More With Less With Pets

IMG_20180113_140400290Dog food is not much of a thing in Addis. Neither are dogs as pets, come to think of it. Dogs are for protection, and other than that, they compete with hyenas for scraps and leftover hides and hooves after a festival, and eek out an uneasy existence on the streets between the crowds and the traffic.

I already wrote about the unique relationship that many Ethiopian cities have with hyenas, who come in after dark to clean the city of animal bones and rubbish. I also wrote about how we saved a puppy from being snack food for one of the hyenas–she’s been with us for almost two years. And of course I documented the experience of bringing our big dog here from Kenya.

But now that we’ve got these dogs, how do we feed them? MCC prides itself in doing things cheaply and creatively. Buying well-balanced, healthy dog food of the variety that you probably feed your dog in the US, Canada, Europe or Kenya is prohibitively expensive or nonexistent in Ethiopia. The non-imported dry kibble available is also hugely expensive and is made of bone meal, fish meal, and cornmeal, and smells like a fish market on a warm day.

IMG_20180113_081934683So I’ve learned to make my own More With Less dog food, from whatever I have handy. This I found in our freezer a few weeks after we killed a sheep in the back yard for our staff Christmas party. It’s the lungs, trachea, and testicles of the poor ram we roasted for Genna.


Dog Food Recipe:

Find meat scraps from a trusted source, about 2 kg. I really try to use meat that is not in competition with people food. You might find that icky (I do, too) but it seems unethical to use edible meat for dogs while we work on food security projects in Ethiopia.

My sources include: sheep parts (as pictured); expired hamburger from a local grocery store, “dog meat” from butchers (fatty scraps, and misc. animal parts that humans don’t generally consume); chicken parts from butchering day (esophagus, trachea, crop, lymph system, lungs, also excess fat, gizzards, skin or organs that we don’t reserve for other purposes).  A note on chicken feet. I hear they make really good stock, rich in glucosamin. While I’m sure that’s true, I haven’t been able to make myself use stock from chicken feet. Instead, I scald them and peel them, which is fun for the kids who help on butchering day–even the nail covers pop off, like a reptile shedding its skin. They’re clean, and I freeze them for dog treats.

Boil the meat, and if it is large pieces, cool and cut into small cubes. (Don’t ask me about cutting up sheep cojones. I won’t tell you.) Boil again with 2-3 carrots, 1-2 potatoes (sweet potatoes if possible), shredded kale, chopped green beans, a few eggs with shells. Add cracked oats, barley, wheat, corn, or rice. In Ethiopia, cracked grains are called kinche, and are an economical way to add carbohydrates to the mix. Some dogs have grain allergies, so watch your dog for excessive paw licking and dry, itchy skin. Experiment with the grains until you find a mix that works for your dog. If your dog food mix is lean, add some oil. Cover and cook until water is absorbed. Feed fresh or freeze.

Remember that dogs are carnivores, and don’t naturally eat a lot of grains. Your mix should be more meat than carbs.  Protein and fat from meat, eggs, and oil; vitamins and minerals from veggies; carbs from grains and rice. Raw bones and chicken feet to chew on as a treat.



One thought on “More With Less With Pets

  1. Your story of making dogfood in Ethiopia reminded me of the time my grandmother almost threw up. She was never able to eat spaghetti again….

    Before Gramdma Bramley was married, back when she was a single school marm in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, a student invited her to family dinner. They were serving spaghetti which, up until that point, had been one of her favorite meals.

    Spaghetti is one of those versatile dishes for which many people have a secret ingredient. My mom used to put sugar in hers to cut the acid of the tomatoes. A woman I knew in Maryland put instant coffee in hers to give it a heartier flavor. But when Grandma uncovered the chicken foot on her plate, that was it! No more spaghetti!

    In other words, dogs aren’t the only critters who eat chicken feet! Thanks for the great story and the good memory.


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