Feeding raw on a limited budget
With the economy the way it is, food prices rising, gas prices (luckily) starting to fall but still expensive, an uncertain future politically and many other issues, there's just no room for worry about the cost of pet food too. Here is a list on ways to cut the food bill, and often times, be friendly to the environment by reducing waste.
The Lis List is full of great ideas for finding cheap sources of meat. Permission to post from Lis. Most current edition 4/16/09.
Finding Cheaper Sources of Meat (For Raw Feeding):
If you have the space, get yourself a freezer, so you can take advantage of the savings when you find them. There are often freezers for free (or cheap) on Freecycle, Craigslist, and Kijiji.
1) Look up meat and poultry packers, plants, and distributors in the yellow pages (or online).
You may be able to get great prices from them if you order in bulk, and/or they may have a discount outlet that is open to the public.
2) ***** I get many of my best deals in Asian/Oriental markets. I've also heard that Hispanic and Caribbean markets have great variety and prices too. But not all ethnic markets are the same - some are much cheaper than others - you must visit a few and compare.
3) You may be able to join a barter group.
4) Google breeders (i.e. rabbit, goat, lamb, etc.) who are in your geographic area. They may have culls they want to get rid of, or stillborns, or lower prices overall. Don't forget 4-H breeders.
5) Try bulk buying - Look up bulk suppliers and frozen bulk foods in your yellow pages (or online).
6) If you have a Chinatown nearby, definitely make a visit.
7) Let your friends, relatives, and neighbors know you want any freezer burnt or old meat when they clean out their freezers, and tell them to pass the word along. Freezer-burnt meat may be dried out on the edges but is perfectly safe for pets as long as it has been frozen all this time.
8) If you belong to a church or social group, tell those members to mention it to their friends and relatives as well. You may be allowed to put a notice on the bulletin board or in the newsletter.
9) See if there are any co-ops or meat buying groups near you. Check on Yahoo, or Google to see.
10) Try a free ad website, like Craigslist or Kijiji - it's amazing what you can get for free or cheap.
Here are the best ones:
11) ***** And I get meat, poultry, and fish all the time (for free)
through Freecycle. Join multiple lists if you live or work close to the boundary of another list.
And join some of the other variations too:
12) Some Wal-marts and some Costcos and some Sams Clubs have good deals, but you may want to make sure it's not enhanced meat you're buying (most of the time that is what they have, and some pets have difficulty with it).
13) Definitely watch the store flyers, and you can usually see the rest of the flyers online (the ones that don't get delivered to your home, but are only a short drive away).
14) ***** Hands down, the bulk of my best deals have been marked down meat at regular grocery stores. They reduce it the day before it is going to expire, and I go as early as I can in the morning to get it before it is gone.
15) Tell friends and relatives who hunt and fish that you want first dibs on any body parts they don't want. You can probably get at least the organs and maybe the head. Also ask them to put you in touch with their other friends who hunt and fish.
16) A great tip I learned a while back- some restaurants and caterers throw out things they don't use, like the organs that come inside whole poultry, or raw meat that falls on the floor.
See if they'll save them for you. Find somebody who knows somebody who works in a restaurant or knows a caterer.
17) Farmer's markets are great, but pick and choose carefully for the best bargains. And sometimes at the end of the day some vendors will reduce their prices, cause they don't want to take it back with them.
18) Some people contact taxidermists, who have no use for the meat.
19) Join the RawFeeding Yahoo Group and find people on that list from your vicinity, and ask them where they get their meat deals.
Join other raw feeding lists or other pet or breeder related lists (there are many, some may even be local to you), and ask if there are other raw feeders in your area.
20) Tell your butcher you want the meat that they would normally throw out, that is almost out of date, that people ordered and didn't pick up, stuff that was dropped on the floor, their freezer clean-outs, and parts that don't sell (like trachea, lungs, spleen, etc.). Some butchers will save their trim for you (once they get to know you). Build a relationship with them first. Many butchers will give you these things for free, once they know you (and especially if you are a regular customer who buys meat for yourself).
21) Yes, roadkill works too (where it is legal). In some places you can get your name on the list and get called when they have large roadkill (like deer). You may be able to move to the top of the list if you say you don't mind getting called at night or for kill more than a couple of hours old.
22) You can raise your own meat/poultry if you have the space.
23) Post a message in CarnivoreFeed-Supplier or CFS-Canada if you are in North America.
Both of these groups specialize in matching up meat suppliers with raw feeders:
24) Speak to local farmers. Also, you may also be able to get their injured or old stock at very
25) You can look for heart, tongue, and gizzards which count as meat (as opposed to organ) in the world of raw feeding, but are often cheaper than other muscle meats.
26) Find somebody who knows somebody who works at the grocery store. They can introduce you to the meat guy, who may become more willing to save stuff for you or reduce items about to expire, once they know you.
27) Check the internet. Some suppliers have affordable prices, even after shipping costs are
28) Double-whammy: if a meat is on special this week at the grocery, go in and check the expiry date on the packages. Then go back to get it when reduced again (reduction on the reduction)
the day of or day before expiry (depending on their policy).
29) Somebody had a great source a while back: some schools (colleges)that teach butchering sell the meat really cheap, that the students have worked on.
30) Check out the meat processing plants and/or slaughter houses they process the animals for farmers or hunters (amongst others). You can often get the left over pieces for free. If you have the stomach for it, you can ask to go through the gut barrels and trim barrels yourself.
31) Ask a few of your local grocery stores and butchers what it would cost to order things for you by the case. Compare prices.
32) Someone mentioned that depending on where you live you may be able to attend livestock auctions and then get the animal butchered.
33) If you know any apartment building managers, ask them about the frozen meat people leave behind when they move out.
34) You may be able to order from restaurant suppliers.
35) Find more hunters (and their unwanted meat) by posting a notice on bulletin boards where they may congregate (like feed, tractor, country supply, sports, army supply, or gun stores), or at hunter check points, and by posting in online hunter's forums. Hunters also need to get rid of last year's catch to make room for this years.
36) If you live close to the waterfront, you may be able to buy some of the day's catch as it comes in. If you are close to a lake or river, also speak to people who may be fishing for sport and have no interest in eating their catch.
37) Find people who will be moving (and may not want to lug all their freezer contents with them) by watching for "sold" signs on front lawns in your neighborhood and popping a note in their mailbox.
38) Find a raw feeding buddy, maybe an hour's drive away. When you each find a good deal in your own area, buy twice as much. Then split what you find with your buddy, once or twice a month.
39) Viral e-mail- create a friendly e-mail, introducing yourself and asking for old, freezer-burnt, and wild meat and send it to everyone you know in your geographic area. AND ask that each person receiving the e-mail forwards it to everyone they know in your geographic area. And so on.
40) Put a Wanted ad in the Classifieds section of your local newspaper. Using a headline with bold lettering, like ATTENTION: Homemakers/Hunters may improve your results.
41) I recently saw a Craigslist ad where someone offered to butcher road kill moose or deer (for free) so they could keep half for themselves and give half to the person who found the road kill.
42) Start a freezer cleaning/clean-out service