Gently Cooked. Homemade. 100% Whole Foods.
I am Mama to six forever dogs. Three of them take me on tours of critter holes, cuddle in my bed at night, and are nourished with the food I make. The other three are with me in spirit; I will see them again one day. Until then, it is my responsibility to do my absolute best every day to nourish and enrich the lives of my three present dogs and thousands of others. I own Goodness Gracious. We make 100% whole food, species appropriate, human grade pet food. The food we make is the food I feed, and I love every molecule of it.
Gently cooked, whole food is loaded with phytonutrients and powerful natural compounds that support health and vitality. These are things you can’t get in a multivitamin and mineral supplement. A study showed that about .5% of the antioxidant power of an apple comes from the Vitamin C; the rest comes from the phytonutrients in that apple. Fiber and thylakoids in cruciferous and leafy green veggies prevent leaky gut. Again, these are things not found in synthetics. Gentle cooking also avoids the heat induced contaminants (i.e. glycotoxins) present in ultra-processed pet feeds.
So what’s the downside of a whole food diet? Just one, as far as I can tell…
Optimal, human-grade, whole-food diets have a higher price tag than kibble and canned pet feed. For parents with big dogs, this price difference can be especially noticeable. My three dogs collectively weigh 170 pounds. I get it.
While kibble and canned feeds usually do not result in acute toxicity, the long-term effect of these inferior diets is chronic disease. A shortened healthspan usually means a shortened lifespan. Knowing this, however, may not alleviate the pinch in the pocketbook.
The home-cooked route has significant challenges. Aside from time, expense, and the obvious mess in the kitchen, is the biggest one of all. How do you know what you're making and feeding will not cause malnutrition?
Too much or too little of nutrients over time can cause disease, and discomfort. A homechef can't just swap out 50% of the kibble for some chicken and sweet potato mix-in without a real risk of nutrient deficiencies over time.
Likewise tossing a multivitamin into that homemade mix-in is like shooting in the dark. Why? (Here's where the disregulation in the pet food industry kicks home chefs in the shins.) Only 5 of the 40 nutrients in the AAFCO Complete and Balanced profile for adult dogs (which that kibble has been formulated to meet) contain upper limits. And manufacturers are not required to show you the full nutritional profile for any of their recipes. (We do, but that's how we roll.) Studies and random regulatory testing show that there can be massive amounts of particular vitamins and minerals in commercial petfoods (e.g. >2000% for iron, over 700% for copper). So if you toss a multivitamin into the mix-in thinking you're covering your bases, you could effectively be contributing to an overdose. Again, a shortened healthspan and lifespan.
The safest and best route for dog food home chefs is to create a complete and balanced recipe and then use that recipe for as much of their dog's diet as they can afford.
So here it is folks. A recipe for an optimal, 100% whole-food, gently cooked dog food that you can make at home. Below this recipe you will find the link to download the full nutritional profile for this recipe. This recipe was formulated using the Animal Diet Formulator (ADF) software, and according to that software it is complete and balanced according to the AAFCO nutrient profile for adult dogs.
The Dog Food Recipe for DIY'ers
How To and Nutritional Highlights
Gentle cooking according to ADF is a low temperature form of cooking where the moisture level is preserved and browning does not happen. A crockpot would fit the bill. So would steam or sous vide.
I like to grind the cooked ingredients together. Otherwise my two picky eaters will toothpick around the veggies, but that is totally a chef's choice.
Most of the ingredients in this recipe can be found at your average grocery store. Dulse is a seaweed - Whole Foods and Amazon carry it. So do health food stores.
Turkey, the main protein selected for this recipe, is considered energetically cooling according to leading holistic veterinarians including Dr. Steve Marsden, Dr. Nate Heilman, and the book Manual of Natural Veterinary Medicine by Dr. Marsden and Dr. Susan G. Wynn. (This book is a great reference for any "2.0+" pet parent.) Chicken and beef lean toward the warmer side.
This recipe makes approximately 11 pounds of food. There is about 27.4 kcal per oz. Whatever will not be eaten right away should be stored in the freezer. You know the drill.
This recipe is formulated to achieve a 1:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. Perfection.
On a dry matter basis, about 63% of the nutrients come from protein, 21% come from fat, 7% from ash, 5% from fiber leaving a beautifully low 4% from carbs (after you subtract the fiber).
The Vitamin D levels are lovely at just over 200 IU/1000 kcal. (Low vitamin D is associated with cancer.)
Copper is also peachy – it’s dang close to the minimum AAFCO requirement – which is where you want it given the growing concern around nutritionally provoked copper associated hepatopathy.
There's a good CA:P ratio because it's not just about getting enough calcium; you need to balance it with the phosphorus in the recipe. Higher protein diets generally have higher CA requirements because phosphorus is found largely in protein.
And if you use organic almonds and sunflower seeds then you will be avoiding the heavy chemical load of pesticides like glyphosate. Remember to grind the almonds and seeds so that they will be digestible.
Expert tip: Don't cook your flaxseed oil. Add it to the recipe after it has cooled. That way you preserve the Omega 3 fatty acids.
I love this recipe so much that someday we might want to put our label on it. But until then, it’s yours for the everyday low price of a smile, a wag, and another thriving moment with the light of your life.
5 lbs Turkey Dark Meat, No Skin
2 lbs Broccoli
1.75 lbs Chicken Liver
8 oz Spinach
7 oz Mackerel
4 oz Kale
4 oz Carrots
4 oz Egg (no shell) (this is about 2 large eggs)
1 oz Eggshell (finely ground)
2 oz Blueberries
2 oz Almonds dried
2 oz Flaxseed, ALA Oils
1 oz Beef Liver
1 oz Sunflower Seed Kernels, Dried
0.5 oz Dulse
Cooking methods for the proteins: Cut the turkey, beef liver, and mackerel into cubes so that the cubes are about the same size as the chicken livers. For sous vide cooking, put the proteins (including the eggs) in a zipper seal bag and submerge into the water bath. Set your sous vide to 165 degrees and cook for 2 hours. (It's ok if it cooks longer, this is the beauty of sous vide). For crockpot cookers, put the proteins (including the eggs) in a crockpot and cook until done (165 F internal temp). Do not add water. Allow proteins to cool.
Cooking method for the veggies: I like steam. Cut your veggies into equal size pieces. Using a steamer basket in a pot with a tight fitting lid, steam each veggie separately just until al dente. Allow veggies to cool.
Combine: Using a food processor or a spice grinder, finely grind your eggshell, nuts, seeds and dulse. Put this powder into a large bowl. Add your flaxseed oil to the bowl.
Working in batches, combine all remaining ingredients into a food processor and pulse until just incorporated. Put this mixture into the same large bowl. Thoroughly combine. Refrigerate. Scoop and serve in appropriate portions for your dog. Freeze what will not be eaten in a few days.
Expert tip: If you want to cook the eggshell to ensure destruction of pathogenic bacteria then you can heat it in a oven, toaster oven, microwave or steamer. About a minute on high should do the trick. (You want the shell to reach 165 degrees). Just remember that it should be dry before you put it in the spice grinder.
Fyi... this article including the recipe is protected by copyright. Like any cookbook, you are welcome to use the recipe in your home kitchen to make this food to feed your personal furry family. Reproducing it in whole or in part as your own or without proper attribution to the author is prohibited. "Grrrr," say the legal dogs 🐕