Pork is one of our favorite meats for dogs/cats and there is no reason to avoid feeding it (unless you have your own ethical or personal reservations about feeding/eating pork, which we respect).
FIRST: FREEZE THREE WEEKS FOR SAFETY (OR BUY PREVIOUSLY FROZEN PORK)
Any USDA inspected/approved raw pork or pork bones that have been frozen for three weeks at a suitably low temperature will be safe for your dogs (and cats) to eat. We rely on pork necks, ears, snouts, trotters/feet, tails, pork leg meat, ground pork, pork trim, pork jowls, and various excellent pork offal cuts (heart, liver, tongue, kidney) as major players in our animal’s diets and have done so for decades without any issues. Two of my own Great Danes enjoyed a diet of 30% raw pork for their entire lifetime, it was a wonderful food for them – they lived to be 12 years of age and we had no pork related problems at all.
Raw pork (fit for human consumption/USDA inspected) can be safe to feed, but only after it has been frozen for at least three weeks in your home freezer or purchased properly pre-frozen at adequate time/temperature.
Below please find a run-down of the various pork products that we currently have in stock at SFRAW, and what to expect when considering handling and feeding these foods:
- MSF Pork Patty Mix (80/20 muscle meat + liver, kidney, spleen) usually comes frozen — occasionally, it arrives fresh, and we always put the pork in the freezer right away. We put a sticker on the bags that explains that it requires 3-weeks of freezing by the purchaser for this item.
- Plain ground pork we almost always get fresh and because many members buy this to feed themselves/cooked and other members use it to prepared their cooked meals for their animals, this and other fresh pork products such as heart, liver, kidney, spleen, are examples of pork that we will sell fresh “out the door”. The pork necks, feet, ears, snouts, tails, all come to us deep frozen. The leg meat, ground, and offal often arrive fresh and would require three weeks of freezing at home before feeding raw safely.
- SFRAW Pork Grinds & Formulas (ARE TOTALLY AWESOME!) are held/stored in our -20 degree walk-in commercial freezer if any ingredient used has not been previously frozen. Although this is a product we make that be fed raw or cooked, we only release our pork grind or formula for sale once safe to feed raw.
CONSIDERING THE POSSIBLE RISKS OF FEEDING FRESH, RAW PORK
Fresh, raw USDA inspected pork carries the low, but possible risk, for certain parasites including trichinella larva, Toxoplasma gondii, and a swine disease known as Aujeszky’s Disease (or “pseudorabies”). The risk for these parasites is low with domestically-raised “fit for human consumption” retail-ready, USDA licensed and inspected meats (the only meats SFRAW uses and sells). The incredibly rare possibility may still exist though, so we continue to recommend properly freezing prior to feeding these meats raw to your animals.
While Aujeszky’s Disease has been eliminated from all commercially raised pork in the united states since 2009, this continues to circulate in wild pig populations. There is a concern that pasture-raised pork may be at higher risk for infection due to their free, outdoor lifestyle. It is an incurable and fatal disease for dogs and cats – so it is not worth risking the feeding of FRESH raw pork (just one of several possible routes of exposure to infection); best to freeze raw pork before offering it to your dog/cat! When a pet has become infected, the outcome is fatal within 48 hours after onset of the clinical signs. Clinical symptoms may include acute encephalitis, with excitation and hypersalivation; anorexia, intense pruritus (which leads to lesions due to scratching and self-mutilation). The disease progresses to symptoms that mimic rabies, with frothing at the mouth, loss of muscular control and erratic behavior.
Trichinosis can be a significant disease in people, but presents far less of a problem in dogs/cats. This parasite often goes undiagnosed in cats and dogs since they frequently do not present with clinical symptoms. In rare instances, severe symptoms may develop. Signs to watch for include: weakness, lethargy, inflamed or painful muscles, fever, diarrhea (which may or may not contain blood), hypersalivation (excessive drooling) disorientation, and behavioral changes.
Thankfully, these parasitic organisms are all highly susceptible to freezing and cooking – so you can certainly feed raw (previously/properly frozen) or cooked pork to your dogs and cats without any concern.
Freezing pork at an appropriate temperature, for an appropriate time, is effective to prevent disease from swine carrier parasites:
5°F (-15°C) for 20 days
-9°F (-23°C) for 10 days, or
-20°F (-30°C) for 6 days.
PORK: A WONDERFUL CHOICE FOR RAW FEEDERS
At SFRAW, we only source exclusively truly pasture-raised/forage grazed heritage breed pork. Pasture-raised animals are never given unnecessary antibiotics or growth stimulators.
WHY PASTURE-RAISED/FORAGE GRAZED PORK?
Pasture-raised/forage grazed pork is not only better/healthier and more ethical/humane for the pigs while alive, but when raised according to this method, pigs on pasture can actually benefit, rather than harm, the environment/land.
Overall, pasture-raised farming produces a safer and far more nutritious (and better tasting!) pork. The heritage breeds are selected for their antique robustness, so they are healthier animals that are better suited for being raised under these conditions – genetically, they are healthier and may provide nutritional benefits due to their unique body composition, as well.
