Wednesday, April 16, 2008

So, What Does Indy Eat?

In response to my post on the history of pet food, Chris asked me what I feed Indy. The response is long enough to warrant its own post :)

Indy and the cats eat what is called a prey model diet, affectionately referred to as "frankenprey" because it's made up of many different animals to form one mythical prey animal. The idea is that in the wild, predators eat nearly the whole animal, so the healthiest and most natural diet for them is one that mimics a prey animal. The trouble is that most raw feeders have to rely on food from grocery stores and hunting to feed their pets. It would hardly do to toss Indy an entire cow or deer carcass. Besides what the neighbors would think of the crazy people with the dead deer in the backyard, it just wouldn't be very practical and more than a little bit digusting. I do have my standards :) Instead, I aim for feeding him a variety of meats, bones and organs. The preference of most prey model feeders is to serve up roughly 80% meat and connective tissue, 10% bone and 10% organs, about the ratio of most prey animals.

So, that's the theory behind the diet, now for what he actually eats...

Our big staple is chicken quarters (that's the entire thigh and leg and usually a tiny bit of the liver). I buy the ones packed in only water, no chemicals for us, Indy will turn his discriminating little nose up at chicken packed in a chemical broth, smart boy :) Chicken quarters are great for several reasons, first and foremost, they are dirt cheap! They're also readily available and they contain nearly the perfect ratio of meat, bone and usually organ. However, one part of one animal does not make a balanced diet, so he also gets beef, usually ground or what ever is on sale, same goes for pork, duck and turkey. When whole chickens go on a really good sale I buy a few and over the course of several meals he eats the whole thing including the heart, gizzard, neck and liver. If I have left over fish, he gets that too, but it does not constitute a large part of his diet. Eggs also add some variety and make a great well-rounded meal. When we're very lucky a hunter will share his left overs with us. We've gotten venison, antelope, boar and fish from some very nice people. We've also had small farmers who butcher their own chickens share the feet and other “trimmings” with us. Indy loves the feet (and they're a great source of glucosamine and chondroitin), the rest of it, he'd be happy to do without. As for organs, I used to buy them whole and cut them up and feed little bits with every other meal or so, but, being an incredibly lazy person, when my local pet store started carrying a high quality frozen ground beef organ mix, I immediately converted. It couldn't be easier, I just give him a good size scoop every couple of meals and he gets a wider variety than I was ever able to find in the grocery store. The same pet store also carries frozen ground green tripe (that's the cow's stomach with all the good yucky stuff left in tact) which is highly nutritious and has also become a staple. Fruits and veggies are not part of his diet, though he occasionally gets them as a treat. His favorites are carrots, bananas, apples and pineapple. Indy also takes fish body oil capsules and vitamin E to help with his allergies. And he gets a little yogurt here and there as a treat (it pretty much eliminated what little gas he used to get).

Now, you're probably thinking to yourself, “holy cow that's a lot of food!”. He sure doesn't eat it all in one day :) He eats about 2-2.5% of his body weight per day (that's a general rule of thumb for adult cats and dogs, but it's flexible since every animal is an individual with a different metabolism and activity level). By feeding chicken quarters that I buy for about 49 cents per pound I am able to then add variety to his diet with slightly more expensive meats and still feed him for about $1 per day (sometimes less, sometimes nothing at all if he's getting freezer clean outs; freezer burned meat, hunting leftovers etc.). I spent about the same amount, oftentimes more, when I fed him a premium kibble and store bought treats.

Just a few benefits of the raw diet:

*Better dental health, gnawing on raw bones is great for keeping teeth clean and gums healthy. Please note that raw bones are soft and highly digestible, cooked bones are NOT safe, they are prone to splintering and causing bowel obstructions.

*Easier weight control. Overwhelming anecdotal evidence suggests that dogs that are either chronically over or underweight on kibble (despite dietary control by the owner) seem to reach their ideal weight easily on a raw diet.

