This article is about why organ meat is important for a balanced raw dog food diet and where to buy it.
Organ meat is a small, essential part of feeding dogs a balanced, raw meat diet. Organ meat should only make up about 10% of a complete raw meal, yet it contains vitamins and minerals that aren’t found in other cuts of meat.
Organ meat is an essential component that can’t be overlooked.
Note that half of your dog’s organ meat should be liver, while the other half should be other (secreting) organs.
The remaining diet should consist of 80% muscle meat and 10% raw meaty bones.
For more information on the basics of feeding a raw diet, read this interview.
What counts as organ meat in raw feeding?
It’s important to understand that only secreting organs like the ones listed below count as organ meat in raw feeding:
- Sweetbreads (pancreas & thymus)
- Reproductive organs
Non-secreting organs like hearts and gizzards are good for dogs too, but they fall into the muscle meat category that makes up a much larger percentage of the overall raw feeding formula.
Where to find raw organ meat for your dog’s raw diet
Below, we offer 10 different options to consider.
1. Feed a base mix from The Honest Kitchen
If you don’t want the hassle of buying actual organ meat or if you worry about the correct balance, the base mixes from The Honest Kitchen and other brands such as Dr. Harvey’s are a convenient option.
The dehydrated base mixes contain all the right vitamins and minerals so all you have to do is mix in your own muscle meat such as ground beef or chicken breast. No organs or bones are required! Super easy.
A 7-pound box of base mix will last a 70-pound dog roughly a month. It’s not a bad cost either at around $58.
Ingredients in The Honest Kitchen grain-free base mix:
Sweet potatoes, peas, cabbage, organic coconut, apples, spinach, pumpkin, bananas, celery, organic kelp and organic honey, plus vitamin & mineral premix.
2. Organ meat from a pre-made raw dog food brand
Another convenient option is to feed a pre-made raw brand that already has all of the organ meat ground in to every meal.
Darwin’s offers a trial order where you can get 10 lbs of balanced raw food for just $14.95 delivered right to your door.
3. Online raw dog food retailers that sell organ meat
There are a number of raw feeding retailers that sell organ meat separately but one of my favorites is Raw Feeding Miami.
They ship to the lower 48 states, carry a large variety of protein sources, and have everything from liver to kidney to reproductive organs and heads containing brains.
For example, 2.5 lbs of rabbit heads from Raw Feeding Miami costs $6.50. (And yes, this looks gross.)
These fall into the organ and raw meaty bone category and can be fed alongside muscle meat and liver for a balanced meal or as a snack between meals.
Frozen organ mix for raw dog food
Raw Feeding Miami also offers a ground organ mix called “Monstermash Organ Grind” which consists of beef liver, kidney, green tripe, and 2 other organs that it rotates.
The “Montstermash” is the most convenient form of feeding the right ratio of organ meat I’ve come across in my 5+ years as a raw feeder.
It’s perfect for starting out if you’re new to raw feeding and concerned you might not be getting the organ balance right.
It’s also a great option for dogs with weak teeth or those that are more finicky when eating whole or larger cuts of certain organ meats.
The Monstermash is available in pre-portioned 1 and 2.5 lb bags. I’d typically order the 2.5 lb bags and would thaw it out once it was delivered. Then I’d divide it into smaller food storage containers to re-freeze and then thaw as needed.
The only downside as far as the “Monstermash” is concerned is that it only consists of beef. Ideally you should rotate the protein sources you feed your dogs, so I didn’t solely rely on this organ grind.
4. Get organ meat from a wild game processor
My boyfriend goes hunting so we are able to use the venison organ meat for my dog Wally’s meals. Read more about venison for your dog here.
When we get a deer, we usually take it to a wildlife processor. When that processor heard that I’m a raw feeder, he said I could have as many organs as I wanted! They would’ve just been thrown away otherwise! Wow!
