WARWICK—Millie the cat was patrolling the kitchen of Midsummer Farm. After patiently waiting for the grinder to do its work, she enjoyed a saucer of ground chicken neck, vegetables, spices, and nuts her owner had just made.
Natural has found its way into the pet food market. Midsummer Farm’s owners grow food and create recipes for their pets that are natural, organic, and homemade.
Barbara Taylor-Laino has been making her own pet food that she says make the animals healthy and happy. She shares her secrets with pet owners in regular workshops at her homestead. On Jan. 2 Taylor-Laino led one of her two-hour workshops, Making Homemade Pet Food, in the kitchen of her farm.
Taylor-Laino says owners should relax and not fear creating their pet’s meals. “You are perfectly capable of balancing your animal’s diet, just like your parents balanced your diet, and you balanced your children’s diet.”
Dietary needs differ for cats and dogs. Cats prefer meat—carnivores. They need a balance of meat, bones, and fat. Dogs have a diet similar to humans. Man’s best friend has been around humans for thousands of years. “Dogs are omnivores. They have a diet very similar to us.”
The session had a discussion of what foods to avoid: cooked bones, raw fresh salmon, chocolate, onions, and raisons or grapes. Many dog owners want to give a bone to their dog. Cooked bones can be “splintery,” brittle, and break up. “Look at the bone before you feed it and monitor the dog.”
She likes to serve her pets fish, especially salmon, but warns against raw salmon which might have a parasite dangerous to dogs. Dogs and cats seem to like the canned Alaska wild pink salmon which is lightly cooked and safe.
She dismisses claims about the dangers of avocadoes. “There is not one drop of poison in an avocado. Avocadoes are a great source of fat for dogs and cats.” As a source of fat, avocadoes keep pets from having itchy dry skin.
Chicken necks are a great favorite for their high fat content and rounded bones. “A cheap meat, a great balance of the bones, the meat, the fat.” They grind up easily. Although she advises diversity, Taylor-Laino says not to feed a pet plants in the onion family—leeks, onions, shallots, and scallions.
The Right Vet
Taylor-Laino started making her own pet food in 1996 when her vet could not cure her dog’s severe health problems. “It was diarrhea, skin allergies where he was licking the hot spots, and separation anxiety. We just didn’t understand it. We went to vet to vet, to vet. We switched foods.”
Nothing seemed to help until she began to feed her dog raw, chopped turkey. Then she added vegetables. Her dog’s health turned around. “She got over the diarrhea almost immediately,” Taylor Laino said. “The allergy took about two to three weeks. The separation anxiety took a couple of months.”
A vet she could work with was not easy to find. She says vets are trained to push the Science Diet brand and other brands they learned in medical school. “They are stuck on it.”
She finally found a vet who listened. Veterinarian Ken Fisher of the Hillsdale NJ Animal Hospital worked with her and now treats his pet patients in a holistic approach.
Taylor-Laino said her dog’s health conditions came from commercial pet products. “I was buying Eukanuba large breed puppy chow which was supposed to be the best at the time. It totally backfired.”
Commercial pet food companies tell pet owners not to switch to different brands. She calls it a marketing ploy. “It’s ingenious. It’s making them tons of money.”
Commercial pet foods work once in a while when the owner is short on time. “We consider it like a pizza night. We can give the cats regular cat food. It’s not going to hurt them.”
Kristen Dorich attended the workshop to learn and gain some confidence about making her own pet food and not worry about running out. “Now I will not be, at the end of the day, ‘oh my gosh, we are out of dog food.’ Now I can make stuff in my own kitchen.”
Commercial pet food brands are not highly regulated and the products suffer from lack of freshness and cleanliness, Taylor-Laino said. “Things get into the food.”
Taylor-Laino keeps a balance of two-thirds to three-fourths meat with the remaining a mix of vegetables when she concocts a recipe.
Workshop attendee Jackie Bennet said she was glad to learn about a better way. “It’s been something that’s been on my mind for a long time. I was just so overwhelmed at all the brands.”
Some grains such as barley and oatmeal work well for dogs. Pets can have a sweet tooth and like beets, carrots, and honey. “I feel guilty throwing away red beet water, so I put oatmeal in there and cook it.” Her pets love it.
She says eggs are a complete food for pets. She gives her animals raw eggs and whites. “It’s got fat, protein, and amino acids.” Seeds and nuts aid digestion. Pumpkin seeds have a chemical that dislodges worms and worm eggs.
Midsummer’s owners say, “We believe in providing all our animals at Midsummer Farm with a natural healthy lifestyle. For our dogs and cats, who contribute so much to our farm, we work to provide them with natural good food. And we find that the most economical way to do this is with a homemade diet,” according to their website.
“There are some great brands of commercial diets available, but we like to know what is going into our food, and we like to use as many whole, fresh, and organic foods as we can,” the website says. “We also feel that the process and the intentions that go into cooking at home make the effort even more worthwhile.”
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