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With the rapid growth of the raw feeding, we're seeing a lot of people offering meal formulation services where they provide balanced recipes for dogs. I was tempted to do the same last year and invested $600 (yeah, you read that right) of my money into a meal formulation program. However, a few hiccups and delays gave me the time to rethink this plan and I changed my mind. Meal formulation for dogs is something that should be done by professionals.
What (or Who) is a Meal Formulator?
A meal formulator is a person who creates balanced recipes for dogs that are based on your dogs' nutritional needs, food intolerances, and any health issues. For instance, I can have someone create a few recipes for Rodrigo that are balanced and take into account that he's allergic to chicken, turkey, and beef, and he has digestive issues.
When it comes to meal formulation, raw feeders have two options:
- Invest in a software program that will help you create balanced recipes for your pets.
- Hire someone, a meal formulator, who can create the recipes for your dog.
There are two meal formulation software programs that I know about and I have both:
- The Animal Diet Formulator (ADF) by Royal Animal Health University (RAHU)
- The Pet Diet Designer (PDF)
I primarily use ADF when formulating diets, because I paid a lot of money for it, but I want to learn how to use PDF as well.
I have both programs because for a while ADF was too buggy and frustrating to use so I thought I'd start with PDF, which is very affordable at $20/year. In the end, I decided that I'm going to cancel my Pet Diet Designer plan and stick with Animal Diet Formulator. With the recent ADF upgrade, I'm loving this program.
Are We Making Raw Feeding too Complicated?
I've been feeding raw for more than six years and it's only been in the last year that cut back on the supplements I add to my dogs' meals and stopped trying to source so many proteins. I used to spend all day doing meal prep and now I spend an hour or two once a week making 10 days of food for five dogs.
I do think that we are making raw feeding more complicated and, in some ways, it feels like it's necessary – at least it was for me because I made the incorrect assumption that a balanced raw diet was easily accomplished by feeding 80/10/10 while alternating a variety of proteins in my dogs' diet. The problem with my logic is that I could easily be missing key nutrients my dogs need and not realize it. Tracking their nutrients and using meal formulation programs helped me see this and changed my approach feeding my dogs.
This isn't a change everyone needs to make; it's a change that is working for me.
I don't spend a ton of time formulating meals for my dogs. Instead, I use my spreadsheet and the programs to gain a better understanding of what my dogs need.
Of course, not everyone is going to want to take the steps that I'm taking, which has created an opportunity for a new business where people create recipes for dogs, making raw feeding easier.
Choosing the Right Person to Create Recipes for Your Dog
Did you know that a professional meal formulator, one who works for raw food brands, makes $300/hour or more? This tells me that this is a very specialized profession and the people who do this for a living have a clear understanding of how to build a diet for all life stages of a dog.
Although I have a program that formulates meals, I don't have the experience and education necessary to formulate the right meals for every dog. If a dog has health issues, like a history of pancreatitis, hypothyroidism, or cancer, I have no idea what changes I need to make to the diet to make it appropriate for the dog.
So, if I were to choose someone to formulate meals for my dogs, I would want someone who has experience in not only creating a balanced meal but also adjusting the meal to meet my dog's specific needs.
Ideally, I would want to work with someone who has a background in animal nutrition. However, I think we've all met people in our community who have gone above and beyond in educating themselves by obtaining legit certification in animal nutrition.
Are You Looking for Someone to Create Recipes for Your Dog?
There's nothing wrong with wanting to feed your dog a balanced meal. When I started feeding raw, I began with Darwin's Pet, a local company that ships raw meals for pets nationwide. I was able to feed my dogs a diet a balanced diet that met their nutritional needs while I took the time to learn how to make their meals myself.
What is Balance?
Whenever I write about balancing a dog's meal, I feel the collective eye roll because, once again, we're making raw feeding more complicated than it needs to be. I know that what “balance” is for one dog isn't the same for others. And, who decides what balance is for our dogs? AAFCO, the NRC manual, veterinarians who have limited education in animal nutrition (according to rumors)? I have no idea. But what I do know is that we're all trying to do the best that we can with the information we have and nutritional deficiency is something we want to avoid with our dogs.
Meal Formulation Consultants I Recommend
That being said, if you're looking for someone to help you with a few recipes to get you and your dog started on the path to eating a diet of fresh food, I recommend the following professionals:
Dr. Laurie Coger of Healthy Dog Workshop
Dr. Coger is a Cornell graduate with more than 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine and raw feeding. She is also a natural rearing breeder of Australian Shepherds who works tirelessly to educate pet parents on raising dogs naturally and understanding the pet industry. Through her site, the Healthy Dog Workshop, Dr. Coger offers affordable 45-minute consultations and 30-minute follow up calls.
- Learn more here: Consultation & Diet Formulation
Ronny LeJeune of Perfectly Rawsome
Ronny LeJeune is a Certified Canine Nutritionist, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Canine Conditioning Fitness Coach, and founder of Perfectly Rawsome. Ronny earned her certificate from the Companion Animal Sciences Institute and offers custom meal plans that include nutritional analysis, a shopping list, and email support.
- Learn more here: Custom Raw Feeding Meal Plan
Raw Feeding 101 and other Resources
If you are looking for someone to help you create a meal plan for your dog, please check out Dr. Coger and Ronny LeJeune. They can get you off to a great start.
And if you're interested in moving towards DIY raw feeding, check out the Raw Feeding 101 online course, which is an easy guide that will help you transition your dog to raw with less stress, confusion, and anxiety.
- Learn more here: Raw Feeding 101
And, of course, please check out my books on raw feeding, currently available on Amazon, that share what I've learned about the diet as I feed my dogs a diet of fresh food: