The Master Guide of Protein Cuts and Safety: Dogster Re-post

This is originally from a Dogster forum called “Newbie thread:  Everything you need to know about proteins and cuts!” written by “Charlie” on the forum.  We are re-posting on our blog because the information in this post is absolutely invaluable and amazing.  Thank you Charlie for providing such a great tool for raw feeders!  We have edited and altered this original post to reflect updated information, clarified information, and proper pricing for the Southern California area.

Because this guide is so large, it may be easier to use CTRL F to search for the cut/part you’re looking for (e.g. “ribs”, “feet”, etc) and search down through the proteins.

The tools below will help you decide if the cut/part is safe for your size dogs. Every dog is different, so these are simply a guideline.

[A]-Any size dog

[T]-Toy dogs (1-10lb.)

[S]-Small dogs(10-25lb.)

[M]-Medium dogs(25-50lbs.)

[L]-Large dogs (50-100 lbs.)

[G]-Giant dogs (100 lbs.)

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Chicken

Chicken is a staple BLAND protein that can be eaten by basically all size dogs. It is preferable in raw diets since it is more than often the cheapest of proteins. RMBs are soft and easy to crunch apart. The only drawback to chicken is that some dogs do still show allergies to the protein, even in its raw form.

Whole chicken: The entire bird minus the head, feet, and internal organs (generally the liver, heart and gizzard are included in a baggy inside). Can be found on sale $0.88/lb or less. Roughly 25% bone. [A]

Leg Quarter: The drum and the thigh together, usually weighing between 14oz and 1 lb. Sometimes a bit of the kidneys and lymph nodes are attached. Can be found on sale $0.69/lb or less. Roughly 30% bone.   [A]

Split breast: The entire breast (1 of 2) of the bird, with the ribs and sternum included. Typically expensive to buy individually but cheap when purchasing whole birds. Roughly 20% bone.   [A]

Boneless breast: Only the meaty portion of the breast, no bone included.  Typically $1.99/lb on sale. [A]

Thigh: The top half of the leg quarter, with slightly less bone than the drumstick. Giant and Large breed dogs should be monitored, as thighs can be a choking hazard. Can be found on sale less than $1.50/lb. Roughly 15% bone. [A], CAUTION [L][G]

Drumstick: The lower half of the leg quarter, and a bit bonier than the thigh. As with the thigh, this RMB can pose a choking threat to larger dogs. Can be found on sale for less than $1.00/lb. Roughly 30% bone. [T][S][M], CAUTION [L]

Wing: The “arms” of the bird, composed of three parts: The wing, the drumette and the wing tip. Wings are exceptionally boney, and also pose a serious choking risk to larger dogs. Roughly 45% bone.  Many people I have found avoid feeding wings of any kind to any size animal due to the naturally sharp shape of the bones, extremely high bone content, and small size. [T][S], CAUTION [M][L]

Neck: The neck of the chicken is boney and poses a choking risk to most dogs. Toy dogs should be fine, and some small dogs may be able to handle them. Usually found in whole chickens. Roughly 36% bone. [T], CAUTION [S]

Back: The back of the chicken is very boney, but should not pose a choking risk to anything besides giant or very large breed dogs. Found on whole chickens. Roughly 45% bone. [T][S][M], CAUTION [L]

Feet: Chicken feet should be viewed as bone content, even though they are not completely bone. They are a wonderful source of glucosamine and chrondroitin, which promote good joint health. Chicken feet should be fed on a know-your-dog basis, as they are small enough to pose a choking risk. However, most owners report that even large dogs chew them delicately. [A], CAUTION [M][L][G]

Egg: Chicken eggs are a wonderful addition to a meal (or an entire meal for tiny dogs), as it represents a completely balanced food. Eggs can be fed whole or broken and shells are safe for consumption. Shells should be considered “bone”.  Most owners strive to provide 2-4 eggs per week (depending on the size of the dog) [A]

Organs: Chicken livers, hearts and gizzards are widely available in grocery stores.  Hearts and gizzards should be fed as meat.  Liver is fed as an organ. [A]

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Turkey

Turkey keeps the bland standards of it’s cousin the chicken, but its bones are much larger and some dogs cannot break through them easily. The idea that turkey puts people and animals to sleep from its tryptophane is a myth.

