Our Raw Diet

family mealtime

Our Diet at a Glance

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Over the years we have received a lot of interest in the raw diet we feed to our pack, so we wrote this raw feeding guide outlining our regimen and the reasons why we made this change so that anyone interested can learn from our experience. Anyone who sees our dogs always comment on their soft and shiny coats, white teeth, and fresh breath! However, we did not commit to this change for mere aesthetics.

The Catalyst

Our greatest lesson and inspiration for our raw feeding lifestyle came from our experience with our first dog, Bunsen, who died from chronic kidney disease at the age of 7. 

Bunsen, the O.G.B.

Unfortunately, Bunsen’s kidneys were already failing when we discovered his disease, so we did everything we could to extend his life as much as possible. Bunsen could no longer eat kibble because we learned that dehydrated food is much harder on his kidneys than whole food. So Bunsen enjoyed chicken, steak and eggs every day until he could not. All the knowledge that we acquired in his final four months of life allowed us to beat his devastating one-week prognosis and forever changed the way we think about pet nutrition. We ultimately decided to try a raw diet for our new baby, Charlie.

Baby Charlie

Why Raw?

We now believe a raw diet is the best way to protect our Bernese Mountain Dogs from the variety of ailments that affect their longevity and quality of life. The Swiss have a saying about the lifespan of Bernese Mountain Dogs:

“three years a young dog, three years a good dog, three years an old dog… all else is a gift from God.”

At this time, the average lifespan of a BMD is only about 7 years. But Berners can live 10 or even 14 years of age or longer.

Most people have been convinced that feeding their pets a balanced diet is out of their comprehension and that only pet food manufacturers are capable. Kibble is well marketed, effortless and economical, so it’s easy to look no further. We fed Bunsen “the best” kibble.

The problem with kibble is that no matter how premium the product is, all kibble is processed under extremely high temperatures that destroy vitamins, enzymes, essential amino acids and beneficial bacteria. Kibble is also high in carbohydrates (even “grain free” kibble) which are not biologically appropriate for dogs. 

“Grain free” is a recent marketing term used by the pet food industry to correlate the carbohydrates in kibble with grains, but kibble contains a lot of carbohydrates (as starch) regardless. Starch is an unavoidable byproduct of the extrusion process used to create kibble. Most grain-free dry dog foods contain at least 30% carbohydrate; the average carbohydrate content is 40% and some dry foods can contain up to 60%!

Moisture content is another problem inherent in kibble. A dry food requires your pet’s body to provide sufficient moisture to reconstitute the food in their digestive tract. Although they try by consuming a lot of water, it is stressful on their organs — specifically the kidneys. Cats are particularly susceptible to kidney disease and this is why cat food is primarily wet.

We are not anti kibble — from time to time we feed kibble when it is convenient. But the truth is, a lifetime of dry food can seriously damage your pet’s health. It can be likened to eating fast food. Fast food is convenient and economical, but we all know that fast food is not healthy.

Soshe's Transformation

The most notable results came from our experience with our Mama Bear. When we adopted Soshë, we noticed she had a dry coat, skin allergies, opportunistic staph infections, and was missing fur around her eyes, snout, paws and belly from all her scratching and biting.

soshe red snout
Irritated snout
soshe's irritated snout
Thinning hair around eyes & snout

After switching her to our raw diet we noticed a monumental transformation! She stopped biting her paws, scratching her face and rubbing her nose on everything (including us) within a few months. In hindsight, Bunsen probably would have benefited similarly. He had similar “allergies” that vets were unable to identify and was prescribed cortisol as a last resort for when his scratching would flare up. It could only be given for short time periods because cortisol lowers the immune response and is not healthy.

All white! 🙂

Our Mini Raw Feeding Guide

There are two main raw diets: The BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) and the PMR (Prey Model Raw) diet. The primary difference between these two diets is that the BARF diet includes fruits and vegetables. We follow a BARF diet. 

There are many great articles online that outline the framework of a raw diet, but if you are interested in a more in-depth guide, we recommend reading Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs, by Lew Olson, Ph.D.

Muscle Meat

Our dogs eat approximately 3 to 4 pounds of Chicken or Pork once daily (about 3% of their body weight). Beef is also on the menu, but only on special occasions, as it is more expensive and we have a lot of dogs to feed! Anything that is not eaten, we just put right back in the freezer and feed it the next day, but that’s rare. Below is a typical meal:

Bowl of Chicken
  • 10 pounds of chicken quarters (wash, use cleaver to cut in half or thirds or leave whole).
  • 5 pounds of chicken breast (wash, cut into bite-sized pieces or 1 whole frozen breast per dog for a good chew)

It's not an exact science

It’s not an exact science — all that matters are the overall amounts. Raw feeding is like feeding yourself since it’s whole food. You don’t weigh everything you eat! It’s just a bit intimidating at first because we are trained to believe that feeding our pets is something that should be left to the dog food companies, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly. 

