Switching over to feeding raw is daunting. Here I'll share some of the tips and tricks that I've found useful in my own experiences.
First up; research! Before you dive in head first, make sure you have an idea of what you are getting yourself into - by reading this article you are off to a good start!
Do some quick google searches on raw feeding, you'll run into terms like "prey model raw," and "BARF." You should become familiar with these terms and develop a basic idea of which you will ascribe to. No need to completely join one camp now, you can always experiment.
Join Facebook groups. My favorites are Raw Feeding Advice and Support, Raw Fed Dogs - A Learning and Sharing Group, and PA NJ Raw Feeding Network, but there are hundreds out there!
Lastly, before you start feeding raw, make sure you know correct ratios. If done incorrectly, raw feeding can actually be less healthy for your dog than more traditional methods of feeding. The most comprehensive guide I've found is rfas.uk. In their simple guide, they suggest -
80% muscle meat
5% other secreting organ (such as kidney or sweetbreads)
Feed at least 4 different protein sources, preferably 2 white meat and 2 red meat.
Understand that this is a guide; you may find that these ratios need to be shifted slightly depending on your dogs individual needs. I started with these guidelines, and found that one of my dogs ended up needing more than 10% bone to keep his stools firm.
Think this through before jumping in. What will it cost to feed raw versus what you are feeding now? Where will you purchase the food? Will meals require prep time and how will you fit that into your schedule? To answer these questions, start by easing your way into it. Try feeding your dog one meal of raw. Then maybe adjust so you can feed half raw for a full week. A slow start will not only help you adjust, but can also minimize gastric upset that your dog may experience.
As you make these slow adjustments, take note of how much time and thought you have to put into preparing meals, how much $ you spent sourcing the food and how far it went. Keep in mind that as you get more used to feeding this way, the time and financial burdens will lessen slightly. I used to spend time weighing out each component of my dogs meals and prep for a couple hours each week, now I know the system well enough that I can eyeball their meals.
The toughest part of raw feeding is the time commitment. I've found that if you are creative and frugal, the price difference compared to other feeding methods is negligible. I spend about $100/month feeding 2 medium sized dogs.
My first tip for finding the right food at the right price, is to beeline for the sale/clearance/reduced for quick sale sections of the meat department. I look for and ask the butchers for their "off" cuts such as chicken backs, pork necks, turkey necks, etc.
Chances are, you will not find everything you need at your local supermarket. That may be a good place to grab the bargains, but you won't find much variety there. I buy nearly all my meats from a local Amish-owned supermarket that has dozens of different meats as well as organ and bone options.
Other great sources include ordering from a supplier such as these - Top Quality Dog Food or Raw Feeding Miami. Asian grocery stores are another option to add variety to your dog's diet.
Another way I've been able to save $ is by putting out ads for unwanted/freezer burned meats. I've had hunter friends give me 50+ pounds of organ and scrap deer meat. I've hauled in tons of extras from local yardsale sites asking people to clean out their freezers and give me whatever they wouldn't use.
Raw feeding does not have to be pricey if you are smart about it!
I hope this short article serves to clarify and dispel some of the anxiety around starting on raw. Please feel free to email me with any questions!