Whole Turkey: The most common “cut” you’ll find of turkey is the whole bird in its entirety. Turkeys can be as “small” as 8 pounds or as huge as 24 pounds. The rules for feeding whole turkeys or cut up turkeys should be followed by the cuts below. The liver, heart, gizzard and neck are sometimes included inside whole turkeys. Can be found year round at Sprouts in the frozen section. Roughly 21% bone. [A], CAUTION [T][S]

Thigh: The top half of the leg (turkey leg quarters are generally not sold). Depending on the size of the turkey, the thigh bone may be difficult for toy breeds to break apart. It has also been mentioned by many raw feeders that the leg bones of turkeys tend to splinter and crack in unsafe ways due to the large size of the bird and caution should be taken in feeding until you know how your dog handles the bones. Roughly 13% bone.  [A], CAUTION [T]

Drumstick: The bottom half of the leg (turkey leg quarters are generally not sold). Depending on the size of the turkey, the drumstick bone may be difficult for small breeds to break apart. From my experience, I would not recommend giving turkey drumsticks to toy breeds, unless the turkey was exceptionally small.  It has also been mentioned by many raw feeders that the leg bones of turkeys tend to splinter and crack in unsafe ways due to the large size of the bird and caution should be taken in feeding until you know how your dog handles the bones. Roughly 20% bone. [M][L][G], CAUTION [S]

Breast: The entire breast portion of the turkey may be sold by itself, and this includes the ribs and sternum. Roughly 12% bone. [A]

Wing: The whole wing consists of the wing, the drumette, and the wing tip. Turkey wings are generally sold as whole wings, not portioned wings (aka chicken wings prepared for human consumption). The drumette of the turkey wing is rather large and some small dogs can have trouble chewing it. I would not recommend the drumette portion for toy dogs. Many people I have found avoid feeding wings of any kind to any size animal due to the naturally sharp shape of the bones, extremely high bone content, and small size.  Roughly 37% bone. [M][L][G], CAUTION [S]

Neck: Turkey necks are a great starter RMB, though their bone content is rather high when compared to the typical leg quarters. They can usually be bought from grocery stores, but not worth purchasing at non-sale prices. These bones can be a choking hazard for very large dogs. Can be found at Vallarta for a cheap price. Roughly 42% bone. [A], CAUTION [G]

Back: I have never seen a turkey back sold by itself, but it’s a possibility. The back is similar to a chicken back in make-up, but much large. Pending more information, but these bones may be a possible caution to toy breeds. Roughly 41% bone. [A], Possibly CAUTION [T]

Feet: Turkey feet are comparable to chicken feet in make-up, and are a great source of glucosamine and chrondroitin. Turkey feet can be purchased from MyPetCarnivore for a very cheap price. Unlike chicken feet, turkey feet (if cut as they are at MPC) are not a choking risk to dog. Turkey feet should be considered as bone content. [A]

Organs: Turkey organs are not widely available in grocery stores, but may be more easily found in ethnic markets or butchers. Websites like Hare-Today also sell turkey organs. [A]

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Pork

Pork is a great red meat that is cheaper than beef while still rich in nutrients that chicken lacks. The majority of pork bones are edible and some of them make for the best teeth-cleaners there are. It should be noted that pork is perfectly safe, despite myths that it is “unclean” (biblical law), and that it contains trichinosis. Trichinosis is extinct in commercial pork, as made clear in the past year when the FDA announced that pork may be consumed medium-rare. WARNING: Wild pork (boars) is still at risk for trichinosis. DO NOT FEED RAW WILD PORK.

