Sunday, November 18, 2012

Some people collect stamps... I collect carcasses.

Ever since a friend of mine posted a list of things they don't tell you about feeding raw, I've wanted to write something similar. We've been feeding raw for awhile now, and it's to the point where I consider myself completely indoctrinated into this bizarre cult of raw feeding.  The kool-aid tastes great... you should try it.

You really do need a huge freezer (or multiple freezers) to make raw work.  Unless you're a billionaire, which I am not.

We have a 24.6 cubic foot chest freezer, and right now it's nearly full to the brim.  That means I have roughly 850 pounds of meat in my basement. Funny thing is, I find myself yearning for additional freezer space. Our freezer is more than adequate, but I would still like another "overflow" freezer for times such as now, when I have a lot of meat, but there is more meat scheduled to arrive soon and I have nowhere to put it. Sometimes my planning is not good, I admit this. Haha.

I know for a fact I couldn't feed raw without my gigantic freezer.  My sources aren't exactly local, and my dogs go through about 30-35lbs of meat per week. In order to get good prices, you have to buy in bulk. What would cost me $120-$150 per week if bought from the supermarket only costs me about $15-$20 when I buy in bulk... and most of my bulk sources are better than what I'd find in the supermarket anyway.  Even if I could afford to "go supermarketing" for my meat, I'd have nowhere to store it. Heaven forbid I take up any freezer space upstairs - where would my husband hide his Hot Pockets?

There is something awesome about the sound of a dog crunching their way through raw bones.

A friend of mine hooked me up with some turkey feet recently. The metatarsus of a turkey is about as big around as a Sharpie marker, and none of my dogs had any trouble decimating their turkey legs.  That is some serious jaw power.

It's easy to worry about the "dangers" of feeding raw, especially when you're just starting out. Eventually, however, you realize that dogs have been eating their way through meat and bones far longer than kibble has ever been around, and they've done just fine. Mother Nature designed them to be able to crunch through bones, crush skulls and tear through cartilage. Mother Nature also equipped dogs with strong stomachs, able to withstand bacteria that would make us humans violently ill.  They eat cat poop, for Pete's sake... raw chicken isn't going to kill them.

If you like to be organized, be prepared to spend a lot of time repackaging your haul.

I have a love/hate relationship with "breakdown days" - that is, days spent taking the meat purchased in bulk and repackaging it so as to optimally utilize freezer space. (WOW, that was an awesome sentence! Look at all those big words! So precise!) Anyway, back on topic. My beef comes conveniently frozen in nice rectangular boxes, so there isn't anything extra I do to it before it gets chucked in the freezer.  My chicken grind comes in pretty little 1-2lb tubes, so those are easily stacked in one corner of the freezer. Everything else, however, needs to be altered in some way.  Depending on the quantity of meat purchased, this can take hours, if not days.

My poultry (organic and free range!) comes in 10-20lb bags, straight from the processor.  I thaw it all, then repackage it in Ziploc bags that are laid flat so no freezer space is wasted. I label each bag with what it contains, how many of said item it contains, and the date. This helps me know how much I need to thaw, and which bags need to be thawed first. (Yeah, I'm a bit anal about this. I accept that.)

Beef hearts are oddly shaped, and need to be cut up and repackaged so they don't take up a ton of room. Whole carcasses (muskrats, rabbits, game hens) sometimes need to be hacked up and repackaged as well.  Sometimes my rabbits come in trash bags.  I repackage them because trash bags aren't clear so I can't see what they contain.  Other times, my rabbit comes in Blue Bunny ice cream containers.  Hilarious as this may be, ice cream containers are bulky and take up too much room in my freezer.

I usually put on some music and make a day of it.  Breaking down 200lbs of chicken necks is oddly soothing.  The only "raw breakdown" I don't enjoy is pureeing livers.  That involves slicing up the liver, putting it in the food processor, then spooning the liver glop into deli containers.  It's messy, time consuming, and smelly. If my dogs would eat liver chunks, I wouldn't have to puree - but alas, they are jerks and prefer their liver to be the consistency of pudding.