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5. Ask local farmers, butchers or hunters for raw meat
You can also get your hands on organ meat from local farmers and/or butchers, either at a Farmer’s Market or on site. See if they’re willing to part with the less popular cuts of meat of the farm animals they’re selling.
I was lucky to find out about an organic farm near me who sells chicken livers amongst other odd cuts like hearts and feet. I fed all three to the pups and also used the latter to make homemade batches of bone broth.
6. Organ meat for raw dog food from grocery stores
It’s fairly easy to find chicken liver, beef liver, turkey liver and sometimes calf liver in local grocery stores and big chain retailers like Walmart. But it can be a little more tricky to figure out where to buy the other organs.
Although, I noticed beef sweetbreads at a Publix store once before. (Sweetbread is a name for the thymus or pancreas.)
It pays to shop around and depends a little on how well stocked your particular local grocery stores are.
7. Organ meat from ‘ethnic’ grocery stores
If you live close to Asian grocery stores, you can check them out to see if they sell any of the other organ meats mentioned above. Some will carry kidneys and sweetbreads.
8. Online meat stores geared towards people
You can simply do a Google search for “where to buy sweetbreads,” and you’ll get quite a few results:
I haven’t placed orders from any of them yet since I just recently found out about them, but certainly consider it for future organ purchases.
9. Treats and chews from Real Dog
Real Dog Box is a subscription box for dogs that offers monthly single-ingredient treats and chews made in the U.S. The boxes are customizable, but every month there is an air-dried treat made of a secreting organ!
While we wouldn’t recommend this as your dog’s only organ meat, it’s a great way to add some healthy organ meat treats to your dog’s diet!
10. Freeze-dried organ meat for dogs
A couple of brands sell freeze-dried organ meat for dogs such as freeze-dried chicken liver or freeze-dried chicken hearts. These are mostly marketed as treats or meal toppers:
What is the best organ meat for dogs?
There really is no “best” organ meat, although you do want to try to include liver for roughly half of your dog’s organ meat.
Beyond that, the “best” organ meat for dogs is really whatever you can find. Variety is always good but sometimes you do what you can.
Can I feed my dog raw meat from the grocery store?
Yes, you certainly can. You just won’t be able to find a huge variety of organ meat at most grocery stores. You’ll likely be able to find chicken liver, turkey liver and maybe some beef liver.
You’ll also be able to find chicken gizzards, chicken hearts and maybe even some beef hearts (pictured below) but these all fit under the “muscle meat” category of raw feeding.
How to measure the right amount of organ meat for a dog’s raw diet
Once you’ve bought organ meat for your dog, the confusing part for new raw feeders is knowing how much to feed. Organ meat should make up about 10% of your dog’s overall diet.
Here is the basic idea on how to measure:
Step 1: It’s easiest if you know the total amount of raw food your dog needs per day in ounces. This is typically between 2 and 3% of the dog’s body weight.
For example, my 50-pound dog ate 1 pound of raw food per day. (50 lb dog X .02 = 1 pound total food per day)
Step 2: Once you know how much food your dog needs total per day, you know about 10% of that should be organ meat.
For example, since Missy ate 1 lb of food per day (16 oz), I knew she needed about 1.6 oz of organ meat per day. (16 oz per day X .10 = 1.6 oz)
Since Missy ate twice a day, I gave her half at each meal or .8 oz of organ meat per meal.
Step 3: Use a food scale at first.
I’d usually have one container of the ground organ mix “Monstermash” in the fridge and would simply scoop out as much as I needed for my dogs’ meals.
I’d use a food scale at first to help me get the measurements right, but it didn’t take long until I was able to remember how much I needed to scoop out for each pup.
Questions on this? Just leave them in the comments!
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If you’re a raw feeder, where do you get your organ meat from?
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Barbara Rivers writes regularly for That Mutt about feeding her two boxer mixes a raw dog food diet. She is a blogger and former dog walker and maintains the blog K9s Over Coffee.