Feet/Trotters: The feet of the pig, with the skin on. These are fantastic teeth-cleaners, and can take a dog between 10-30 minutes on average to finish off. The only drawback is that the meal is full of bone, tendons, skin and cartilage so it needs to be followed up with boneless meat or organ the next day to prevent constipation. Roughly 30% bone. [A]

Tails: Tails are similar to feet in make-up, and should also be followed up with a boneless meal. Tails may be a choking hazard for giant breed dogs. Roughly 30% bone. [A], CAUTION [G]

Hocks: The cut directly above the foot (sometimes it’s included with the foot). I have not personally fed hocks, but the bone appears to be a possible choking size for larger dogs. Unsure about bone %. [A], CAUTION [L][G]

Ribs: Ribs are often sold in whole or half slabs, and are great RMBs for any size dogs. Rib packages labeled as “country style” are often cut into seperate ribs, and should be fed with caution as the cut may be awkward or sharp, and the bone may be a choking hazard. Roughly 20-30% bone [A]

Shoulder: The shoulder comes in multiple names: picnic roast, boston butt, etc. It is made up of a large meat hunk of the shoulder, the scapula (shoulder blade) and sometimes the humerus (upper arm bone). The shoulder contains a LOT of meat, and sometimes a lot of fat, and is worth buying for the meat content alone if the price is right. The scapula is edible by most dogs above toy size, but the humerus is not edible except for maybe very large or giant breeds. Can be found at CostCo for $1.75/lb. Bone content varies. [A], possible inedible bones for [T][S][M]

Leg/Ham: The only safe ham is a fresh, uncooked, uncured, untouched ham. You will more than likely not find these in a grocery store. Fresh hams are generally only acquired from privately processing a pig. The shank bone is a whole ham is a weight-bearing bone and should not be offered by itself. [A]

Chops: Chops can be cuts from different places, but the general rule from raw feeders is to cut the meat off the bone and discard the bone. Bones from chops or steaks can be cut into sharp and odd shapes, and may not be safe for dogs to eat. [A]

Loin/tenderloin: A whole pork loin can be HUGE, 5-7 pounds or so and it’s all meat. The problem is that a lot of companies that sell them pack them with a lot of salt solution, which isn’t healthy for dogs. I have not purchased one, but it may be possible to soak it for a while to remove the salt, unsure about that. [A]

Organs: Liver is sometimes available at the grocery store. Kidney, heart, spleen, brain and pancreas can sometimes be found at butchers or ethnic markets. [A]

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Beef

Beef is a nutritious red meat, but is oftentimes more rare in raw diets due to it’s market pricing. Depending on your area, roasts and ground beef may be available for around $2/lb, but generally speaking the prices of beef are too high to keep the diet cheap. It should be noted that a large amount of beef bones found in steaks and roasts should not be given to dogs to consume.

Ground Beef: Generally the cheapest and most available “cut” of beef, ground beef is ground up meat and fat from the cow. Ground beef is safe to feed, but as with any ground meat product, it is more susceptible to bacterial growth. For this reason, it should not sit in the fridge very long, and should be covered tightly.  I do not suggest feeding ground beef unless it is absolutely necessary or it is given to you for free.  There are many beef cuts at Vallarta for decent price. [A]

Roast: Large hunks of meat cut from the cow, usually used for pot roasting. Round roasts can sometimes be found at a decent price, and are often boneless which makes them even more desirable. [A]

Steak: While it’s highly unlikely that you can afford to feed your dogs steak, it’s still necessary to include them! The bones found in steaks are cut with an electric tool and often end up sharp and unusual. Steak bones should be discarded before feeding the actual meat. [A]

Ribs: Beef back ribs can be purchased from the grocery store in a rack. Beef ribs are a bit less meaty than pork ribs, but still make a great RMB. Because of their high bone content, they should be followed up with a boneless meal. I’ve found that my medium sized dog had a little difficult crunching through the ribs, so I’d caution medium sized dogs and not recommend them to small or toy dogs. Roughly 52% bone. [L][G], CAUTION [M]

