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 Commercial Raw vs. Homemade
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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.

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