*Less poop! Because the raw diet is highly digestible, there's very little waste and no grain or veggies to add bulk and stink to the poop. A raw fed dog's poop also biodegrades very quickly, breaking down and disappearing into the soil within a couple of days (you'll notice when you're out hiking through the woods that wild animal poop does the same thing, when an animal eats what they were designed for, there's not much left over). All of this means that poop patrol is a much less difficult and disgusting chore when your pets are raw fed.

*Bright, clear eyes, less stink and a beautiful shiny coat. The raw diet isn't a miracle, but it sure seems that way to some pet owners. Pets who have struggled with dull flaky coats, goopy eyes, bad breath, body odor and a host of other pesky problems that no expensive diet or supplement seemed to fix, generally find that within 6 weeks of starting raw, their pet looks like a million dollars and doesn't smell like much of anything. This is basically chalked up to a natural species appropriate diet. When animals eat what they're supposed to, they generally look and smell the way they're supposed to.

*Improved digestion, pretty much everything I just said in the last point. Tons of cats and dogs suffer from IBS among other digestive ailments, most of them find relief on a raw diet.

I could go on, but really, I can't even begin to list all of the benefits of a raw diet for a carnivore. See the links in my post on the history of pet food and you'll have more than enough reading material to keep you busy for the next year :)


Chris & Mackenzie said...

WOW! Thank you for such a detailed response! Definitely gave me some food for thought (pardon the pun).

I think I'll try the organ mix...sounds like a good first step to me and I bet Mac will enjoy the change. :)

Wags - Chris & Mackenzie

Lindsey said...

There are some good pre-made raw mixes on the market. They're an easy way to get started on raw or to supplement a kibble diet. For people in the Great Lakes region, my favorite raw purveyor is Taylor Pond Farms. Nationally, Bravo and Nature's Variety are excellent brands. Oma's Pride and BARF are also brands I have heard good things about but have no personal experience with. If you're wondering where to start, I would suggest visiting their web sites and looking for local retailers. One word of warning about feeding organs, if you go overboard and feed large quantities of organ without feeding meat and bone too, he will get loose stool. But a scoop or two of organ mix would make a great treat :)

Angel said...

What a thought-provoking post. thank you.

Jillian said...

I didn't know you fed Raw! Awesome! I've been learning lots about it! It's definately something I want to go to soon. Right now were on grain free Kibble, EVO. My concern about going RAW, even thought I know it's totally worth it, is the cost. But from you're post I am learning you can do it a lot cheaper than the store-bought raw diets.

Drop me an email sometime, or a PM on UAD, and thanks for your post on my blog!

Kisses to Indy for me.


wildcatsthree said...

excellent post. Abby's allergies and ear problems have disappeared since eating a raw diet. My vet also commented that she doesn't have that older cocker spaniel odor that they usually get (has to do with their oily skin) so I'm thinking it's helping with that as well.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to comment that I have been trying to get money back from Taylor Pond Farms for the many pounds of meat that they never delivered for almost a year now. I have not heard back from them despite many many attempts to contact via email and phone. If you search Google, you'll find this isn't an uncommon problem.

Just wanted to warn you. It's been a frustrating few months.

Lindsey said...

In response to the comment on Taylor Pond Farms, I want to say that I really had to think for a while whether I wanted to publish it or not. It was sent anonymously and there is no way to verify the claim. Because the content of this comment may impact someone's business, please take that into consideration. Although I'm sure mistakes have happened, as they do in any business, I have never had a problem with Taylor Pond Farms, nor do I know anyone who has. For anyone who needs it, you can contact Pete & Barb Moolhuizen at the following address:
or via their Yahoo group:

Lindsey said...

I should also mention that after multiple Google searches I found only one complaint about Taylor Pond Farms.

The pet store that I shop at is a distributor for TPF and the only complaint they have voiced is that TPF doesn't always have what they want in stock. An issue that I have seen Pete Moolhuizen acknowledge address in company newsletters.

I do not want to chose sides in a business dispute that I know nothing about. But I do want to make sure that my blog presents both sides, to the best of my ability.