It really is a secret society. 

I can't tell you how lucky I've been to find my sources. Some sources I'm willing to share with people, but others I keep secret... only because there isn't an unlimited supply and I don't want too many people to know where my "oasis" is located.  It's one part of feeding raw that I dislike, because I know there are so many people that would like to feed raw but can't because they don't know where to find the meat... and no one is about to tell them.

With the AVMA now vilifying raw, it's even more apparent that raw feeding isn't something that will become "mainstream" any time soon. This forces many raw feeders and raw sources to go "underground" - for better or for worse. It can be a tough world to break into, especially if you don't already have a foot in the door.

You become obsessed with taking photos of your freezer and your dogs' meals.

It's a hilarious side effect of feeding raw. People like showing off their supply of meat, their organizational styles, the weird meat they're feeding for supper, their awesome hauls, their packaging methods, etc. Many dog forums online have entire threads dedicated to the sharing of these photos. Some people (myself included) even take videos of their dogs eating weird stuff, just because it's entertaining.

You'll run into some real "Raw Nazis" if you hang around raw feeders for any amount of time.

This is another part of the "raw feeding subculture" that makes me shake my head and sigh.  We all have slightly different opinions on how to feed raw - some feed partial raw, some feed pre-made commercial raw, some people feed ground, some people feed prey model, some people supplement with fruits and/or veggie mixes, some people are comfortable giving weight-bearing bones, some people feed fur-on carcasses, some people feed expired meat from the grocery store, some people only feed human-grade meat, some people give vitamin and/or oil supplements.

... and some people are real asses to folks who don't feed raw exactly the way they do, or heaven forbid feed kibble.  I apologize in advance if someone throws a hissy fit because you're not doing it the same way they're doing it. They're your dogs - it's your decision. I personally do not feed veggies or weight bearing bones from large animals.  Some of what I feed is ground.  Some of what I feed is not labeled for human consumption. I occasionally give my dogs raw goats-milk as a treat. There are people who do not like how I feed my dogs, and that's fine.

Finally... feeding raw turns you into a collector.  A collector of carcasses.

Yes, this is where I got the title of this post.  A friend and I were talking about the joys of feeding raw, and it was mentioned that when you feed raw, you end up "collecting" meat like it's Pokemon or something. You find yourself cruising the meat aisle, looking for something weird or on sale. You skim Craigslist and join raw feeding e-lists, on the chance you'll stumble upon someone selling their extra stock of elk livers. You'll pester your hunter friends for scraps, or in my case... complain on Facebook that you have no hunter friends, and wish someone would just kill a deer for you and let you hack away at the carcass in a dimly-lit garage.

Yes, it's a wild and crazy lifestyle, this lifestyle of feeding raw meat to your dogs.  But seriously - if you can, give it a try.  The kool-aid is delicious.  Here's a turkey foot.  It's a special turkey foot, because it's silver instead of white. This means it came from a "fancy" turkey. If I didn't feed raw, I would have never learned that there are fancy and non-fancy turkeys.  I love this life.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Haven't done this in awhile... a chronicle of my Saturday.

I woke up from an exhausting dream.  I dreamt that my Aunt Pat was going to go on a trip somewhere, but she couldn't go so she sent me instead.  The trip was by air, and for some reason she had it set up to switch flights four or five times.  I had no idea where I was going, and at one point I became completely lost while looking for "Gate N." None of the airport personnel helped me, and my only directions were on an iPhone that I'd borrowed from my aunt.  Once I realized I'd missed my flight (the fourth flight I'd been on in the dream) because I didn't find Gate N, I must have been so upset that I actually woke up.

I woke up again. I went to feed the dogs, but realized I'd neglected to thaw any meat for breakfast.  Now, every Thanksgiving we actually get the animals their own turkey.  As luck would have it, that turkey was nearly thawed, so I simply hacked it up a bit early and fed the dogs turkey for breakfast.  Jayne had wings, Talla had the neck and giblets, and Kaylee had what was left of the front of the turkey after I'd removed the breast meat.

Brought up some meat to thaw.

