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From Kitchen to kibble: Exploring Homemade Dog Food and Supercharged Toppers

My latest research took me down the path not so common, but it should be... organ meats.

Last fall, I started preparing homemade dogfood for our senior Pomeranian, Bella. She had developed some heart issues and was directed to switch to a NO sodium diet. It is very hard to source a no sodium food and the ones we could find, were very pricey. I also was concerned with the quality of conventional dogfood, in general. I had been playing with the idea of how I could make it at home due to toxicity and rising costs. Like people food, there are currently a lot of recalls and added chemicals that make their food not healthy. So, this just launched me into another project. Our vet suggested a diet of veggies, ground beef, and rice. Let me tell you, getting her excited over this new menu has been quite the challenge! She's not exactly jumping for joy at the idea of a salt-free lifestyle. In fact, she's been quite picky about it. I found myself resorting to mixing in some of her usual store-bought food just to coax her into eating. It felt like a bit of a balancing act, I knew she had to eat, so I figured a mix of homemade mixed with store-bought was better than her refusing to touch her bowl all together.

The growing season and availability for fresh produce here, is around 3 months of the year. Buying out of season can also be pricey and the quality not appealing. Because of the short growing season, I decided to make big batches over the summer when the garden was full force. Normally much would go to waste because it is so abundant, even with me preserving it as fast as I can.  A new avenue would help absorb some of the extras and I wouldn't feel like it was going to waste. This short window of making big batches at once also posed another problem, that was storing it... It would have to be frozen to preserve and that takes up a lot of space... I had an idea to utilize the summers abundance! I could DEHYDRATE what I had made and use it whenever I was ready for it!   

My initial dogfood was created by cooking down 1 pound of hamburger until it was thoroughly cooked and broken up very small. I then added extra veggies from the garden that I had on hand, typically this was the prolific zucchini and carrots. I added and cooked the veggies in with the finished hamburger, just until they started to get tender. This way they would keep their structure but wouldn't get mushy. I then would add 2 cups of cooked rice and mix it all together. I would then dehydrate the mix until it was completely dry. Once conditioned and dried I filled quart jars, sealed and put on the shelf for later use. When I want to rehydrate a jar, I would just add a jar of my canned bone broth right into the jar of dry mix. This would rehydrate to the consistency I wanted and then it would be stored in the refrigerator, serving it for the next few days.

Even though I was following the vets' orders, I knew that she needed more to have complete nutrition. This spurned me onto my next task. With this mix as my base, I decided to up my game and bring this food to a higher standard of nutrition. This is where my own dehydrated and Thrive Lifes Freeze dried ingredients has been a game changer!

I wanted to make a powder using organ meats, then adding in fruits and essential vitamins.... This resulted in making a topper that could be sprinkled on each plate creating a power pack of nutrients AND also making it irresistible.

Let's start with the benefits and nutritional content in organ meats, like liver, lungs, spleen, kidneys and heart.... Did you know?

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals: Organ meats are dense sources of vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, and various B vitamins including B12, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. These nutrients are crucial for maintaining overall health, supporting immune function, and promoting energy production.

  1. High-Quality Protein: Organ meats are excellent sources of high-quality protein, containing all essential amino acids necessary for building and repairing tissues in the body. Protein is essential for muscle growth, immune function, and hormone regulation.

  2. Iron: Organ meats are particularly rich in iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body compared to iron found in plant-based foods. Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells and oxygen transport, helping to prevent anemia and fatigue.

  3. Vitamin A: Liver, in particular, is an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of retinol, which is essential for vision, immune function, skin health, and reproduction.

  4. B Vitamins: Organ meats are abundant in various B vitamins, including B12, which is crucial for nerve function, DNA synthesis, and the formation of red blood cells. Other B vitamins found in organ meats support energy metabolism, brain function, and cell health.

  5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Certain organ meats, such as liver, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and are beneficial for heart health, brain function, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

  6. Supports Brain Health: The high content of nutrients like choline and omega-3 fatty acids in organ meats supports brain health, cognitive function, and may help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

  7. Boosts Immune Function: The rich array of vitamins and minerals found in organ meats, particularly zinc, selenium, and vitamins A, D, and E, supports immune function, helping the body defend against infections and diseases.

 Incorporating a variety of organ meats into the diet in moderation can provide a significant nutritional boost and contribute to overall health and well-being. However, it's essential to choose organ meats from healthy, organically raised animals to minimize exposure to toxins and ensure optimal nutrient content.

Knowing that these essential foods should be incorporated into the diet I began to make my topping powder. I first cut the organs into smaller strips and boiled in water until cooked, reserving the liquid. I then ran it all thru the meat grinder making it uniform and in small pieces. This makes it much easier to dehydrate and later to powder. I then placed it into a dehydrator and dehydrated at 160 degrees until it was completely dry. Once dry, I placed it in a high-powered blender and powdered it VERY fine. Once the powder was made, I could now add in my extra ingredients. I went to the dehydrated and freeze-dried pantry and grabbed Blueberries, Broccoli powder (saved from the bottom of the freeze dried can), Green beans, Cranberries, Dandelion greens, Strawberries, Turmeric, Ginger, Vitamin c and Kelp. This is a great way to use those dehydrated veggies and fruits that are aging or maybe were not the best batch. Powdered, no one will ever know that they may not have looked the best or were too big to have been processed. I had some green beans I knew we would not eat because they were too big and stringy, but powdered they still offer the nutrition and being stringy doesn't matter! With these in the blender I blended these also to a powder and then added in the organ powder to mix it completely together. I chose each ingredient based on their "nutrition power punch" and knowing that they were also healthy for dogs. With my topping powder now done, I can sprinkle it on top of her base dogfood, and she LOVES it!

Knowing everything that I know now and the importance of these nutrients I also made a powder with a few different ingredients for us. I call it the Homestead seasoning salt, and it can go on anything, meats, potatoes, salad or even popcorn. The kids taste tested (I don't think they knew the ingredients) and they all said it was very good and a keeper recipe. No arguments or complaints! Here is what I did.

  • 129 grams Himalayan salt

  • 47 grams course garlic powder

  • 20 grams course onion powder

  • 9 grams parsley

  • 5 grams smoked paprika

  • 31 grams organ powder

  • 10 grams of kelp

This can be adjusted to taste or flavor you are going for. This is just what I did, but the overall ratio should be 15-20% organ powder: seasonings.

This has given me new inspiration for those things that usually go to waste, but are nutrition packed! Things like excess produce, but also the parts of the plants that we would normally throw away or let go. Brassicas are wonderful nutrition, but we would usually take the best part of the plant and throw the rest or leave to rot in the garden during the fall. Not anymore! Now I will take what I want and the rest, like the stalks and leaves will be dehydrated and made into a powder to add to the toppers, both human and fur babies!

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