• Hahnbee Choi

Adding More To The Bowl: Ratio Diets

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

When first entering the world of raw, you have more than likely have seen many graphs and articles telling you the easiest way to feed raw is the 80/10/10 ratio diet. And while this is a great start, it's just not enough...

Feeding only muscle meat, organs, and bones may seem like it would cover all the nutritional basis but unfortunately, this is not the case!

Do The Best You Can

Before you read any further! I just want you to keep in mind: do the best you can!

The purpose of me writing this article is not to teach you how to balance your own meals to any guidelines but to give you power within the bowl. By continually bringing awareness that ratio diets are not complete and balanced, it allows passionate animal owners like you to have a launchpad to push off into a research journey.

I also want to mention that food is food! It is not something that needs to be utterly complicated and frustrating to deal with. Not every meal needs to meet the exact NRC or FEDIAF guidelines. Just breathe and acknowledge all the amazingness you have accomplished and don't be so hard on yourself! I am not feeding raw the same way I was a year ago and you probably aren't too! I hope to continually evolve, change, and learn from my experiences and mistakes.

Raw feeding does take energy, commitment, and work but I know you can do it! And it is so worth seeing the improvements of your dog truly coming alive when on their proper ancestral nourishment!

What Are Ratio Diets?

Ratio diets refer to a guideline on how to create a DIY raw meal for your dog. The most common ratio is called 80/10/10 where the meal consists of only 80% muscle meal, 10% edible bone, and 10% organs (5% liver and 5% other secreting organ).

This method of feeding originated from trying to replicate whole prey in the wild. Where 80/10/10 usually falls short is that many times it does not include more of the obscure body parts such as eyeballs, brain, and fur/feathers.

I found that this is the main way DIY raw is introduced to beginners. This is what I personally followed when I started creating DIY raw meals and was unaware that it was not "complete and balanced". While this is a great foundation for a meal, it is unfortunately not enough to create a "complete and balanced" meal to truly nourish our animals.

The Problem..

Ratio diets are guidelines NOT a hard set rule!

When I personally started feeding raw, I followed the 80/10/10 diet very strictly. But as I learned more I saw holes in the diet immediately...

The big problem is with the organs. Giving 5% of any liver and 5% of any other organ is just too vague. It's a great starting point but if the point of the diet is to replicate the animal then the dog should get the appropriate variety of organs since animals have more than just 2 organs. Furthermore, saying 5% of any liver is flawed! Different livers provide different amounts of nutrients. For example, ruminant livers such as beef, lamb, and venison are much higher in copper than poultry livers whereas pork has no copper bioavailability. Feeding ruminant livers at 5% over time will have very high copper levels. Personally, I feed only 2-3% ruminant livers versus the normal 5% with poultry or pork livers. Feeding a lower amount of ruminant liver will provide the dog with proper amounts of vitamin A while still keeping copper at a safe level.

Now for the other secreting organ... the ratio diet has the "other secreting organ" capped at 5%. But I personally feed more than this! Feeding less liver (as mentioned above) means that you can fill that space with more organs. I usually feed a higher organ percentage than most diets since they are mother nature's multivitamin and nutritionally enrich the diet so much. Another thing to consider is the variety of organs. Most raw feeders will stick with only liver and kidney. Sometimes this is due to sourcing and other times due to familiarity. But if you're trying to recreate the animal through the food... it's important to add more than just 2 organs! For instance, kidneys and eyeballs have two very different nutrition profiles and will not provide the body with the same things. The more variety and weird stuff you can get (like eyeballs, ovaries, testicles, etc.) the better!

The ratio diet states that the diet only needs to be comprised of 10% edible bone. And this is the part that drives. me. crazy. For one, it takes the personalization of the diet away from the dog. Some dogs need more bone and some dogs need less. e.g Stormy does better when her bone level is around 12% where others might even do better at 15%. The point is that bone does not need to be exactly 10%... it's actually quite a large range varying anywhere from 9-15%! It can also vary depending on the type of protein (turkey, guinea, beef, etc.) and cut of bone too (heads, feet, wings, ribs, etc).

Another problem when it comes to the bone is calculating exactly how much bone is in a neck or wing. I remember my first prep and I was so frustrated at trying to calculate exactly how much wing she needed each day to be perfectly balanced. I find this is the part that frustrates many new raw feeders and can discourage them from going on... In reality, there's no need to know that there is 2.45 oz of bone in the duck neck. Sure, it's nice to be accurate but the general guesses on the bone estimate are usually enough to go off of!

Ever get super frustrated about making sure each meal is "complete and balanced"? Yeah... that was me.

