Homemade Dog Food & Treats: Understanding the Basics
When it comes to wanting the best for your pets, many owners equate the feeling to wanting the best for their children: you take them to the vet, teach them about exercise, a good night’s sleep and give them the occasional bath. But too often our animal’s diet is overlooked as a factor of longevity and care. Simply put, the recipes that make up the primary volume of dog food often lack in basic nutrients and is more equivalent to junk food for humans. You wouldn’t feed a child only junk food, would you?
So what are some better options?
Luckily there are new companies coming to market every year seeking a solution to this problem, and looking at it not only from a consumer perspective but from the perspective of long-term pet health and environmental sustainability.
The best of these companies take a raw approach when designing a recipe for a dog's diet. Here, the cheap wheat flour found in typical “kibble” style pet foods is supplemented with vegetables and whole-animal margins. The downside to these products, like feeding your family, is that they cost more and their storage can infringe on precious freezer and refrigerator space.
Try making your own dog food...Seriously!
Or, at least try making some of your pet’s food. Many owners like, Carla Cook, of Colorado Springs, CO, share a small living space with their furry companions, and must rely on the convenience of store-bought kibble. Yet, Carla makes the effort to supplement one meal a day, or a few meals a week, with her homemade patties. Like many dog owners, Carla is planning for her 6-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Thomas, to live forever. While the breed is known for longevity, she, and owners like her, also hedge their bets with homemade food to give Thomas the best chance at old-old age as possible.
So why doesn’t everyone make their own dog food?
The whole process takes some practice and commitment. First and foremost it takes having a good supplier of meat. You do not want to take any chances with generic store-bought deli meat, but the deli counter at your grocery store may be a good place to start—especially for sourcing organ meat, like chicken liver, which is cheap and extremely nutritious. The other major hurdle is having the equipment required to make and store all this new healthy food. Namely, you will need a food processor—ideally a meat grinder, or meat-grinding attachment for a stand mixer—but a standard food processor will do just fine to chop up the bits of meat. And most importantly you will need a vacuum sealer, a tool that has made its way into many foodie-gourmet kitchens of today and has myriad uses for those looking to modernize their cooking. The amazing thing about vacuum sealing food for storage is that it reduces the total storage footprint in a way that classic “Tupperware” can’t.
Most importantly, the near-non-existent levels of oxygen left inside the bag ensure that your hard work will not be wasted and that Thomas’s meals will store indefinitely. For folks like Carla, this allows her to be selective in how many meals she puts in each bag, and to later thaw for serving. After cooking Thomas’s food and placing 2 meals per bag, Carla inspects the crevices of her freezer to find any gaps and wedges to take advantage of, “It’s like sliding a book back into a bookshelf.”
Do you really need a vacuum sealer to make your own dog food? Absolutely not! But it is indispensable if you plan to bulk-batch your dog food. The reality of this process, like a busy kitchen at Thanksgiving, means that it’s better to space things out instead of working it into your daily cooking routine. You will need lots of bags ready to package all that food—regular Ziploc bags will get the job done, but their thinner walls do not perform as well for long term food storage and preservation.
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