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TomHeretic

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Commercial Raw vs. Homemade - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 12:20 PM
     Hello all! I've been feeding 3 of my crew a commercial raw diet for about a year and a half, mainly Nature's Variety Instinct Raw and Stella and Chewy's. Switching them from kibble was surprisingly easy and overall I've been very happy with the change. Their coats are awesome, energy levels are through the roof. Jasper was deemed overweight by our vet last year but he has shed a few ounces. Kitter used to worry me with how tiny she was but she has put on a few ounces finally. Homer's weight has held steady but he seems to have shed some chub and gained some muscle. Jasper cracked his lower right canine in a fit of play but made it through the extraction surgery with flying colors (big thank you to Naperville Animal Hospital they did a wonderful job!) and giving his meds was simple. Even the infamous Metro was taken without a fuss after mixing in a little soupy. Overall I couldn't be happier with their health, but I've decided to switch away from commercial raw for good and move to homemade for the following reasons.
                                                                         #1 Control
     One of the first reasons I switched to commercial raw was the ingredient list on products like Nature's Variety, it just seemed so wonderful compared to even the best kibbles. Meat everywhere with a few unwanted tidbits at the very bottom of the list. Picking out a few bits of carrot here and there was very doable and not much of a hassle. They recently decided to revamp their whole line of products into separate formulas for dogs and cats. At first I thought it was just a packaging change but both formulas have some pretty significant changes from the original formula. To be honest I'm not as big a fan of the new ingredient list, and I've lost a bit of faith in the company for changing what I thought to be a good product. So I decided to stop buying the Nature's Variety and just fall back on the Stella and Chewy's for a while since they already were eating that regularly anyway. Well, I took it as a sign that a major change was needed as the very next soup I made had a medallion that had what looked like a piece of skin hanging out of it. Well after the medallion thawed I pulled the "skin" out and realized that it was actually a large chunk of clear plastic. That was enough to get me serious about making a change to homemade raw and figure out what I needed to make it work.
                                                                          #2 Cost
     The first thing I did after getting serious about switching to homemade food was search around for raw meat providers. The most convenient option for me turned out to be ordering bulk meat online from Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow. Looking at the quality of the meat they offer and adding the cost of shipping I was expecting to pay at least a little bit more for their food but considered it worthwhile. The prices seemed shockingly low compared to what I was paying for commercial raw. $13 for 5 pounds of ground chicken/organ/bone? A 6 pound bag of Nature's Variety chicken was well over $30 at my local pet store! My first order from Hare Today included 10lbs. of ground chicken/organ/bone, 10lbs. ground turkey/organs/bone, 5lbs. lamb/organs/tripe/bone, and 5lbs. beef/organ/tripe/bone as well as 2lbs. of beef kidney and 1lb. green tripe. 33lbs. in total the price was $125 after shipping. I'll get into more detail later but I was very happy with the shipment. Using this order as a baseline average I've been able to calculate my cost for the year to feed 3 ferrets and compare it to my previous cost for the year. So my ferrets eat roughly 6 ounces of meat a day between the 3 of them (2 males 1 female). That's roughly 3 pounds every 8 days or about 46 bags of Nature's Variety for the whole year. Nature's Variety is roughly $22 a bag for me which equals out to about $1,050 a year or $87.50 a month. Using my first Hare Today order as an average, I can make 5 orders throughout the year for roughly $650 total and have a 12 pound surplus of meat at the end of the year!
                                                                            #3 Quality
     This was the biggest factor for me even though I was relatively happy with the commercial raw that I was feeding and some of this ties into the control factor. The insistence on 5% fruit and vegetables in a raw meat product always annoyed me. I know it has to do with the AAFCO standards and being able to label the bag as "complete and balanced". Hare Today grinds are 100% meat/organs/bone and I trust the proportions more because they grind complete or near complete carcasses. The packaging says it is for intermittent feeding as they do not conform to the AAFCO standards and can't label the food "complete and balanced". IMO this is a good thing, knowing the types of things that can pass the AAFCO tests make that a useless metric as to the quality of the food. I was wary of ordering online a getting frozen food shipped but it worked great. My order arrived on time by 2 day ground shipping (Western Pennsylvania to Illinois) and everything was still frozen solid even after sitting on my porch in the sun for an hour. I purchased a standalone deep freezer in preparation for the bulk ordering and now realize that I can make even bigger orders than 30lbs. which will save even more money. The quality of everything is just excellent. Nature's Variety, particularly the lamb, actually smells really good (in comparison to kibble) but the Hare Today grinds are just on another level. The turkey in particular really smells fresh and delicious and they all look exactly like the kind of meat I would cook for myself. It all has a pinkish reddish or brownish hue. The Stella and Chewy's looks like grey processed meat in comparison. Obviously I can't taste any of this for myself but the beef, turkey and chicken that they have tried so far has all been a hit! The texture is slightly chunkier so I've been easing them into the new grind by using 1 ounce of Stella and Chewy's for every 2 ounces of Hare Today and they have taken right to it. Soon I will phase out the commercial grind altogether!
                                                    Things you will need to feed this way
Must have a cutting board, butcher knife or cleaver, kitchen shears, kitchen scale, freezer bags and or plastic wrap. These things are necessary as you have to portion out the meat yourself. When I got my order I spent about 2 hours cutting up 15 pounds of meat into 240 individually wrapped 1 ounce portions. They get fed 3 ounce soups twice a day. This isn't required but doing it up front like this has made all feedings as quick and easy as commercial raw was. Some optional stuff that can make feeding this way easier include a deep freezer for more storage/$ saving and some type of feeding den to control the potential mess of meat chunks.
    Alrighty, i think I'll stop here since this is starting to resemble a novel, lol! I tried to cram in as much detail as possible but I will gladly answer any questions anyone might have. Hopefully anyone on the fence about raw or anyone questioning if they can afford it can get some useful info here.
        