Pork has a high nutritional value. It is a good source of the following minerals: magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, selenium, and zinc. Concerning vitamins, pork is particularly high in thiamine (vitamin B1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2); a good source of vitamin B6, niacin (vit B3), vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. The fat of pork is an excellent source of the important fat-soluble vitamin D, a vitamin that is hard to get from food sources. It is especially rich in the fat from pigs raised outdoors on pasture in sunshine.
The amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in pork fat varies according to the diet of the pigs. If their diet is full of green plants and/or nuts, which are foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, then their fat will reflect this. This is why fats from forage grazed/pasture-raised pigs is higher in omega 3 fatty acids, than fat from pigs fed a more conventional diet consisting mostly of grains.
Pigs raised on pasture have 300% more vitamin E and 74% more selenium (a vital antioxidant) in their milk than pigs raised in confinement. This bounty of nutrients promotes healthier litters, shorter farrowing times, and good milk let down.
The meat from pastured pigs raised outdoors also have more Vitamin D stored in the fat; and the fat is health-promoting and less a risk for carrying a toxic load than fat from the animals raised in confinement conditions or fed commercial GMOs/chemical laden feed-stuffs.
Because pigs are monogastric animals (single stomach), they have the ability to convert vegetable and plant 18 carbon fatty acids (ALA) to the 20 and 22 carbon fatty acids (EPA and DHA) which reduce inflammation, reduce cardiovascular disease and promote good health for us all when we eat pork. Free ranging pork contains higher concentrations of these beneficial fatty acids than are found in their feed lot produced counterparts.
TCM ENERGETIC PROPERTY OF PORK: GENTLY COOLING & MOISTENING
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, pork is consdiered a “neutral to cooling” or gently cooling protien. It can be used to help balance your dog’s Chi-energy state adressing various common imbalances. Pork moistens and nourishes organs, tonifies kidney chi, tonifies blood to moisten dryness, and resolve swellings.
Consider adding pork in the diet when your pet is experiencing a dry cough, diabetes, constipation, kidney deficiency, puffiness, body fluid depletion caused by blood-dryness, emaciation, itching, dry skin and redness in the ears/feet/skin.
To learn more about how great pork is for addressing health concerns according to TCM Food Therapy, please take a moment to read our favorite report on the topic, FOODS THAT HEAL TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE, PORK: MOISTENING YOUR INTERNAL DESERT by Paul O’Brien
ON FEEDING: OUR PRACTICAL TIPS & SERVING SUGGESTIONS
I LOVE pork for my dogs and this protein has been one of my mainstays for years. My Great Danes and seniors have all done really well on it – it’s one of the main proteins for our family, and they prefer it over other proteins. They LOVE pork. I freeze first for three weeks before feeding, buy previously frozen OR,if you have the ability to flash freeze (we do not here) or store at -20 to -80 degrees (we keep our freezer at SFRAW at -20 F for this reason & for the wild salmon), the meat can also be safe to feed raw after just a few days under those conditions. Fresh pork will need to be frozen for adequate time/temp to be 100% safe to feed raw.
PANCREATITIS RISK? For dogs that are sensitive to fattier meats, however, I recommend balancing the pork meals with meals prepared with lean meat meals (turkey, beef, fish, rabbit). Because the possibly inflammatory effect on a fat sensitive pancreas will be cumulative, I recommend feeding pork meals that are preceded and proceeded by low fat/lean meat meals.
So, this means feeding a lean meal day one, pork day two, lean meal day three…etc. Alternatively, just feed a pork once a week for variety and the benefits it provides, or feed pork in combination or alternating with rabbit or whitefish which are both lean, “cooling” options.
I have observed over the years with members’ dogs that while 1-2 days of back to back pork meals may be ok/not cause inflammation, if higher in fat meals are served consecutively for 4-5 days in a row, you may then see a problem with GI issues: loose stool, gassy, vomiting – or, in the worse scenario, even pancreatitis. This is, however, only true for those dogs with fat digestion issues or a sensitivity to fatty foods or those that are prone to pancreatitis genetically (miniature schnauzer, miniature poodle, and cocker spaniel).
My own dogs, and most working dogs, can eat 4-5 days of pork without issue — but the truth is, I mix things up so often with variety during the week’s menu that this is pretty rare that I’d feed a single protein so many days in a row.
If you are feeding diet exclusively of pork, duck and lamb — you may get into trouble with focus on these three higher fat choices, but for some dogs, this would be just right. Every dog really is unique in their tolerance to fat and specific proteins, so you will have to see how they do.
Usually large working breeds thrive on/easily tolerate the higher fat meats, so long as they are maintaining a lean muscle mass/ideal to lean body composition and also have the opportunity, through an active lifestyle, to work/burn it off daily. My own Great Danes have done best with a higher fat menu — I have found that they require an average of 30-40% fat in the diet to maintain their lean, fit, healthy body composition, GI health/stability, and beautiful coat condition.
We think pork is a wonderful choice! Just be sure you adequately pre-freeze (or cook) this meat prior to feeding. Properly freezing is easy to do, and worth the great benefits of this cooling, novel, nutritious, and tasty protein that we source from excellent pastured, heritage local sources. Pork is a great addition to the diet when handled properly.