For example, sometimes we feed just chicken quarters one day and double up on the chicken breast the next day. Or you can feed drumsticks instead of chicken quarters (which is easier because you don’t need to chop anything), but since they have slightly more bone than quarters, you’d need to feed slightly more chicken breast to compensate. 

We take their food straight from the freezer every morning and into the sink to thaw so that by the afternoon everything is ready. I prefer chopping the chicken quarters when they are partially frozen because it’s less messy. Time-wise, it takes about 5 minutes to prepare their meal once a day. Or lately we feed everything whole, which is even faster.  Here is a video of mealtime.

I should also mention that we include some ground green tripe in their diet to balance their digestive systems. They go crazy for it, but it’s pretty stinky so we limit it to once a week and make it a special treat.

That covers the muscle meat (70%) and edible bone (15%) portion of their diet.

Organ Meat

Each of our dogs also gets a frozen slice of organ meat every day (approx 5 oz or 10% of their diet, but it doesn’t have to be exact). They LOVE organ so we feed it to them as a treat in the morning. It is essentially their multivitamin. 

We typically feed liver, kidney or spleen but also include other organs like pancreas or even brain. Half of their overall organ intake should be from liver (beef, lamb, goat, ostrich, emu, etc). 

Organ can be pretty gross. We used to include it along with the muscle meat, but that got messy, especially if they don’t finish everything. We find that it’s easiest if you freeze the whole organs and then cut them into slices to feed them once a day as a treat. Let the organs defrost for about 45 minutes so it softens just enough to slice easily but not enough to be soft and messy.

Slices of frozen beef kidney

We buy the pasture-raised organ meat from Raw Feeding Miami because they are of higher quality and there is a wider variety than what you would find in a grocery store. Since organs are the body’s filters, we feel better knowing they are coming from local, pasture-raised animals. 

We have a full size freezer for our dogs, so we buy in bulk whenever there is a sale, and typically pay around $0.40/lb for chicken quarters and $1/lb for chicken breast or pork tenderloin. We freeze any pork for 2 weeks prior to feeding to kill any potential trichinosis just as a precaution, but the chances are incredibly low. Fewer than 100 cases are reported in the United States annually and are more often associated with wild game meats than pork products.

Don't forget your greens!

The remaining 10% of their diet comes from veggies, fruits and seeds/nuts, which we outline in detail in our supplements article. We blend a variety of fruits and veggies (pumpkin, sweet potato, apple, pear, papaya, red cabbage, etc) with spirulina, chlorella and mushroom powders, which we pour into about 20 ice cube trays to freeze in bulk (we got them for 2/$1 at Dollar Tree). Then we have enough to give them each a cube or two every day as a healthy treat for at least a month.

Fish Oils

Lastly, we give them each one fish oil capsule daily. It’s good for their organs and especially their skin and coat. The fish oils that are made for dogs are typically lower quality than the capsules for humans, so give them whatever you take. We use these, which are a good price and have an ideal ratio of DHA/EPA. 

We buy 4 bottles at a time in order to get 25% off (promo code 25OFFTOBIAS) and subscribe to get an additional 15% off the already fair price. It ends up costing about $18 per bottle of 180 caps, which works out to $3/month per dog. 

Including their tripe and supplements, it costs about $80/month to feed each dog, which is about the same as a premium kibble. We think that is pretty awesome!


We know this can seem like a lot of information to absorb, so here is a recap of our diet:

  • 2-3 pounds chicken quarters
  • 1 pound of chicken breast (or pork or beef)
  • 5 oz frozen slice of liver/organ
  • Some ground green tripe once a week
  • Fruit/veggie/supplement cubes
  • Fish oil capsules
  • Little bits of whatever they are lucky enough to get from us!


This is just what we do. You should do whatever makes the most sense for your life and your dogs. We have tried just about everything and this is what we have refined our regimen into, but it is always evolving as time goes on. What we prefer may not be the case for you. Just start with something you are comfortable with and adjust as necessary. 

When we first started, we had Carla from Raw Feeding Miami design our meals because it was a bit intimidating, so we figured it would be reassuring for anyone starting or refining to know what we do. 

Raw feeding does not have to be an all or nothing decision. You can also improve your dog’s nutrition by adding some fresh foods into a commercial diet. For example, try adding the following to any meal:

  • Canned sardines/mackerel/salmon or any raw or cooked ground meat
  • A raw egg (no shell) 2 Tbsp whole-milk yogurt (natural probiotics)
  • 1000 mg fish oil capsule (400 mg EPA / 300 mg DHA or similar)

How do you feed your dogs? Comment below or let us know if you have any questions

We participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. Read our full disclosure here.

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