whiskandbowl

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Re:Commercial Raw vs. Homemade - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 2:03 PM
Great write up! I'm in the process of switching to raw now and am actually looking to purchase a deep freezer for my ferrets' meat! They're not spoiled at all!

Ferrets: Wesley, Percy, Owen    -rip Bandit-
Bettas- Kitty, Pip, and Logan
Sun Conure- Kita
Gerbils- Piper and Tailer
TomHeretic

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Re:Commercial Raw vs. Homemade - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:33 PM
Thanks whiskandbowl! The deep freezer has been well worth it, got it for about $200 from Home Depot. My dog eats a Raw Meaty Bones diet so it really was a necessity for us. The amount of meat in my house right now is pretty ridiculous, lol!
whiskandbowl

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Re:Commercial Raw vs. Homemade - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 9:31 PM
Haha. My boyfriend is mad because there is no room in our current freezer for human food. It's mostly ferret meat!

Ferrets: Wesley, Percy, Owen    -rip Bandit-
Bettas- Kitty, Pip, and Logan
Sun Conure- Kita
Gerbils- Piper and Tailer
TomHeretic

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Re:Commercial Raw vs. Homemade - Thursday, November 13, 2014 3:30 PM
I recently got a PM asking for some specifics on how I feed raw, but I'm unsure if my reply went through so I'm going to update this post with some more detailed information.

Feeding amounts and timing- I feed each of my ferrets roughly 2 ounces a day. They eat twice a day AM and PM about 12 hours apart. I pre-portion my grinds as detailed in my OP into 1 ounce meatballs. Each morning I take 3 ounces out of the freezer and put them in a cup, I then use my Kuerig coffee brewer on the smallest cup setting to fill the cup with hot water. I believe this setting pours 4 ounces of water and I immediately pour out roughly half of this leaving just enough for the meat to be mostly submerged, this keeps the soup from being too watery and minimizes the nutrient loss compared to just letting the meat soak then pouring out the excess water after the thaw is complete. I include the thawing water in the soup. After sitting for a few minutes the meat is thawed and ready to be mashed up into the texture my ferrets prefer, thick and chunky not too watery. Then I just pour it onto a plate and serve. I feed my 3 meat eaters together and 3 ounce meals twice a day is enough for all 3 to get their fill. Sometimes they leave leftovers that I discard, and when I notice that they are finishing all of their soup consistently then I make a 4 ounce soup to make sure they are all satisfied. I would say I do a 4 ounce soup maybe once every other week, most of the time they do well on 6 ounces a day (2 ounces per ferret) with minimal leftovers.