A common misconception of the ratio diets is that every meal must follow the rule exactly otherwise your dog will explode (they won't)... Some days I feed a larger bone so I balance over time and will retract bone from her diet for the next few days. And other days she'll get a bigger portion of organs and some meals she'll get no organs!

🔑Balancing over time is key! Some meals you'll go over and some will be under. Just remember that you can balance it all out in the end!

Muscle meats present another problem area in the ratio diet outline. I find this just way to open for the newbie to comprehend, which is a lot to ask for in the beginning. They're so many cuts meats such as heart, lungs, tendons, ears, etc. that it is hard to know what is actually know what is a muscle meat. This usually leads to the unexperienced raw feeder just feeding predominantly ground meats which are definitely not sufficient enough. Do not limit yourself on 1-2 types of muscle meats! Variety is one of the most important components of a successful raw diet. Different types of animals and cuts will provide different nutrients! For example, beef heart is a lot more nutrient-dense than just ground beef. A good guideline to follow is to roughly feed 40-45% of the muscle meat are muscular organ meats (non-secreting) such as heart, lungs, tendons, gizzards, tongue, tripe, trachea, pizzle, and uterus. As for the rest, it can be filled using muscle meats such as loin, shoulders, breasts, thighs, etc.

The Problem With Pre-Made Raw

Another problematic section of the 80/10/10 mindset it assuming that pre-made grinds with only muscle meat, organ, and bone are "complete and balanced"!

Most pre-made grinds will only use liver and kidney as the "10% organ" and I believe that's just not enough variety for the dog! The more variety in all aspects of nutrition the more nutrient diversity there is and the more essential nutrients are covered!

If a pre-made grind just lists muscle meat, organ, and bones as their ingredient list it will not be "complete and balanced". They are what I like to call Starter Grinds since they start you off on the right track but will need additional whole food supplementation to meet nutrient requirements.

There are pre-made raw companies that do make "complete and balanced" foods where no additional supplements are needed (such as Answer's Pet Food and Bones & Co) but there are more and more 80/10/10 grinds popping up that are leaving owners to conclude if it's ready to feed or not.

Finally, the moment you've been waiting for... essential nutrients! Even if you would add all the variety and quality to the bowl, the ratio diet would still fall short in these main essential nutrients. But let's go over those down below.

Essential Nutrient Deficiencies

If a dog was only fed 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, and 10% organs with no extras then the animal would most likely be deficient in:

  • Zinc

  • Magnesium

  • Manganese

  • Iodine

  • Vitamin E

  • Vitamin D

  • Omega-3s

That's a lot of nutrients that are lacking in a simple 80/10/10 diet! Long term deficiencies of these nutrients can cause side effects such as decreased appetite, growth, lethargy, muscle weakness, and more. Deficiency side effects do generally take a long prolonged restrain from many vitamins & minerals. It may seem scary that all these vitamins and minerals are absent in the ratio diets but luckily there are so many whole food sources to supply these vital nutrients to your dog!

📢Excess of certain nutrients can have the same negative effects as a deficiency so blindly giving a food high in a certain vitamin or mineral is not how to safely "balance" ratio diets.

Nutrients & Their Whole Food Sources


Why is it important?

Zinc is a known activator for over 100 enzymes in the body, immune response, skin and wound healing.

Amount & Sources

The National Research Council (NRC) suggests that a healthy adult dog should receive 15mg of zinc per 1000kcal.

When it comes to zinc, unfortunately, the food sources are quite limited. The 2 highest whole food sources of zinc are:

  • Canned Oysters - 25 mg per 1oz (28g)

  • Wheatgrass - 496 mg per 1oz (28g)


Why is it important?

Magnesium is the 3rd largest constituent of bone, intramuscular transmissions, a component for many enzymes, carbohydrate, and lipid metabolism.

Amount & Sources

The NRC suggests that the recommended allowance (RA) for magnesium is 150mg and the minimum is 45mg per 1000Kcal.

The highest concentration of magnesium is found in nuts & seeds but can also be found in oily fish and leafy greens.


Why is it important?

Manganese is a component and activator for enzymes, lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, cell membrane integrity, reproduction, bone, and joint health & development.

Amount & Sources

The NRC suggests that the RA for manganese is 1.2mg per 1000Kcal for a healthy adult dog.

The foods highest in manganese are seeds & nuts, some leafy greens, and blue-lipped mussels.

  • Wheatgrass - 1120mg per 1oz (28g)

  • Blue Lipped Mussels - 1.0mg per 1oz (28g)

  • Hemp Seeds - 2.16mg per 1oz (28g)

  • Pumpkin Seeds - 1.3mg per 1oz (28g)

  • Green Tripe - 0.37mg per 1oz (28g)


Why is it important?

