When I make dog food, I make it using one type of meat per batch. So we’ll make a batch of dog food using beef, and another for chicken parts (we save the less desirable parts from the chickens we butcher and turkeys we eat when we have enough of these random parts we grind them up and make a batch of dog food with them) but we don’t combine them. So when we came across some extra meat this fall we didn’t want it to go to waste and made some dog food out of it. It is fairly cost efficient and much more healthy than the stuff you by at the store. As a nice side effect, it also boosts our stock of dog food we keep at the house in case of an emergency and if push comes to shove it’s completely safe for humans to eat too.
After a successful hunting season, we took the parts of our deer that weren’t used for steaks, sausage, or jerky and trimmed them up again. This includes the liver and some other organ meats – we love to eat venison heart so the dogs didn’t get that. We cut all the tendon out, any bone, and any abnormally large chunks of fat. Anything eatable that was cut out of the dog food was fed to the dogs in small amounts as snacks, treats, or mixed in with their regular food. They even got the bone marrow from the bigger bones. The ONLY thing that was thrown out on this deer, was the rib cage, spine, and lower intestinal tact, all devoid of meat – everything else was used.
Since I wanted to can this batch of Dog Food, it was important to not have too much fat in the recipe – I know the dogs need fat as part of their diet, but too much and you run the risk of it going rancid even when canned. So we included some fat but not too much. I just eye balled this, as we tossed the meat into a large stock pot with some water. We cooked all the meat with water for just over an hour in a giant canning/dog food making session. This created a “meat stock” we used later. The venison meat made roughly 20 quart sized jars of dog food.
I also cooked up some veggies. Carrots and spinach (the next time it will be carrots and green beans, I have heard green beans are a better fiber for moving things along in their intestinal track) it is just stuff we had from the garden so it was all grown at home. I added those in for vitamins and minerals. Then added some hard boiled eggs from my chickens WITH the shells for calcium.
I also cooked up some rice (overcook the rice with more water than is needed so it can’t swell, if you are not planning on canning the dog food – please disregard this step) as this is usually very easy for dogs to process, and its dirt cheap.
Then we added some cider vinegar – to keep the acidity level up (this discourages bacteria growth when canned) and because I have read it is good for their joints. Our older German Shepherd needs everything good for joints. We also added a little bit of garlic – which in small amounts can improve palatability for the dogs and helps repeal insects. I have heard garlic can be bad but after doing some reading on the subject and talking to my vet, I decided this small amount of garlic is harmless and may even be beneficial as there are people who say adding some garlic in their diet can help to discourage mosquitoes and ticks.
We mixed all that together. Then we ran it all through a meat grinder – on medium – with a course grind blade.
Next we prepared the jars and pressure canner for canning.
We kept the ground up dog food warm – and then added back in some of the “meat stock” which was also being kept warm on the stove . This is what is commonly known as a hot pack in the world of canning. In retrospect – we found out the hard way, that too much liquid causes the seals to fail. So all the jars we’ve done since then have been a tad more on the dry side.
Leaving just about 2 inches of headspace in the jars, we filled them and processed them in our pressure canner at 15 lbs for 90 minutes following the recommendation in our canning book for ‘ground beef’. Don’t forget to adjust for your altitude! UPDATE: Due to what I have learned on canning safety I have switched to canning this recipe at 15 lbs 90 minutes and using only pint jars, this adds a little bit more insurance for me that I am doing everything I can to produce a safe end product. I love hearing that ping of a successfully sealed jar!
And just in case you are wondering homemade dog food doesn’t stink. In fact it smells like a roast cooking in the oven. It will make you hungry. Our dogs LOVE it – whenever we feed it every dish is licked perfectly clean when they are done. We don’t prep this dog food exclusively but we do make it when we have scrap meat like I mentioned above and add it into a rotation. It helps me know that I am doing everything I can as a responsible pet owner to provide for them in the event of a disaster.
Pet Food-What to Store and How” is another article I have written for American Preppers Network that also addresses all types of store bought dog and cat food, if making your own is not your thing. I have covered how to store it to get the maximum amount of storage life out of it, techniques for usage, and even some new ideas for food – like freeze-dried dog food. Click Here!
Here is the recipe – I got the original one from The Canning Granny Blog (blog for all things canning and preserving) and made a few modifications due to my preference for a higher meat ratio and needing less liquid.
This will do a single batch of 6 or so pint jars.
- 3.5 Cups of Meat
- 2 Cups of Rice
- 2-3 Large Cooked Carrots
- Half a bag of Cooked Spinach or a Handful of Cooked Green Beans
- One Boiled Egg still in the shell
- 2-3 TBS of Cider Vinegar
- 1 TBS of Garlic Powder
- 1 Cup of “Meat Stock”
If you want to forgo the pressure canning you can partition out serving sizes, stick them into little freezer bags or FoodSaver bags, vacuum them and then freeze them. This recipe would even make good RAW meals for your dog if you aren’t canning it. Each morning simply get a bag of food out and it will be thawed and ready to serve in the evening. No wheat, no corn, no preservatives, or other goofy crap that Dog Food companies like to add.
According to The Canning Granny, one pint of this dog food will feed a 100lb dog for a day, fed half in the morning and half in the evening. Of course, this will vary from dog to dog as they have different energy needs so like any dog food you will have to keep an eye on your dogs weight.
I would also like to add that I understand that USDA advises against canning rice. They recommend this because rice swells, it also increases the density in the jar making it more difficult to come up to temperature. Also this recipe is has not been scientifically tested for safety, so you are taking a risk by using it. But I do know this, and now so do you . I choose to can it anyways. You will have to decide for yourself if you want to can with rice and with this unapproved recipe. One more thing you can do make the recipe safer is to use pint jars instead of quart jars.