Decided that I needed a new metal grate for the raw beef bin. Ended up driving to the Indianola Theisens for it. Somehow got lost on the way home and ended up in Carlisle.

Got home, pureed some elk liver, put away some meat.  Brought up more meat to thaw and repackage, because the freezer is starting to look disorganized.  See?  Disorganized.

Took photos of the dogs. See? Photos.

Started watching The Hangover Part II. Steve found it at Walmart for $5.98, and couldn't resist buying it.  

Got bored, pureed some more liver.  Pork and elk this time.  Also repackaged some pork kidneys.  Played with Selma a bit. Continued repackaging meat.

.... uhhh, was still repackaging meat at this time.  Liver is gross.  Fed the dogs something bland for dinner, since they'd had a lot of rich snackies earlier in the day.  (When I repackage meat, I tend to take pieces of whatever I'm repackaging and give it to the dogs.  It's been a liver 'n' kidney kind of day.)

Finally finished with the meat.  Considered taking a shower to get the stank of liver off my skin.

Took a shower to get the stank of liver off my skin.

Suddenly realized I hadn't eaten anything all day.  Paleo is so weird - it's not uncommon to have no appetite for 12-48 hours when you're doing paleo. Ate some salsa chicken and a grapefruit.  Yum!

... watched reruns of Firefly the rest of the night.  :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hodgepodge 11.0

I forgot to share that Kaylee got her CA (Coursing Ability) title.
I should have shared the good news earlier, but I've had trouble uploading photos.  Instead of sharing the news, without photos, I threw a mini-tantrum and decided to wait until the internet would cooperate.  Photos!

Kaylee at the line = Scary T-Rex!

Almost on it!

Taken by my friend Sara... WOW!

Jayne had a muskrat for dinner.
He thought it was great... it was muskrat love! I don't think I'll ever have an opportunity to get more, but I'll be keeping an eye out for it in the future.  It's a very dark red meat, and the perfect size for a single meal for a Jayne-sized dog.  I think I got three or four muskrats, all 1-2lbs each.

Selma is still here.
She needs to be adopted, seriously.  Steve is beginning to get attached, and that's not allowed. It doesn't help that all four of our dogs think Selma is the best foster we've ever had.  Even Kaylee likes her, and that's saying a lot.

I have a very bizarre Christmas wish list.
I want a deer, for the dogs.  I want grass-fed meat for myself.  I'd really like a pair of Lontras, but I doubt anyone will be spending that much money on me.  I want Injinji toe socks, since without Lontras my feet will be very cold this winter. Of course, gift cards to REI/Target/Whole Foods/Hy Vee/iTunes etc are also on the list.  I do not want Christmas cookies.  Please please please, no Christmas cookies.  I won't be able to resist them.

For the first time ever, I think I'm going to go shopping on Black Friday.
... but only to Bass Pro. I may or may not take Jayne.  I want to get some sweaters and maybe some ammo boxes for Steve.  I'm still not sure though - I'm scared.

I hoard blankets.
I buy a new blanket just about every time I go shopping.  Walmart always has blankets for under eight bucks, and one always ends up in the cart. This is an addiction and needs to be stopped.  Or not.

I finally convinced my husband to let me put up a gate.
We've been in this house for three years.  For three years, we've had an expen up between the living room and the rest of the house. The argument has always been that a permanent gate wouldn't look good, but come on - really - is an expen really that much more attractive?  No. The answer is no.  So I went out and found a pretty gate.  Behold, my pretty gate!

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm not fat, I'm FLUFFY!

Last night, as I was playing with my cats, I realized something.... my cats look like fluffy orange manatees.

Alarmed, I worked my fingers through their floof to make sure I hadn't been overfeeding them.  Nope, I could feel ribs, so they weren't fat....

... they are just really damn fluffy.  Jacques in particular looks morbidly obese, probably because his legs are very short so he's got about three inches of clearance between the floor and his belly floof.  I'm convinced he's half-Munchkin or something.

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this.  Sorry.  Here are a few photos of my manatees cats.  Scruffbuckets.

(Jacques Louis David and Pierre Eugene du Semitiere)