Part 2 of my raw feeding mini series is all about organs – a small, yet crucial part of feeding dogs a balanced raw food diet. What makes them so essential? The simple fact that they contain vital minerals and vitamins that muscle meat lacks. Did you miss part 1? Click below to catch up:
Which Organs Count As Organs in Raw Feeding?
Did you know that in the raw feeding world, only secreting organs count as organ meat? Secreting organs are those that secrete a substance that is excreted by the body. This can be a little confusing when first making the switch from kibble to raw..trust me.. been there, done that…because at first, I had no idea that organs in raw feeding didn’t equal “regular” organs.
I remember my light bulb moment when I first realized that heart actually counts as muscle meat, and not organ, although it is, of course, a very hard working, muscular organ! But since it’s not a secreting one it counts as muscle meat, which makes up 80% of the raw feeding equation (as opposed to organs which only make up 10%).
That being said, the following body parts are to be fed as organs when feeding a raw diet:
Liver Kidney Spleen Sweetbreads (= Thymus & Pancreas) Testicles & Ovaries Brain
As mentioned above, organs make up 10% of a balanced raw meal, 5% of which has to be liver. Don’t worry though, not every single meal has to be 100% balanced. Just make sure you achieve balance over the course of 7-10 days.
So don’t stress out if you forget to add a piece of liver to a meal every now & then – but don’t make it a habit. Dogs do need the essential minerals and vitamins liver contains in order to thrive and not just survive.
Liver is rich in iron, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, iodine, the fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin A, all of the B vitamins (including B12 & folic acid), some vitamin D, vitamin E, & vitamin K.
Organs I’ve Fed
I typically switch between beef and chicken liver, although I have also purchased rabbit liver once (from Raw Feeding Miami). Since the rabbit liver ($8/1 lb) came at a much higher price point than chicken ($5/2.5 lbs) and beef ($4.25/2.5 lbs), it has so far remained a one time purchase. I’ll spoil the pups again here and there, but not on a regular basis. This diet needs to stay affordable, after all 🙂
Cutting Up Beef Liver
Cut Up Beef Liver
Besides liver I have fed kidneys and Raw Feeding Miami’s custom organ mix, Monstermash. It consists of ground liver, kidney, green tripe, and two other organs the company switches between.
The only time I’ve fed brain so far was in form of rabbit heads, which counted towards both bone and organ (bone makes up the remaining 10% besides muscle meat and organs and will be featured in part 3 of this mini series).
Rabbit Heads As Part Of A Raw Meal
What About Green Tripe?
Green tripe is generally considered a muscle meat and should be fed as such, but it also falls in the offal (= internal organ) category because it is chock full of digestive enzymes, gastric juices, and amino acids. I’ve written about it in my blog post:
Where Do I Get My Organs?
As mentioned above, I purchase organs from Raw Feeding Miami and particularly like their Monstermash organ grind because it’s so convenient. Doesn’t require any cutting up of organs and it’s already the perfect mix of 5% liver and 5% other organ.
I’ve also purchased liver from Raw Paws Pet Food – their price point is typically higher than Raw Feeding Miami’s, but in December of 2015, they had a p h e n o m e n a l deal on beef liver strips (20 lbs for $44), so I stocked up on it, and it’s lasted us until this month, so just about a year and a half. As a matter of fact, I only opened the very last container of that particular beef liver this week!
I’m also able to find chicken liver at my local grocery store, and even noticed calf liver in the meat section the other day! I haven’t tried that one yet because I still have enough liver in the freezer, but I’ll be getting some sooner or later.
Lucky me also finally found out about a local, organic farm not far from me who sell their produce and meats at a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. Their selection includes chicken liver (as well as hearts and feet).
Chicken liver (+ hearts, feet, and fresh eggs) from Cathy's Organic Farm
Although organs only make up a small portion of the raw food diet, they’re a powerful component that can’t be overlooked. They’re nutrient dense parts of an animal’s body that other cuts of meat lack.
Let me throw in a word of caution though – don’t be tempted to feed more than the recommended 10% (like a giant meal of liver at once) or you’ll risk vitamin A toxicity in your dog(s), symptoms of which can be lethargy, weight loss, constipation, stiffness, limping, and loss of appetite. Feeding a meal consisting entirely of liver is also a pretty sure way of causing cannon butt…
As far as getting the best organ deal for your buck -it pays to shop around and compare prices between different online raw food retailers, co-ops (if there are any in your area, unfortunately there aren’t any here in NC), farms, and grocery stores. Happy shopping!
P.S. Since we just talked about organs and liver, I would like to point you to a guest post I wrote for WoofDog. In it I share my recipe for homemade dehydrated liver treats - you don't have to be a raw feeder to make those and they make fantastic training treats!
Where do you get your organs from? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!