Many pet owners who are hesitant about switching their dog or cat to a raw food diet say that part of the reason is because fresh foods seem more difficult to prepare and store than dry pet foods. While feeding fresh does involve more than just opening a bag of kibble and scooping, the extra effort is worth investing in for the sake of your pet's overall health and quality of life. If you’re thinking about making the change or have recently made the switch to raw, this guide is here to answer all of your questions concerning the storing and handling of raw pet food. It also covers an important topic a lot of people often forget: Clean up!
Red Dog Blue Kat works hard to ensure quality and safety through numerous certifications, specifically the HACCP program we have. The first step to safely using raw pet food is making sure that you’re getting high-quality product. Let’s get into other great ways you can ensure you and your pet’s safety…
Read more about our food quality assurance and HACCP Program
1. Properly Storing Your Raw Pet Food
You or someone you know probably goes to the grocery store and stocks up on all the good meat deals! Most of the time, they put some (if not all) of that collection in the freezer. It’s the exact same way you should be storing raw pet food.
Storing Food in the Cold
The point of storing your food in the cold is to slow down or stop the growth of natural bacteria in meat (or other food products) that can cause spoilage. These bacteria get activated at room temperature, which is why food kept out spoils more quickly. Keeping food in the fridge will slow bacteria growth down. In the freezer, the bacteria go into stasis – that means there’s no activity at all and no chance of your food spoiling! If this is true, then why does the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have recommendations for how long food will ‘stay good’ in the freezer for? CFIA recommends a freezer life of 24 months because there are other nutrients that get impacted by freezing. Many nutrients, like Taurine, can degrade when it’s frozen over longer periods of time. So your food won’t be spoiled if you eat it past the 24 months; however, it may not have the same nutrient levels as fresher foods.
Keeping Thawed Meals in the Fridge
How long you should keep raw ingredients in the fridge once they’re thawed depends on whether they are vacuum sealed. One of the main reasons we vacuum seal our products is to ensure longer freezer and fridge life! If a meal is vacuum sealed, we recommend using thawed chicken products within 3 to 4 days and red meat products within 7 to 10 days. However, once it’s opened this timing changes drastically: no more than 3 days for poultry and no more than 5 days for red meats. If you are opening packaging to portion out your pets meals, we recommend removing it from it’s packaging and storing in sealable glass tupperware. It is also important to rely on more than just numbers! Our raw pet meals are just like the raw food you bring home for yourself. That means you can definitely use your other senses to figure out whether your thawed food is still good, or if is starting to go off. You can look at colour changes, smell, and texture (once it starts going bad, the texture is slimier).
Read more about Simple Ways To Check The Quality Of Your Raw Pet Food
Fridge and Freezer Storage Recommendations:
Note About “Easy Storage” of Kibble
One thing to consider is that many people think storing kibble is so much easier than raw. However, the way most people store kibble is incorrect and can lead to the same dangerous bacteria everyone warns about when handling raw. Bacteria growth is a natural thing and it’s our job, whether feeding raw or kibble, to take the precautions to ensure we minimize this. If you’re feeding kibble, remember to store it in a cool, dry place, and if you’re using containers, make sure to leave the kibble in the bag and put the entire bag into the container. Even if you’re feeding kibble, you should also try and clean your bowls in between meals, or as frequently as possible!
2. Handling & Serving Tips
To serve raw dog or cat food, you’ll need to thaw the meal and then serve it in whatever bowl or plate your pet prefers. The only thing to remember is to wash your hands before and after, as well as any utensils and surfaces that the raw food comes into contact with.
What’s the Best Way to Thaw RDBK Meals?
The best way to thaw your frozen pet meals is to put them in the fridge and let them thaw overnight. However, if you forget, you can put it in a container of cold water that is large enough to submerge the package. Since our meals come in completely sealed, flat packaging, it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes for the food to become soft and malleable. Plus, the meat stays in and the water stays out! If you’re wondering whether you can feed your food partially thawed (or warm), it is dependent on individual dogs. Some dogs are pickier and won’t eat food unless it’s a bit warmed up (not cooked), while others will eat any food – whether it’s completely thawed or not. Be careful with dogs who have more sensitive stomachs, as colder food takes longer to digest.
Check out our great selection of healthy, Raw Cat Meals
Try Using a Platter
Bowls, although the most mainstream choice, are not the best choice for your pet. This is because they aren’t the most natural way for a pet to consume food – their posture is different, their line of sight is obstructed, and they can be uncomfortable if their sensitive muzzle or whiskers are being bothered by the bowl. That’s why we suggest using a flat serving dish, like a platter! Platters are a more natural way for dogs’ mealtime, and they can even contribute to slowing fast eaters down. A great option is to use ceramic plates, as they’re easy to find and easy to wash too. When considering serving dishes AND storage containers, we advise you to use ceramic over plastic or stainless steel. Plastic is more porous and therefore can be a great place for bacteria to grow. Stainless steel is an okay material as long as you know that it's high quality and where it’s made – if it’s low quality stainless steel, then it may contain toxins and chemicals that are dangerous to you and your pet.
Read more about serving instruments in our blog:
How to Open, Portion and Serve Our Raw Meals
Watch this quick Youtube video for 3 simple ways to open our vacuum sealed packaging whether it’s lightly thawed or completely thawed.
3. Remember: Proper Cleaning is Important!
This step is easy; however, many people forget or overlook its importance. Just like when you’re preparing your own food, these are things you want to remember:
Wash dishes and utensils with hot water & soap
Don’t forget to also clean surfaces like the counter with natural cleaner
Storage containers should also be cleaned frequently as well
Toxic Soaps vs. Natural Soaps
These days more and more products are advertised as ‘pet-friendly’; however, what are the general rules really when considering which cleaning products to use? Our pet nutrition expert, Sarah G., recommends natural products that are biodegradable. But how does soap actually work? When washing proteins away from surfaces, there are a lot of fat molecules and using a mixture of soap and water helps bind the fat molecules and wash them away more effectively. Soap also disrupts the membranes of bacteria, which in turn destroys them! Here are some things you should avoid:
It’s important to consider the products you use to clean because these surfaces are coming in direct contact with you and your pet (even more closely, since they’re lying on the floor often). It can also be helpful to do secondary cleaning with just water!
Great Overall Cleaning Solutions
For sinks & bathtubs: Use a sponge to mix a cup of organic/biodegradable dish soap and 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda in a container. Add essential oils that are safe for pets if you enjoy scents. This creates a ‘vim’-feeling type of cleaning agent. Since it has a bit of an abrasive feel, it is good for a deep cleaning! Floors, mirrors, counters etc.: Combine water and apple cider vinegar in a 9 to 1 ratio. Often clean twice with this solution (or do a water-only wash after).