Today I made a trip into town to mail off my estimated tax payments. I also stopped at the little neighborhood grocery store where I buy my dog food. This particular store has an outstanding meat department, and they are willing to order anything a person wants. For 30+ years I have fed my dogs raw, meaning raw meat and bones.
Up north there are a multitude of livestock producers located within just a few miles my place, six hog barns and several cattle producers. The hog barns are mainly finishing barns, meaning the hogs come from a nursery and weigh around 50-70 pounds and leave when they are market weight, somewhere around 280 pounds. One barn is wean-to-finish, so the pigs come in much smaller, sometimes as small as 10-12 pounds. The wean-to-finish barns have a higher death loss, but all the big hog barns suffer losses. The producers normally call the rendering truck to haul away the deads, but after speaking with them they were fine with me picking up the deads instead of paying the rendering company. Back when I had 10 adult Great Danes, I would make the rounds to the different barns every week or two to pick up 'dog food'. In the winter it was just placed behind a building out of sight of the house and they would eat as they pleased. In the summer I froze the whole hogs in a 28' chest freezer until I needed to feed them. The Danes would eat every bit of a 280 pound hog except for the lower jawbone - hair, hide, meat, bones, brains, organs, feet, stomach contents. It's how and what canines evolved to eat.
If a neighbor with cattle lost a cow, they would often call me to see if I needed dog food before they called the rendering company, and they would normally deliver the carcass to my farm. I didn't get many cows, which is good since they were much harder for me to deal with due to their size and weight.There was also a lot more waste in the form of bones that the dogs couldn't eat.
By the time I bought the land in TN and started traveling back and forth seasonally, I was down to just 2 Danes, and there didn't appear to be much for livestock near me in the south. I was happy to find the little independent grocery store that was willing to order me 40 pound cases of chicken backs, pork necks, turkey necks, fish, and other meats and organs. I feed a varied diet of meat and bone from different animals but now days the main portion of dog food consists of chicken instead of pork. The backs have a nearly perfect ratio of meat to bone, and the bones are small enough for the Yorkie to eat. Contrary to what many believe, raw bones, even poultry bones, will not splinter and choke a dog, only cooked bones splinter into razor-sharp shards. I would never feed any sort of cooked bone to a dog unless I've used it for making bone broth and it has been cooked to the point that I can smush it between my fingers.
The best part is the price... I pay $20 for a 40 pound box of fresh backs. That's cheaper, and it lasts longer, than 50 pounds of crap-in-a-bag dog food. It's also much higher quality protein, this is human food after all, not some animal by-product meal scraped off the rendering plant floor. The Yorkie gets one small back per day, my daughter's Shepard mix gets 2 or 3 backs a day depending on size, the Golden Retriever used to get 3 or 4 a day, and the Dane got 6 or so, again depending on size and the body condition of the individual dog. Raw fed dogs drink substantially less water since they don't have to turn the dry dog food into a slurry in their gut order to digest it, they poop a tiny amount compared to kibble fed dogs since they utilize everything instead of having to poop out all the corn and grains that they can't digest, and the poop dries up and crumbles away to powder in just a couple days so you never have to pick up the yard. And the vet has always commented on how clean my dog's teeth are, even into advanced old age they're still shiny and white.
So today I picked up the case of chicken backs. Once home I put a half dozen in them in the big stockpot along with a gallon bag of frozen veggie bits from the freezer and it's simmering away on the stove to make chicken stock that I will can later this evening. There's not a ton of meat on a back, but plenty to make a nice stock. The remaining backs were put in gallon zip-lock bags, 6 backs per bag, and stacked in the chest freezer. And my daughter's dog got his dinner for the day.