I don't BARF feed NOW, but have in the past. My dogs did very well on a combination diet of BARF, home cooked and good quality kibble. Four years ago I got very ill and was in the hospital for 2 weeks and pretty much out of commission for several months afterward, and BARF feeding was just too difficult for me at that time so I quit. With 9 dogs, unless you have a good source for the raw meaty bones, it's just too expensive (chicken backs and necs were 89 cents/lb the last time I bought them). Now they just get a good quality kibble, with occasional doggie stew or some yummy chicken backs or necks. My co-manager on Beagle Bay got me interested in BARF feeding, she had a German Shepherd who was allergic to every dog food she tried her on - but she did very well on a raw diet. My dogs did well on it.
I've fed my dogs raw for about 10 years, and when I adopted Daisy in July 2007, (my first beagle), she was immediately switched. The first bowl of chicken necks was met with some confusion, but she was over that by the next meal.
I found a few poultry wholesalers that sell me necks in 40# cases. Depending on which one I buy from, I pay .25 - .40 per pound. I divide the case into gallon zip locks, which hold about 5# each. They last in the fridge for a week without spoiling. I wait until hamburger goes on sale and stock up to use for the meat/veggie mix.
Don't be afraid to call the poultry wholesalers in your area and inquire about buying necks/backs. Some will definitely sell to individuals. There are also some towns/cities that have raw feeding co-ops, where the raw feeders get together so they can buy in bulk from suppliers.
The background on why I switched to raw: At the time, my Shepherd/Collie mix, Maggie, had allergies, and was on steroid pills 9 months out of the year
I stumbled across the BARF diet on the net, researched it, bought some books, and switched. Maggie's allergies went away within a month. As a bonus, my other dog Taco, a Terrier/Chihuahua mix, was cured of her sensitive stomach and room clearing gas. Taco passed away last year at 14 1/2, healthy as heck until her last few months when she was diagnosed with insulinoma.
Maggie will be 15 in April, and aside from arthritis and some probable slight dementia, she is remarkably healthy. My vet won't come out and promote a raw diet, but is pretty impressed with every blood panel I have had done on my dogs, and when I first started going there, asked me quite a few questions about what I feed.
To ramble some more -- I am not a 'strict' raw feeder, meaning I do not obsess over getting everything perfect all of the time. As long as their overall diet is balanced over the course of the week/month, they do just fine. I also do not shun commercial dog treats, since they only make up a small portion of their diet. Just recently I have switched to using generic brand Cheerios as dog treats, a great tip I got from this forum
If anyone out there is interested, I can recommend some books about raw feeding.
For the time being I buy premade frozen raw food and supplement with fish oils, kelp, and the occasional homecooked meal. That way he gets a variety of meats (chicken, beef, bison, turkey, organs), bones, fruits and veggies. I just started him on the chicken spines and he was REALLY confused as to what to do with it! He tried to bury it in the couch (!), played with it and finally buried it in the backyard. A few days later he dug it up and enjoyed it dirty and ripe. Yuck.
It really is quite reasonable in price to do it this way. About $30 a month. We don't have the freezer space for me to make and store all kinds of things and honestly I don't have the time either.
I still give store bought treats. He also gets baby carrots and cheese as treats as well.
I didn't even approach my vet before switching him. He was suffering so badly from allergies this past summer and all they wanted to do was dope him up.
I am beginning the LONG process (just this week) of switching the cats over as well. I think it will be a bit more difficult b/c they are kibble addicts!
Ben eats about 1/2 to 3/4 lbs a day. I buy the food in 5lb blocks, defrost it slightly, cut it into 1/2lb blocks, rewrap and refreeze. I just pull out about 4-5 days worth at a time and store in the fridge.
The cats are going to be hard to break. Especially my male cat. He loves his kibble and he is HUGE.