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- Buying, Re-packaging, & Storing Food

Overall Goal
    The overall goal here should be to spend time once or twice a month buying and re-packaging food in order to make daily feeding as easy as possible.
    I always have two days worth of food in my refrigerator thawing - tomorrow's and the next day's - so that I can simply warm to body temperature and serve.
Grocery Store
    Watch for sales!  Chicken (whole, & leg quarters) is often on sale.  Meat departments typically mark down beef & pork nearing expiration date but you must arrive early enough to take advantage of price reductions.  Some stores occasionally carry heart (beef, pork, turkey, & chicken).  Check with meat department managers.
    Some local meat markets prepare a 'blend' for dogs.  These blends might contain more veggies than dogs require so be prepared to ask the butcher about contents.
  • Be skeptical since butchers are typically not knowledgeable about dog nutrition requirements.
Buying Co-op.
    There are enough raw feeders around that you can likely find a local raw food buying co-op.  Search Yahoo Groups for 'dog food co-op.'  Include your locality name to narrow results.
    If there is a meat or grocery distributor nearby, they may sell bulk meat if you make it clear that it is for dogs.
  • I buy for four dogs (my three and a friend's) so it is more cost-effective to buy bulk from a distributor.  Bulk purchases include pork cushion meat (60lbs), chicken feet (40lbs), chicken carcass/frame (40lbs), pork heart (15lbs), beef heart (15lbs), turkey heart (40lbs), turkey necks (30lbs), chicken necks (40lbs), beef liver (12lbs), beef kidney (15lbs).  Obviously, I don't buy everything all at once.
    I typically cut meat into meal-size portions and freeze until needed.  I then thaw, warm to body temperature, and serve with Raw Meaty Bones or calcium supplement, offal, veggies, and a few supplements.
    Photo at right shows three steps to get from whole chicken to meal-size serving ready to freeze.
    Cut-up and re-packaged meat make the best use of freezer space.
    I have a meat grinder and grind whole chickens and turkey necks for my friend whose Standard Poodle has a swallowing problem.  Ground products are packaged in 1lb or 2lb weights in Ziploc®  bags.  These bags are handy because they stack well in the freezer.
    Before you go all-out, first determine what really is meal-sized for your dog. 
  • It took 6-8 months of trial feeding to find the ideal amount for each dog in order to maintain their target weight.  My starting point was feeding at 2.5% of target body weight (they are now at just under 2% (12-14 oz of meat per day).  Once a month I checked their weight and felt their ribs for excess fat.  There is no rush to do this so relax and take your time.
Stuffed Freezer
Depending on the number of dogs you are feeding, it may be worthwhile to invest in a freezer.  I am currently feeding my three dogs and storing food for a friend's dog.  My 17 cu. ft. upright freezer is invaluable and usually full of meal-size portions that I have re-packaged after purchase.
    There was a time, however, when all I had was a refrigerator/freezer.  That simply made for more frequent buying trips and a really, really packed freezer. My food was relegated to the freezer door.