Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Here Doggie, Come & Get It (If You Dare)

I spend a lot of money on dog food. A whole, whole, whole bunch of money. I have 3 Labradors and they EAT. Then they poop. But that's a different post.

I try to buy the biggest bag I can. Unfortunately, the store I usually shop in rarely carries the great big bag. They have the fairly large bag which barely lets my hungry girls eat for a week. I feed my dogs twice a day, plus treats. I feed Charlene twice the amount I feed Sophie and Halona because I'm trying to put weight on her ribs.

There's several problems. First, it's expensive. Second, the extra food doesn't seem to be sticking with Charlene. I rescued her on January 8, it's now March 1, and her ribs are STILL showing.

Thinking she might have worms, I wormed her. But she doesn't have any symptoms of worms. Wondering how long it takes a starved animal to recover, I asked my father the farmer. He said recovery would be twice as long as it took for her to get to that condition. If she starved 2 weeks, then a month before she gained weight back.

Okay, but it's been 2 months.

Maybe she needs a different kind of diet. Maybe she needs more protein.

I got online last night looking for recipes. What I found was why dog food was invented.

In a nutshell, the FDA rejected a big cereal company's grains. That cost them a lot of money. If they could just sell that moldy old grain, they could recap their lost. But the FDA said people couldn't eat it because they might get sick and die. What to do?

Turns out slaughterhouses were having a similar problem with rotting meat which was also rejected by the FDA. The cereal company and the meat people got together, combined the rotting products and made dog food. Then it was marketed to the American public as being 'wholesome' and 'healthy' for dogs.

I had to stop reading. I have NEVER fed my animals moldy anything. I have thrown out dog food that smelled funky. Rotting stuff goes in the compost bin or the trash, not in a dog's bowl.

Now I realized a long time ago that it was not the prime cuts of meat going into dog food. One of the big name brands brags about containing 'lamb'. Have you checked the price of lamb chops? Expen$ive. I figured the lamb was the lesser cuts of meat, probably the fat, and maybe the organs. Or maybe after the butcher cuts out the lamb chops they grind up the hide, bones, fat, organs, and whatever else to make kibble.

Corn is another big ingredient. But corn is people food and fuel. Corn is really useful. Corn is also food for horses,  cows, and pigs. Think of a ladder. At the top are people who want corn syrup, corn on the cob, and clean fuel. Next comes a farmer who wants to feed his hogs. The best corn is not going to become hog feed. If the not-so-great corn goes to the pig farm, what exactly does the puppy get? The husks? The empty cobs? The moldy stuff pigs wouldn't touch?

I realize I'm attempting to change more than my dogs' diet. I'm also fighting my own laziness. I don't like cooking for myself, am I really going to cook TWICE a day just for the dogs? I have been programmed to go to the store and buy the bright yellow bag of dog food. When that bag is empty the first thing I think is, what am I going to feed the girls?  

Too, I just bought dog food. The great big bag. I don't want to throw it out. I don't want to think about what it's made of either.

I think I'm going to try cooking for the girls once a week. Then maybe if that goes well I can cook two or three times a week. And maybe, eventually, buying dog food will be a rarity. Sort of like buying frozen chicken nuggets for those days when I don't have time to cook a 'real' dinner.

See? The humans aren't well fed either.


Living in Muddy Waters said...

FYI, cows are not supposed to eat corn. That's a myth that is supported by the big seed companies.

Sometimes I buy the raptor a rotisserie chicken when they are onsale and feed him with that several days.

Just a thought.

FreeDragon said...

Probably horses aren't supposed to eat it either. Or pigs. My father used to feed his cows corn. It came in an orange bag. One day he spilled some. The corn was a funky pale color. The orange bag made it look yellow. He decided any company that 'tricked' customers about color wasn't producing good feed for livestock.
I was thinking about feeding my dogs a mix of boiled rice, some meat like eggs, chicken, or hotdogs, plus a few veggies. That should be a balanced meal for them. I was going to start giving them vitamins until I checked the price. $30 for one bottle of fish oil capsules! Eek!

Erica said...

Hi! I've been reading for a while - came over from LIMW and I just have to pipe in here a little because I actually have a degree in Animal Science and, well, this is what I do! Please don't throw the baby out with the bathwater - there are many brands of very nice dog food out there in kibble form. Yes, the "yellow bag" stuff is junk, so is a lot of the stuff you can buy at say Target, Walmart, grocery stores. But if you go to a pet food store or, even better yet, a farmer's supply or grain elevator, there are a plethora of very good brands out there and I'm sure there's something to be had in your price range. It just sounds like cooking is something that isn't going to be terribly convenient for you and I'd hate for you to feel guilty unnecessarily. I'm a graduate student and I know there's no way I can cook for my greyhounds (2 of em), much less have storage space for the extra ingredients. I keep them on a grain free kibble because my boy has a very sensitive digestive system. If you'd like some suggestions for a better kibble brand, I've been through several good ones trying to find something that works for him.

That having been said, if you're dead set on cooking, there are a lot of resources out there to make sure your dogs are getting all their essential amino acids and trace minerals. Bug your vet, or your local pet supply store person who's in charge of ordering dog food. The lady who fostered my two hounds when they first came off the track feeds her guys a raw diet of ground beef, brown rice, squash, and broccoli. I can get her recipe if you'd like. Just please, do your research, and no hotdogs as a primary protein source! Treats, okay, but not dinner :)

And, finally, for what it's worth, whether cattle are "supposed" to eat corn in the wild, for better or worse, dairy cattle are pretty dependent on it now. It ferments as a specific volatile fatty acid in their digestive tract that is required for lactose synthesis. Yes, they can do it by other pathways, but considering the production burden those ladies are under, corn is the most efficient way to go. That's why milk is so tied to the price of corn.

Sorry to ramble, hope this was somewhat helpful! I'm a big nerd when it comes to animal science :)