I read about canning raw food several years ago when I first started making homemade raw from the information on the CatInfo.org website. I thought it was an interesting idea back then but never really thought that I would ever can raw pet food.
I had read lots of articles about the poor quality ingredients in many commercial pet foods so, when I had to go buy something at the store, I agonized over what to get. Christy gets severe diarrhea on commercial canned food and I didn’t want to put that added stress on her.
If I had my own canned food on hand, it would have been easy to pop in the cats’ go boxes. It would have been easy to store and feed from the jar. It would’t need heating – yes, I slightly warm my cats’ raw food in the microwave because it is too cold out of the fridge. Cats like their food at mouse body temperature.
Even after the evacuation I didn’t try canning right away. It wasn’t until I decided to attend BlogPaws and take Christy with me that I knew I needed to learn more about how to can raw pet food.
Last week, I told you about some of the benefits of Canning Raw Food. Here are a few more reasons to can raw pet food.
Reasons You Might Want to Can Raw Pet Food
- You aren’t comfortable feeding raw but want to know exactly what is in your pet’s food
- To use to transition your pets to raw
- Your friend or pet sitter is not comfortable feeding raw while you are away
- It’s not practical to take raw food while you are traveling
- To include in your disaster evacuation go boxes
- To entice a raw-fed sick cat to eat (cooked food has more aroma than raw)
- It is fit for human consumption
The idea of canning pet food might be a little misleading. What I learned while researching the process of canning pet food is that you can only the meat without bone or supplements. That’s why it is fit for human consumption. You follow the same procedure you would if canning meat for human use.
I only found one post that discussed canning food for dogs. Those instructions said to cook the meat and vegetables first but I would not can my dog food that way. I would raw pack the meat and vegetables just like I did for my cat food. The temperature reached during pressure canning cooks it so pre-cooking is an unnecessary step.
Steps to Can Raw Pet Food
Preserving food, by whatever method, is serious business. It is important to follow instructions carefully to avoid serious illness. Meat is a low acid food and MUST be processed in a pressure canner, not a boiling water or atmospheric steam canner.
Get Your Supplies Together
- Pressure canner
- Lids and rings
- Lid lifter
- Canning funnel
- Jar lifter
- De-bubbler/headspace measurer
- Dish towels
- Large spoons
Prepare Your Jars and Lids
Wash your jars, lids and rings in hot soapy water and rinse well. Check your jars for any imperfections. If you are using the raw-pack method, your jars do not need to be pre-heated. Heating is to prevent breaking when hot food is added. Prepare your lids and rings according to package directions – some need to be pre-heated, some don’t.
Prepare Your Meat
Since you are going to “cook” the meat, you don’t have to worry about bacteria. You can make things really easy for yourself and buy ground meat. I still purchased my meat in bulk and ground it at home since it is more economical that way. I had a beef roast and a pork loin so I ground and canned both. You can also just cut the meat into chunks.
If you see a recipe for canning meat that says to add salt, don’t! The salt is for flavoring meat for humans, not preserving and we don’t want it in the pet food.
If you are making dog food and adding fruit/vegetables, stir them into the raw meat.
Pack your meat into your jars as tightly as possible and try to remove any air pockets. Leave one inch of head space. Do NOT add any liquid. The meat will make it’s own delicious juice.
Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp cloth to be sure it is perfectly clean. Put on the lids and screw the bands on finger tight.
Pressure Canning Your Meat
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for more specifics on preparing the canner itself.
- Put 2 to 3 inches of hot water in your canner.
- Place the filled jars on the rack in the canner using the jar lifter.
- Fasten your canner lid securely, leaving the weight off the vent.
- Turn your heat to high, heating until the water boils and steams. Always vent for a full 10 minutes.
- Place the weight on the vent.
- Start timing the process when the pressure gauge indicates that the recommended pressure has been reached or, for canners with no gauge, the weight begins to wiggle. The pressure will depend on your altitude and you’ll find this information in the instructions with your canner.
- Regulate the heat to maintain the pressure at or slightly above the recommendation.
- Processing time for the meat is 75 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts. I recommend pints for cats because you will need to use it within about 3 days once it is opened. I even used half pints since I was making this for just one cat. If you do use half pints, you still need to process for the full 75 minutes.
- When the timed process is complete, turn off the heat and let the canner cool down naturally. This can take up to 45 minutes.
- When the canner is completely depressurized, remove the weight and wait another 10 minutes.
- Unfasten the lid and open it away from you.
- Remove the jars from the canner by lifting them straight up (do not tilt) with the jar lifter and placing them on a rack or folded towel away from drafts. Do not leave them in the hot water to cool. They will fail to seal.
- Do not adjust the rings. Do not try to dump or wipe any water from the lids.
- Leave the bands on the jars until they have cooled completely – up to 24 hours.
- Once completely cool, remove the bands.
- Check each jar to be sure it is sealed by pressing the middle of the lid with your finger. If it springs back, it didn’t seal. Refrigerate any jars that haven’t sealed properly and use within 3 days.
- Wipe the jars with a damp cloth. Some oil may have seeped out during processing. You can replace the cleaned bands or leave them off.
- Label and date your jars. Store them in a cool, dark, dry place for up to one year.
While the meat was processing it smelled so good! As I mentioned above, I did both pork and beef. I filled the jars the same and although the pork looked like it had more fat, it was actually the beef that had more.
Since you can only the meat, you add your supplements when you serve your meat, or meat and vegetables in the case of dog food. This created a bit of a challenge for me. You can buy supplements pre-mixed but I already had my supplements that I use when I make raw so I made my own. I mixed up a batch of supplements (minus the fish oil) that I would use for 3 pounds of meat then calculated how much I would add to one half pint jar that is about 7 ounces of meat and juice.
When I opened the jar, I poured the contents into a bowl, stirred in the supplements and put the unused portion of the meat back in the jar.
All three of my cats love this cooked meat. Looks like I’ll be making another batch soon.
Is pressure canning a new idea for you or do you already use a pressure canner to preserve food for your family? Have you canned or thought about trying to can raw pet food?
Pin It for Later!