Why soup? Why not whole pieces of meat?- This is a personal choice of mine, based on my schedule and situation. Honestly, I would prefer to feed whole meaty bones and organ pieces. The teeth cleaning is the main benefit to whole meats as far as I'm concerned, and I do plan on giving meaty bones at least on occasion just for this reason. It is also usually much cheaper and easier to find locally than grinds. Grinds also have a higher potential for bacterial growth. The problem is my ferrets like to play with and stash whole pieces of meat instead of eating them and it becomes a huge mess. My ferrets are free roam, they like to eat in their bedroom, and my house is completely carpeted. I'm not big on housecleaning and don't want to deal with huge messes and nasty surprises every day! They eat their soup without trying to stash anything and the mess is minimal, they groom each other after meals. Another plus to soups is the ease in introducing new proteins or giving medication or supplements, I just hide whatever they wouldn't normally eat in a soup with things they already like and no one is the wiser! Convenience is the reason I feed soups. The grinds are balanced for me so I don't have to stress about the 80/10/10 ratio when feeding. I leave the soup out all day, and whatever they don't finish after 12 hours I discard. It is very easy to adjust if I see something I don't like. Loose stools? Add a little bonemeal or crushed eggshells to the soup and the stools firm right up. Coughing from hairballs? Add an egg or maybe a little Extra virgin olive oil. Gaining too much weight? Slow down on lamb and beef and feed more turkey. Need to put on weight? Start giving more lamb, beef, and pork. Ease in giving meds is a huge plus. It becomes completely stress free for the ferret and ferrant alike when they already eat soups daily. 

General Info and Tips-  I would suggest when first starting out to start with chicken. My crew took to chicken right away and I think it is still their favorite. A lot of kibbles start with chicken so it isn't such a shock to their system like a completely novel protein might be. Go slow with introducing new proteins. It is important for them to get as much variety as you can give them, but they don't need to try everything all at once. Beef and lamb can be very rich and might cause loose stools. I have successfully remedied loose stools by upping the bone content in my grinds, adding bonemeal or crushed eggshells works great for this. About 1/8 teaspoon is all I add. Variety can be achieved however you see fit. My wife likes to give full meals of one protein and to try different flavor combinations to keep things fresh for them. I tend to use 2 ounces of poultry with 1 ounce of red meat, poultry is generally cheaper and red meat is generally richer and fattier. I avoid full lamb meals because of the high fat content, for example I usually make lamb soups with 1 ounce of lamb and 2 ounces of turkey to balance it. Buying in bulk is a godsend, saves so much money and it feels pretty great knowing you are stocked up on "ferret food" for months at a time. I keep at least 3 or 4 proteins in stock at all times. Bacteria has been a non-issue for me. I don't have children so I can't vouch for that but neither my wife and I nor any of the ferrets have had any illnesses since starting raw almost 2 years ago. We are not neat freaks either, we could do a better job of cleaning for sure! Don't be alarmed when your ferret stops drinking water, it is very normal. They get so much moisture from the meat, especially if you feed soups. Keep water available but don't expect them to drink much! Detox is real, my ferrets were pretty stinky and shaggy looking for the first few weeks after switching them off kibble. Eventually the coat change became pretty dramatic, they are extremely soft and fluffy now with thick coats. Don't forget to check for grapetails! All of my raw eaters periodically get grapetail, that is their tails literally smell like grape soda or candy. A very cool and unexpected side effect! Be prepared for an increase in activity. My boys in particular have gained a lot of strength on this diet. They run, climb the couches, wrestle, run up and down the stairs etc.. way more than they used to. Homer, who was a chunky cuddle bug, now gives my females who are half his size a run for their money in the climbing to places you shouldn't go and raising havoc department. And that is a tall task, my girls are crazy! It can be chaotic when they are all riled up at the same time, no doubt. But I never get tired of how they can smell when their soup is ready and line up single file to follow me downstairs for dinner!
wenmister

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Re:Commercial Raw vs. Homemade - Thursday, November 13, 2014 7:41 PM
Great info Tom.....thanks!
TomHeretic

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Re:Commercial Raw vs. Homemade - Friday, November 14, 2014 11:53 AM
Here are a few pictures of Homer and Kitter eating a chicken and lamb soup.


Kitter eating.



My freezer.


A half eaten chicken and lamb soup.


Pre-portioned bag of meat.


One ounce of turkey.


5 lbs. chub of lamb before portioning.


After dinner it's couch climbing time! (sorry for the blur)



<message edited by TomHeretic on Friday, November 14, 2014 12:12 PM>
TomHeretic

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Re:Commercial Raw vs. Homemade - Friday, November 14, 2014 11:55 AM
well, that didn't work....i'll try to figure out how to post pics. edit: yay! got it.
<message edited by TomHeretic on Friday, November 14, 2014 12:13 PM>
Trichard

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Re:Commercial Raw vs. Homemade - Thursday, August 09, 2018 5:09 PM
Hello, Thank you for your great post! Are you still using Hare today? I was wondering if you have ever used my pet carnivore. Tammy

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