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.