less than ten minutes a day and be called “free range” or be kept in a pen indoors and be called “cage free”.  That is why I don’t buy the Horizon brand products that claim to be organic and cage-free.  Jimbo’s closely monitors all their supplying farms to ensure that the animals are being housed and treated humanely and are not treated with any antibiotics or growth hormones.   I believe in supporting local farmers and we try to buy all our groceries from local organic farms (also sold at Jimbo’s) but unfortunately the farms providing meat from humanely raised animals are not always local.  We have hosted Christmas Eve dinner for my husband’s family for the last two years and I insisted on serving ham from what I call “a happy pig”.  The ham sold at Jimbo’s comes from Denmark.  I find it sad that they are not able to find a local humane source but I still bought it since that was all that was available.  The cruelty-free meat definitely comes with a heftier price tag (the ham costs about 5x more per pound than your regular super-market ham) but it’s a once a year purchase for us so Merry Christmas to the pigs too!

Anyway, Jimbo’s was where I went to pick up the items for Chile’s first week of homemade meals.    While shuffling through the pre-packaged meats I found that Jimbo’s carries organic, free-range beef liver at a very reasonable price.  Chile’s diet includes a liver supplement (available in tablet form) or fresh liver.  I figured since I was able to find a fresh source I would give it a shot.  I must have looked pretty lost wandering around the meat cases because one of the butchers came right out from behind the counter to help me.  I asked him for their leanest ground beef.  He said the one they had ground earlier that morning was pretty lean but if I wanted he could grind some fresh top sirloin ( I think?)  that would be more lean.  Totally out of my element, I just smiled, nodded, and handed him the list of the rest of the meat items I needed.  I was very thankful that he even de-skinned and de-boned the turkey legs for me which made it much easier for me to prepare when I got home.  Also on the list were chicken necks and turkey necks.  They don’t normally stock these but I was able to order some that would come in a few days later.  I learned that getting to know your local butcher is very helpful when you’re going to be purchasing large quantities of meat, particularly when they are things you aren’t exactly familiar with.

The butcher never asked what I was doing with all this meat that I was so clueless about but the guy at the checkout counter did ask me a question about one of my items and I told him “I have no idea.  I’m a vegetarian and all of this is to make food for my dog”.  He just laughed and said “Well that explains the beef liver, I hardly see anyone buying that!”  .


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Making the Switch

Moving away from a commercial diet has been in the back of a mind for years now but I was never really sure how to do it right. I wanted to make sure Chile was getting all the proper vitamins and minerals in her diet along with the right balance of protein , fruits and vegetables. I was given the opportunity when a fellow dog lover who runs the local dachshund rescue recommended Sabine Contreras, a canine nutrition counselor. I started working with Sabine of Better Dog Care in late November 2012 to formulate a balanced, raw, homemade diet for Chile. With Sabine’s personalized meal plan and guidance I have started to slowly transition Chile from her commercially prepared raw food (Stella and Chewy’s) to an all homemade diet. While on paper Stella and Chewy’s provides the type of nutrition that I consider to be ideal (raw meat from free-range animals and organic fruits and vegetables) you can’t beat a homemade diet where you can be 100% certain exactly what goes into every meal.  I understand that not everyone has the time to prepare a fresh diet for their pets but not all commercial brands are created equal .  A raw diet is also not the answer for every dog but a diet based solely on dry food is not right for any dog. I have heard SO many excuses from SO many people over the years about why they continue to feed their animals a dry diet but the one that seems to top the list is “Dry food helps clean my dog’s teeth”….WRONG! Eating dry food cleans your pet’s teeth about as much as eating a pretzel stick cleans your own teeth. Brushing your pet’s teeth is what cleans them, raw meaty bones also help, but kibble does next to nothing for a dog’s dental health. If you want to do one thing to improve your pet’s health STOP feeding kibble!