By Kellene Bishop
Making your own pet food has a lot of great benefits for the person who seeks to be self-reliant, but, it also comes with serious nutritional consequences if you’re unaware. So today I’m writing a critical follow-up to yesterday’s article on making your own pet food. While the food that I suggest you use to make your own pet food does contain great nutrients for your pet, canning the food depletes some of these critical nutrients. Even if you’re storing the food in the refrigerator or freezer you still run the risk of omitting key nutrients that your pets need. In fact, veterinarians discourage pet owners from making their own dog or cat food because the biggest mistake that people make when making their own pet food is the omission of calcium and other key nutrients.
With this in mind, you’ll note that I mentioned in the article yesterday that I feed a pinch of the food-grade diatomaceous earth to the girls once each day. I have plenty because of all of it’s varied uses, but there are a couple of other options though that won’t cost you a dime—it will simply be making wise use of what you’ve already got on hand.
Finely crushed egg shells are a great source of calcium for your pets and a calcium deficiency is noted as the #1 reason why hips and joints of our pets become compromised in their later years. Many gardening pros use crushed egg shells to fertilize their gardens and prized flowers, but rather than burying it, I say use it for your furry family members instead.
In order to use the egg shells for your pets, you will need to transform them into a powder like consistency. To do this, wash the egg shells to remove any unwanted particles. (Leave the membrane in tact if you can as it contains nutritional benefits.) Crush them with your hand or a meat cleaver to the best of your ability and then lay them on top of a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow them to completely dry for a day, then bake them for 10 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Then you can put them in a coffee grinder or a good quality food processor. I was taught to grind to the consistency of baking powder. You can preserve the egg shell powder at room temperature. 1 teaspoon of egg shell powder has between 1,800 and 2,00mg of elemental calcium depending on how finely ground it is. (see U.S. Egg Board) A study published in Poultry Science (2000) referenced below, found that “ESP seems to have a beneficial composition with about 39% of elemental Ca, relevant amounts of Sr, and low levels of Al, Pb, Cd and Hg.”
Ironically, bone meal is another ingredient that gardeners use in their soil to make more beautiful botanicals, though many often just bury the whole bones. But you can easily make your own bone meal out of chicken bones, rabbit bones, turkey bones, venison bones, bison bones, fish bones, Pork bones, and even beef bones.
I always make a hearty broth with my bones first by using my pressure cooker to beat the bejeebies out of the and extract every little bit of flavor I can. In many instances, the smaller bones are just liquefied during the pressure cooking process. (I then can or freeze this broth.) Then I lay the bones on a cookie sheet just like I do with the egg shells and let them dry for a day and then bake them in the oven for an hour at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or until they are dry and brittle. (Beef bones and pork bones take longer to dry out.) I then pulverize them in my food processor into a fine meal consistency. You can also store this at room temperature in a sealed container such as a Mason jar.
The same study which I referenced for egg shells states that 1 rounded teaspoon i.e. 3,000 mg contains calcium 1000 mg, phosphorus 500 mg, magnesium 25 mg. That’s a lot of quality minerals there AND in a format that the animals can digest. Most people only think of calcium as being necessary for bone strength, but it’s also very important for good digestive strength AND for a quality immune system.
To make sure your furry family member gets sufficient vitamins and nutrients you can either put the ESP or the Bone Meal in their food when you serve it, or you can include it in the food that you prepare ahead of time. You’ll want to check on the guidelines specifically for your size pet to know how much calcium, phosphorus and magnesium that they need daily. (Do internet search for “daily nutrient needs for dog/cat/etc.)
If you’re not inclined to make your own egg shell powder, you can purchase egg shell powder (ESP) at your local feed store, but be sure that you’re NOT buying the kind that is intended for fertilizing your garden as it will contain nasty chemicals that you most certainly will not want to feed your pets. The same can be said about purchasing bone meal. Make sure that you’re getting food-grade bone meal and egg shells if you’re purchasing them!
Paying attention to these needs now will ensure that even if you’re faced with a crisis in which you can’t feed your pet this kind of nutrition, you’ve at least made their bodies and immune systems as strong as possible thus enabling them to endure stressful situations better.