Raw food, how do I choose?
So you may have followed the starter guide or you’ve already transitioned but are looking for something new. There’s a couple of things that can help when deciding what brands you might want to try first. Here are my top tips:
- Grade of meat
- With or without extras
Let’s look at them in finer detail. They are all as important as each other, but we understand there can be some hurdles. For example, if you only want to feed organic but only have a budget of £2 a day for a Great Dane, that might be a issue. It’s all about finding the best compromises.
Working out your budget
The reason why Stefs Pet Pantry offers so much choice is because each household has different budgets. Some have 15 mouths to feed, some have one. Because of this, we wanted to cater for all. If you’re at the beginning of your journey and you’re trying to work out how much it’s going to cost you, start with what you’re spending now.
It’s easy to say well it’s just a cup of kibble morning and night, forgetting about the extras you add on top. There’s the packs of chicken you grab, those tins from the supermarket, the cheese, the gravy, etc. These little extras don’t seem like a lot but they can add at least £1 a meal without you even realising. Most often, people feed these extras because their dogs don’t like the kibble they’re being fed so people try to make it more appealing.
I do have one more thing to add – is there something you could give up? That coffee from the coffee shop on the way to work? That could save you £2 a day. That’s nearly the cost of an average day’s meal.
Let’s look at our budget range. There’s no fancy packaging. They are usually either meat and bone with the bone being higher than 10%, normally more like 20% + and no offal. There’s also the ones that make the 80-10-10’s but again, just be aware, some are much higher bone than 10%. They’re not using free-range or organic, and may use imported meats. This is all reflected in the price, with prices starting from 65p a lb.
It’s a little fuzzy and lines get blurred between the mid-range and premium. The reason why I say this is because some are making a mid-range product, packaged in premium packaging. Or some are creating a premium product for a mid-range price. There’s also a couple of different options. They usually come in either 80-10-10 or complete with veg (I will explain more a bit future down).
Grade of meat
A lot of manufacturers are now looking for better cuts of meat. They are paying more and competing with the human food chain. Years ago it consisted of scraps and waste. Now we realise our dogs need lean muscle meat. It’s just as important as feeding nose to tail. I would say mid ranges start at £2.75 per kg (roughly looking at £1.23 per lb).
In my opinion, premium ranges should be saved for those using premium cuts, with organic, free range, grass fed meat. They might be more convenient too. So for example, they might be already portioned up into easy to use packaging. They’re usually easily spotted as they have added all the information on the packaging so you have it all to hand. Again they are usually either 80-10-10 or completes with extras.
If you’d like to feed organic using only non-plastic packaging, you need to be looking in the mid-range to premium range. I will say don’t overstretch yourself, but feed the best you can. A lot of people will treat their pets to a premium meal once month. That’s amazing.
With or without extras
Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty so you can understand what you are buying beyond the price, packaging and origin. What is the difference between 80-10-10 and completes with veg? Especially when most 80-10-10’s say they’re complete.
80-10-10 is a breakdown of what some raw feeders consider complete. It consists of 80% muscle meat, 10% edible bone and 10% offal which is usually broken down into 5% liver and 5% other secreting offal like kidney. This breakdown is said to originate from feeding a prey animal. This doesn’t contain any extras or veggies.
There’s so much information out there now and some people heavily believe that’s all dogs need (including a variety of proteins). Now some say that’s not enough. People will add eggs with shell 2 days a week and oily fish 2 or 3 days a week. Like I’ve said about most suppliers making an 80-10-10, I personally believe it is giving a false representation. Phew, when did nutrition become so complicated? When it became commercialised. The whole idea of complete and balanced has come out of a pet food marketing idea, scaring us into believing everything your dog needs is in one bag.
I can only speak for myself, but I’ve never eaten a ‘complete and balanced’ meal in my life. Although I’m going to guess neither have you. If you would like to learn more about balance over time and what you can be adding, take a look at Diving Deeper. In that blog I go though more of the extras you can add. I’ve also written To Veg Or Not To Veg. Check that one out and you’ll find out the reasons why I recommend adding veggies into your dog’s diet.
Complete with extras
So what makes the ‘complete with extras’ list? And why are they different? Our governing body is called FEDIAF. It writes strict guidelines for our pet food companies to adhere to. To call something complete, they have to have it independently tested against these guidelines. It’s far from perfect, but we won’t get into that today!
Strictly speaking, calling something complete should mean it’s more than just meat, bone and offal. The Pet Food Manufacturing Association is a great UK website you can check out. It has quite a few raw manufacture members who are coming together with a wider pool of pet industry manufactures to bring a better tomorrow.
I would say if you’re not going to add the extras in at home, look for something that has everything in. My recommendations would be Cotswold Raw, Nurture them Naturally, Nutriment, Natural Instinct, Luna & Me, Poppy’s Picnic, Benyfit Natural, Natures Menu, True Instinct and Paleo Plus. These all contain extras, meaning there’s less to worry about at home. Spoon and feed.
There are also some cool cupboard essentials I would like to introduce you to including SmartBarf or Dorwest Keepers Mix. These are amazing supplements, providing lots of extras you simply don’t get in just meat, bone and offal. I would always recommend feeding fresh first but sometimes life isn’t that easy.