Oxtail: The oxtail is often sold in a small, expensive package of tiny portions. I recommend that if you want to purchase oxtail, buy a whole one from a meat processor or a farmer. A whole oxtail is VERY bone, but makes an amazing dental workout for a dog. The bone pieces range from very large to rather small, so a small or toy sized dog should not be attempting to crunch through the upper bones. A whole oxtail made two meals for my 45-pound dog, and I recommend that it be followed up with a meal of organs or rich meats. Oxtail is an expensive cut unless purchased straight from a butcher and runs $6/lb and up.  Roughly 30% bone content for larger pieces and 50%+ for smaller pieces. [A], CAUTION [T][S]

Feet: The feet of the cow can sometimes be found at a butcher’s or on line from sites like MyPetCarnivore. Cow feet are very boney and should probably be treated as a recreational chew. As with any recreational chew, dogs should be supervised and it is not recommended to even attempt with a power-chewer. I have also been told they stink to high heaven. No bone% found. CAUTION [A]

Marrow bones: Marrow bones are often found at the grocery store, and are the cause of many broken teeth. Marrow bones should be treats as a recreational chew, and should not be attempted on any powerful chewing dogs. The marrow inside the bone is safe, but very rich and may cause loose stool. CAUTION [A]

Tongue: Beef tongues, while initially YECK-factor, are a great all-meat-toothbrush. The meat is tough and takes dogs a bit longer to get through. Unfortunately, beef tongues are usually expensive, with a market price around $6.09/lb at Vallarta. [A]

Tendon: Beef tendons are very tough bands of fibrous tissue. Raw feeders report that tendons should be fed on a know-your-dog basis and with much caution for choking. For dogs that are careful chewers, the beef tendon is an excellent toothbrush and takes some time for dogs to chew apart. Beef tendons may also be smoked, cooked or dehydrated into chews similar to bully sticks. Can be found at Vallarta. CAUTION [A]

Tripe: Raw green tripe is usually ground (though sometimes in whole chunk) and is composed of the cow’s stomachs. Tripe is celebrated in the raw-feeding community because it’s packed with digestive enzymes and is very healthy for dogs to consume. Raw green tripe should not be confused with tripe available for human-consumption. If you want to feed the correct tripe, you will NEVER find it in a grocery store. Tripe prepared for human consumption has been bleached, and is void of all the wonderful enzymes and nutritional value. Raw green tripe is usually only available from online website, co-ops or commercially prepared from companies like bravo. Also worth noting that it smells very strongly and would be best handled and bagged outside. [A]

Organs: Beef liver is regularly available in grocery stores. Beef kidney, sweetbreads, and heart are regularly available at Vallarta.  Beef heart should be fed as a meat and is an extremely nutrient dense source of nutrients.  A large part of Sadie and Gandalf’s diet consists of various protein hearts. [A]

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Rabbit

Rabbit is considered a red meat, though it is more comparable to poultry in its nutritional value. Commercially sold rabbits (usually sold whole and skinned) can be very expensive, so I recommend rabbit be bought from a private farm or from a website like Hare-Today or MyPetCarnivore. Wild rabbits should be eviscerated before feeding to avoid ingesting parasites, and some people prefer that wild whole prey be frozen for several weeks before feeding. Any size dog should be able to consume rabbit bones without a problem.

Whole rabbit (fur-on, intact): Whole rabbits that you may be able to purchase online are often sold “as-is”. The rabbits are killed, often with CO2 gas, and then packages just like that. Fur can oftentimes pose a problem with dogs eating their first rabbit, and sometimes it is necessary for dogs to play around with their food or for us people to skin part of the rabbit. From my experience, once a dog eats their first rabbit, they never face this confusion again. The way that dogs handle the stomach and intestines in whole rabbits varies from dog to dog. Some dogs discard everything, and some dogs eat bits and pieces or everything. Whole, fur-on rabbits are celebrated because they represent the purpose of the prey-model-diet: an entire prey animal, eaten whole as nature intended. Roughly 10% bone. [A]

