Disclaimer: I am not a vet, nor am I claiming to be an expert in dog nutrition. I am just sharing the info I have found in my research, and what I feed my pets.
I found dog food to be the most challenging aspect of owning a dog. There are so many dog food brands out there, at so many different price points. I don't think that expensive means good quality. I think there is good and bad at all price points.
The ScaleThe most useful resource I found when researching dog food was a scale by which dog food can be rated according to ingredients. Here is how it works:
Start with a grade of 100:
1) For every listing of "by-product", subtract 10 points
2) For every non-specific animal source ("meat" or "poultry", meat meal or fat) reference, subtract 10 points
3) If the food contains BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin, subtract 10 points
4) For every grain "mill run" or non-specific grain source, subtract 5 points
5) If the same grain ingredient is used two or more times in the first five ingredients (i.e. "ground brown rice", "brewer's rice", "rice flour" are all the same grain), subtract 5 points
6) If the protein sources are not meat meal and there are less than two meats in the top three ingredients, subtract 3 points
7) If it contains any artificial colorants, subtract 3 points
8 ) If it contains ground corn or whole grain corn, subtract 3 points
9) If corn is listed in the top five ingredients, subtract 2 more points
10) If the food contains any animal fat otherthan fish oil, subtract points
11) If lamb is the only animal protein source (unless your dog is allergic to other protein sources), subtract 2 points
12) If it contains soy or soybeans, subtract 2 points
13) If it contains wheat (unless you know that your dog isn't allergic to wheat), subtract 2 points
14) If it contains beef (unless you know that your dog isn't allergic to beef), subtract 1 point
15) If it contains salt, subtract 1 point
1) If any of the meat sources are organic, add 5 points
2) If the food is endorsed by any major breed group or nutritionist, add 5 points
3) If the food is baked not extruded, add 5 points
4) If the food contains probiotics, add 3 points
5) If the food contains fruit, add 3 points
6) If the food contains vegetables (NOT corn or other grains), add 3 points
7) If the animal sources are hormone-free and antibiotic-free, add 2 points
8 ) If the food contains barley, add 2 points
9) If the food contains flax seed oil (not just the seeds), add 2 points
10) If the food contains oats or oatmeal, add 1 point
11) If the food contains sunflower oil, add 1 point
12) For every different specific animal protein source (other than the first one, count "chicken" and "chicken meal" as only one protein source, but "chicken" and "" as 2 different sources), add 1 point
13) If it contains glucosamine and chondroitin, add 1 point
14) If the vegetables have been tested for pesticides and are pesticide-free, add 1 point
94-100+ = A
86-93 = B
78-85 = C
70-77 = D
69 = F
For more info, check out The Dog Food Project.
Homemade Dog Food Recipe
I buy what is in season (tends to be cheaper), what looks good in the store, and what is priced well. I try to buy good quality ingredients. As such, the food does vary somewhat from batch to batch. The dogs do not react to this variation in any way. Feel free to vary ingredients depending on what is available in your area or what you have in your freezer/fridge/pantry. It helps to be friends with your butcher to get good meat variation at great prices
Meat (approx 40% total by volume)
Pork (including: shoulder, hocks, chops, leg)
Beef (roast, stew, shank, tendons)
Chicken (stewing hen from farmer's market)
Turkey (legs, wings)
Veal (breasts, chops)
Other as available (venison, moose, bear, lamb, etc)
Wash meat and add to boiling water, skin, bones and all. Cook until falling off the bone. Lately we have been puttng the pot into the oven and letting it cook slowly overnight. The beef tendons should be very soft and signifcantly smaller. Take meat out of pot and chop when cool enough to handle. Strain and save liquid. Discard all bones as cook bones are brittle, often break into shards, and can cut up your dog's digestive system. Add cut up meat back into pot.
Vegetables (approx 35% total by volume)
Chinese Long Green Beans
Any other veggies in season (avoid: onions, eggplant, peppers, tomato, citrus, corn, soy)
Fresh or Frozen Parsley
Process all veggies in food processor, until chopped. Most veggies can be shredded in your food processor. Shred cabbage first, add back to meat and simmer until well cooked (while you process the rest of the veggies). Add water as needed. Add some salt, though it should be very underseasoned by human standards. After cabbage is cooked, add the rest of the veggies and bring to a boil. Simmer with veggies for 5-10 minutes.
Grains (25% total)
Roasted Buckwheat (10-15% total)
Make sure there is enough water in your pot to completely cook the grains and that the pot is boiling. Add grains to pot and bring to a boil agin. Add garlic and parsley. Stir and cover and let sit in a 250oF oven for 30-40 minutes, or until grains are cooked.
Cool completely before giving to your dog.
We make huge batches of this food and freeze in portions. Defrost and serve.