Chunks or ground? What is better?
Raw diet enthusiasts argue passionately about this. In the end, when choosing to make cat food with meat chunks or ground meat, that what your cat will eat most readily is best.
Perhaps preparing the diet with meat chunks resembles the texture of prey more and gives cats a chance to use their teeth. Unfortunately, surprisingly many cats will not readily eat a diet made with meat chunks. Meat chunks do not always mix well with necessary supplements, and cats may pick the meat out of the meal and leave the sauce with supplements behind. Even when cats eat chunks readily and lap up all the necessary supplements as well, often the whole issue is regurgitated.
Ground meat makes preparing homemade cat food much easier; it creates a diet texture that is readily accepted by most cats; it mixes very well with necessary supplements and assures that cats eat a balanced diet; it is much more digestible and often the only choice for owners who care for cats with a tendency to regurgitate their food.
What about bacteria on ground meat? Undoubtedly, there is bacteria on raw meat and grinding meat will increase surface area for bacteria to live on. However, while ground meat must be bought fresh, made into cat food quickly and frozen promptly to prevent spoilage, not all bacteria on the meat are harmful to cats. I would even argue that many of the bacteria species on meat promotes a healthy gut flora in cats and are a probiotic for them. One of the few bacteria of true concern is Salmonella. Although many animals can be infected by Salmonella, it appears to be more prevalent in poultry. Personally I have not seen any ill-effects from using FRESH store-bought ground beef, ground lamb, or ground pork (Canada only) for use in making raw cat food.
Customers sometimes prefer to give their cats chunks of food. The question is if the premix is suitable for using meat in chunks rather than ground. Indeed, using meat chunks leaves the premix somewhat separated from the meat, and the cat may just pick out the chunks and leave the supplement.
The premix is hopefully palatable enough that this will not happen. Many cats will, in fact, lap it up as powder alone the mixture of premix with water. Cats being cats, it is impossible to predict if your cats will feel the same, of course. The ingredients of the premix in themselves are not something cats should have any objections to, like bone, gelatin, and krill. Even the minor (in quantity) supplements I add, like Vitamin A,D and E vitamins, and Taurine should not impact palatability negatively.
Much consideration went into the development of the palatability of the premix in addition to the development of its nutritional soundness and quality. The tasteless Xanthan Gum has been added particularly with clients in mind who desire to add the meat as chunks to the premix. Xanthan gum is a natural thickener and gives the otherwise liquid supplement mix a creamy texture which coats meat chunks and assures that the cats will consume a balanced portion and not only pick out the pieces of meat. When using meat chunks to prepare the cat food, it may be necessary to add less water than outlined in the preparation instructions. Less water will result in a firmer, more adhesive supplement mix to better stick to the meat chunks.
By pureeing the raw liver, instead of leaving it as chunks as well, and mixing it thoroughly with the premix and some water before adding the meat chunks, you can further disguise any taste of the premix your cats may object to. Your cats would perceive the meats chunks as being covered in a liver sauce. Prerequisite is, of course, that your cats like eating raw liver. Choosing one of my TCfeline PLUS raw cat food premix formulas (with dry liver already added) will have a similar effect.
When using ground meats from the store, my advise would be to look at the date the meat was ground, and not to get anything that was from more than one days ago. Grocery stores usually re-stock ground meats daily to assure freshness. Don’t get anything that is marked for clearance and is due to expire, was previously frozen, and don’t grab the frozen ground meat marked *pet food*.
Using already ground meats from the store makes your cat food preparation a five minute event, especially when using one of my cat food premixs with liver included. Although nobody want’s to say it, the reality is that we are all very busy. Making cat food from scratch with meats you still have to grind at home may just mean that you can not do it at all – despite good intentions.
My personal opinion on the bacterial count in ground meat is, that freshly ground, properly refrigerated store-bought ground meat will be no more risk to your cat than meat you grind or cut up yourself at home. Except for Salmonella, which your cat could also pick up from eating dry cat food, hunting prey, or stepping into bird droppings on the lawn, bacteria on properly handled fresh meats are of no health risk to your cat. In the case of Salmonella, cats are naturally very resistant to infection. If you are very concerned about that, however, your best option would be not to buy ground meats, but instead buy cuts of meat and wash them or dip them them into boiling water to remove bacteria on the outside.
What about the cat’s need to chew on something?
Using ground meat (store-bought or ground at home) instead of small chunks makes your cat food much more digestible for your cat. It is, in a way, pre-chewed. Although the texture of mushy food is not natural to *wild* cats, tell that to a domestic cat who keeps throwing up, because the meat chunks are just too hard to dissolve in her tummy.
For meat chunks to have any benefit for the cat in terms of chewing, they have to be the size of a small mouse, big enough for your cat to wants to cut them apart with her back teeth. At that size, your meat chunks would be too large to properly mix with my cat food premix. Meat chunks small enough to make a nice cat food stew are too small to be chewed by your cat – defeating the purpose of your effort.
Ground meat makes the homemade cat food much more digestible for your cat, and easier to prepare for you. As a “tooth brush” and for mental stimulation you give your cat a chicken neck, a large chunk of stewing beef, or a cooked strip of chicken breast twice a week in addition to her homemade food.