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This blog post was originally published in May 2017, it has been updated with new information.
A couple of years ago a fellow raw feeder posted that people who use base mixes, referring to The Honest Kitchen, are too lazy to learn how to make a balanced raw meal for their dogs. When I look back at that statement, I laugh because, damn. It will never cease to amaze me how nasty people can be when they're sitting behind a computer screen.
I don't agree with this critique of people who use base mixes, but I kind of see where she was coming from. Kind of. I kicked the base mix habit a year ago when I ran out of the base mix and couldn't afford to stock up again.
Let's start from the beginning.
Why I Initially Used Base Mixes
When I began making raw meals at home and stopped buying premade raw, The Honest Kitchen had a BOGO sale on their Kindly base mix. It was such an amazing deal that I bought three or four cases. A year later, our local raw food co-op was given a great deal on the Hale base mix so I bought a couple of cases of that one too. I was set for life; or for a year or so.
I thought that if I used a base mix, my dogs would be eating a balanced raw diet. The only organ meat I could find nack then was liver and I knew that my dogs also needed offal – with a base mix, I didn't have to worry because it covered the missing nutrients (or so I thought). Using a base mix was so easy. I ground up meat, mixed it into the hydrated base mix, and stored everything in the freezer.
I continued stocking up on The Honest Kitchen base mix and ended up buying so much that it expired and I had to throw several boxes away because I was worried that my dogs would become ill. It was painful to throw all of that food (aka money) away but it turned out to be a good thing.
Why I Stopped Using The Honest Kitchen
I stopped using base mixes because I was leaning too heavily on them in an effort to create a balanced diet for my dogs. I wasn't learning about my dogs' nutritional needs, instead, I was leaving it up to The Honest Kitchen to cover the bases without confirming that it was actually working. I didn't know what nutrients my dogs needed in their diet and I didn't know what I was providing, what The Honest Kitchen was providing, and what was missing.
And then there were the grains, potatoes and other starches in the base mixes. I've gone back and forth if dogs should be fed potatoes a lot over the years and while I will not say that they're bad for dogs, I prefer not to feed them to my dogs. Whenever I can, I try to make their diet resemble that of a wild canine. Please don't send me pictures of dogs eating potatoes – that won't convince me that my dogs need them in their diet.
Quitting The Honest Kitchen cold-turkey turned out to be a good thing because it forced me to begin learning how to feed my dogs a nutritious diet.
What I Use Instead of The Honest Kitchen
Initially, I began with a vegetable mix after our veterinarian told me that he wanted me to add more vegetables to our dogs' raw diet. A few years later, I started fermenting the vegetables to make the nutrients more bioavailable and to provide a natural source of probiotics to their diet.
With the help of a friend, I also created a nutrient spreadsheet to better understand what nutrients my dogs need and what foods could cover any wholes I found in their diet. The spreadsheet is based on NRC/AAFCO standards, which isn't ideal, in my opinion, because this is based on kibble diets which are loaded with more nutrients due to the high processing of dry dog food. However, until someone comes up with standards for raw fed dogs, it's the best we have to start the learning process.
Today, I feed a diet based on 80/10/10 and add additional foods and supplements to cover all the bases. For instance, I add…
- boiled oysters for zinc
- extra pork or turkey heart for Vitamin B (or a Vitamin B supplement)
- fish, fish oil for Omega 3 fatty acids
- organic kelp for iodine (which benefits thyroid health)
Would I Recommend a Base Mix to Others?
I spend several hours every other weekend making raw dog food. l love the process, I love learning what to feed my dogs, and I love knowing every ingredient that winds up in my dogs' dishes. Not using a base mix has saved me a lot of money. However, I know that others aren't prepared to or ready to do the work that I do to make dog food.
I think raw feeders are a great fit for a base mix if…
- they are new to raw feeding and not ready to take on the responsibility of creating a fully raw diet.
- they have muscle meat but are still looking for sources of organ meat and bone.
- they are not ready to feed raw but are okay with feeding a cooked diet.
- they are traveling with their dogs and need something healthy and easy to feed.
- they need to make raw meals but ran out of time.
I'm not opposed to using base mixes and, to be honest, if I could afford to use them, I would add it in rotation with the vegetable mix.
Dr. Harvey's Raw Vibrance and Paradigm
Update: I have found a base mix that I now add to the rotation. It doesn't have potatoes, which is huge. If you're looking for a base mix, check out Raw Vibrance by Dr. Harvey's.