Whole rabbit (skinned, eviscerated): This is the whole rabbit you may see in your grocery store from time to time. Commercially prepared rabbits are skinned, eviscerated (gutted) and are missing the head and feet. These rabbits are perfectly fine to feed, but are not recommended as they are awfully pricey. Roughly 25-30% bone. [A]

Organs: Rabbit organs are sometimes sold separately, or you can get all of them inside the whole rabbit. Buying the entire rabbit is more than likely much cheaper in price. [A]

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Venison

Venison (deer meat) is a wonderful red meat that is so cherished because it’s as grass-fed and organic as it gets. Venison is rarely farmed, and most raw feeders obtain their scraps and parts from hunters, or from doing the hunting themselves. Because venison is generally a wild meat, it is not advised to use the stomach or intestines as they may be infected with parasites. It is also important to check the liver for obvious light-colored blotches before feeding. Because venison is not normally prepared in a commercial way, I will list regular parts that you may get from hunting.

Meat/scrap: It is common to receive venison meat in the form of hunks and scraps. Hunters generally remove the best cuts (tenderloins, sirloin, etc) and some other good looking meat for various recipes, but often times there is still quite a lot left. Scrap meat may be covered in fat, blood clots or slimy membranes, but it is all safe to feed. [A]

Legs: If you are offered any legs, they are usually covered in meat and more than you would think! Many hunters don’t even touch the front legs, and they can void a good 8 or 9 pounds depending on the size of the deer. The hind legs are often trimmed down by hunters who want steaks and roasts, but still may have plenty of extra meat on them. The leg bones themselves can be crunched by larger dogs, but are probably not too safe for dogs of medium size and under. A very large stag may have leg bones that shouldn’t even be offered to a giant breed dog. Remember that feeding any bone (especially a weight-bearing bone) without a meat covering is not a good idea. MEAT [A], BONE [G][L]

Ribs: Ribs are a common scrap from hunters, as they are in no way comparable to pork ribs in terms of making a meal. The ribs themselves are unusually thin for the size of the animal, which makes the bones edible for most any size dog. Venison ribs are on the boney side, and should be followed up with a boneless meal. [A]

Spine/Pelvis: The ribcage generally comes attached the spine, and should be removed (not the easiest of processes!). The spine itself is thick and has very little meal attached, so I recommend that it be stripped of any meat and discarded. DISCARD [A]

Neck: The neck is a wonderful cut that can serve two purposed depending on the size of the deer. A doe or a small buck will give a neck that is about 2-3 pounds and can be given as a really nice RMB. A large, mature stag may give a neck that is as large at 8-10 pounds, and may be given as a RMB/gorge to a larger dog or may be stripped down for a lot of meat. In an intact neck, you will find part of the trachea and esophagus attached, both of which can be fed. [A]

Feet: The feet of the deer are boney and offer very little meat, so they should be fed as a recreational chew. A medium sized dog can crunch through the bone in the foot with ease. CAUTION [A]

Head: If a hunter offers you a deer’s head, and you’re feeling ambitious, it is safe to feed. There is some worry about Chronic Wasting Disease in a deer’s brain and spine, but it has been noted that the disease cannot pass to humans, cats and dogs. I have not fed a deer’s head personally, but the skull may be too thick for a toy or small breed dog. [A], CAUTION [T][S]

Hide: Some hunters may offer you the deer’s hide, but it is not recommended for you to feed it. The hide is composed of hair and skin, neither of which offer much nutritional value. DISCARD [A]

Organs: Unfortunately, unless you hunt the deer yourself, hunters will discard most all of the organs when they field dress the animal. In my experience, they are more likely to bring back the heart and liver than anything else. All organs of the deer (except the stomach and intestines) are safe for dogs. The liver should be examined for obvious, light-colored blotches as these are a sign that the deer had liver flukes. Infected livers should not be fed raw, but may be cooked and fed.[A]

Antlers: Antlers are a good recreational chew for dogs, and some hunters will give them to you from a kill. If you enjoy hiking or exploring in the woods, you can venture out and search for shed antlers during the correct season (I believe Jan-March, depending on your area).[A]

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Fish

Fish is a protein with a lot of potential for omega-3 fatty acids, something that grocery meat lacks. There are a ton of fish available out there, but it is important to know which ones are safe in mercury levels. Fish that are higher in mercury are safe to feed but not very often. I’d recommend that high-mercury fish meals be spread out at least 2 weeks apart, preferably a month apart though. Fish are safe in their whole form, fillets, or just the head. Any heads or whole fish should have their mouths and throats checked for hooks. Another important factor to fish is understanding that a fish with white meat is mainly less desirable in taste than a fish with dark meat (orange or red). Fish that have darker meat also tend to have more omega-3 fatty acids.

WARNING:  Any fish should be frozen at the lowest temperature you can possibly get it (coldest part of the freezer with the freezer on the lowest setting) for a minimum of 2-3 weeks before feeding to kill any harmful parasites that could make your dog sick.

Salmon: Salmon is an ideal fish for omega-3 fatty acids, and most dogs really enjoy the taste of it. The price of salmon can be rather high, so it’s not a common menu item. Some fish markets may sell salmon heads, which are rather meaty and can weigh as large as 3 pounds making a nice gorge meal for smaller dogs. Salmon should not be bought and fed from the can as it is not raw and typically has a very high sodium content. Mercury level: low [A]

Trout: Trout should be compared to salmon, above, for every factor. Mercury level: low, [A]

Sardine: Sardines are comparable to salmon/trout in omega-3 content, and most dogs enjoy their tastes. Sardines are commonly found in canned form, and canned sardines may be fed if they are only in water, preferably with no salt added (though they are not raw). Whole sardines are much larger than the little bits you’ll find in a can and can be found at our provider in San Diego. Mercury level: low, [A]

Smelt: Smelts should be compared to sardines in size and omega-3 fatty acid content, and can sometimes be found frozen at grocery stores. [A]

Tilapia: Tilapia is a common white-meat fish, and tends to be one of the cheapest fresh fish on the market. However, dogs have a tendency to not care for this fish, so it’s recommended that you test a little first before you buy a lot. Tilapia is low in omega-3 fatty acids, and is basically the “chicken” of the fish family in the raw world. Mercury level: low, [A]

Tuna: Tuna is unusual because it’s meat is very dark, but it’s omega-3 count is generally lower than salmon and sardine. The fish can be sold in fillets for a pretty penny, or in canned form. Both fresh tuna and canned tuna is very high in mercury, so if you’re going to pay extra for a nice fish, you’re much better off skipping the tuna and buying salmon or trout instead. Mercury level: HIGH, [Do not feed]

Catfish: Catfish is a white-meat fish caught from freshwater areas. They are known bottom-feeders, so it is recommended that their stomachs be removed if you are feeding the fish whole. It has been suggested to me not to feed Catfish and to purchase other fish types instead.  Catfish is low is omega-3 fatty acids. Mercury level: low, [A]

Perch: Perch is a white-meat fish that is low in omega-3 fatty acids. Mercury level: low, [A]

Haddock: Haddock is a white-meat fish that is low in omega-3 fatty acids. Mercury level: low, [A]

Cod: Cod is a white-meat fish that is low in omega-3 fatty acids. Mercury level: low, [A]

Sole: is a white-meat fish that is low in omega-3 fatty acids. Mercury level: low, [A]

Swordfish:  Swordfish (and/or Marlin) are great sources of omega-3’s, but because they’re near the top of the ocean’s food chain, their mercury level is not safe. Mercury level: High, [Do not feed]

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2 thoughts on “The Master Guide of Protein Cuts and Safety: Dogster Re-post

  1. This is a GREAT post – it puts my mind at ease and *finally* answers the questions I have been asking for the last few weeks (but not getting a clear response). Thanks!!

  2. Pingback: Prey Model Diet; The Best Food Choice For Your Pets | Pawfect Manners: Dog Training & Behavior Rehabilitation

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