Iodine is vital for the body to produce thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones control metabolism, growth, and development.

📢Giving too much or too little iodine can have negative effects on the animal. When choosing an iodine supplement to feed it is vital to find one with an analysis of how much iodine is in the product. The small amounts of iodine detected in certain foods are usually not enough to meet NRC recommended amounts.

Amount & Sources

The NRC suggests that the RA for iodine is 220mcg per 1000Kcal for a healthy adult dog.

Foods high in iodine are unfortunately very limited. The main source being kelp and other seaweed and algae.

Vitamin E

Why is it important?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions as an antioxidant in the body against free radicals, damaged cells that steals an electron from healthy cells. It is also important for normal blood clotting, immune system function, and neurological function.

Amount & Sources

The RA for vitamin E is 7.5 mg per 1000Kcal for healthy adults & puppies.

Vitamin E, aka alpha-tocopherol, is a part of a group of eight fat-soluble compounds – four tocotrienols and four tocopherols, each identified with the prefixes alpha, beta, delta, and gamma.

📢 When purchasing a natural vitamin E supplement, you want to ensure it says “d-alpha tocopherol” not “dl-alpha-tocopherol”. The prefix “d-alpha” signifies the product is derived from a natural source while “dL-alpha” means it was extracted from a synthetic source

Foods richest in Vitamin E include seeds & nuts, and wheatgrass. The only con of using nuts and seeds is that it gets very calorie-dense very fast. Another great option is using a natural vitamin E supplement such as this one from NOW Foods.

  • Almonds - 7.27mg per 1oz (28g)

  • Sunflower Seeds - 7.21mg per 1oz (28g)

  • Wheatgrass - 2560mg per 1oz (28g)

Vitamin D

Why is it important?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that aids in regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body which is needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.

Did you know: 1 in 3 dogs are diagnosed with cancer?! That's a lot of dogs... thankfully we have the fresh feeding revolution to help combat these numbers!

Amount & Sources

The RA for vitamin D is 3.4mcg per 1000Kcal for adult dogs and puppies.

There are two types of vitamin D: Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) & Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol)

Vitamin D3 is derived from animals and is, therefore, more bioavailable to canines. Whereas, D2 is found in plants so is less effective in dogs.

The highest sources of vitamin D are small oily fish as well as pasture-raised and finished animals.


Omega-3s are not an essential vitamin & mineral but rather an essential fatty acid. The 3 main omega-3s being ALA, EPA, and DHA.

  • Alpha-Linoleic Acid (ALA): Is a short-chain derived from plant-based sourced. ALA's conversion to EPA & DHA in the canine's body is questionable.

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): Long-chain derived from animal-based foods that is very bio-available.

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): Very similar to EPA with a slightly different shape and function, also very bio-available.

Why is it important?

Omega-3s are vital for brain health, growth and development, eye health, improve heart health, reduces inflammation (which is key to prevent metabolic diseases), and many more bodily functions.

Amount & Sources

  • The RA for all the types of omega-3s per 1000Kcal are: ALA: 0.11g for adult dogs

  • EPA/DHA: 0.11-2.8g for adult dogs

Foods richest in omega-3s consist of mainly shellfish, algae, and pasture-raised and finished animals.

  • Atlantic Mackeral - EPA:0.25g per 1oz (28g); DHA: 0.4g per 1oz (28g)

  • Wild Salmon - EPA: 0.05g per 1oz (28g); DHA: 0.09g per 1oz (28g)

  • Canned Sardines - EPA: 0.13 g per 1oz (28g); DHA: 0.14g per 1oz (28g)

  • Pastured -Raised Chicken Egg - EPA: 0.058 DHA per 1 egg (50g)

This list is the most common area that a ratio diet will be deficient in but depending on what you feed it could be more/less. Just remember that this diet is a guideline and not a rule! Even NRC guidelines are still just guidelines. Overall, the ratio diets are not ideal but they will not make your dog explode. But it is important to recognize where the 80/10/10 diet falls short and meets the needs of the dog's nutrients. We still know so little about nutrition and so much to learn. So, it's okay to make mistakes but it's vital that we learn from them. I have made a plethora of mistakes that I will proudly admit because we're human... we're flawed!

One last important reminder...Every dog is a unique individual. This means that what works for one may not work for another! Try to avoid adding a new food or supplement just because someone else does. Everything in their bowl should have a purpose and be personalized to the dog. That's what makes a fresh food diet so awesome!

As always thank you so much for stopping by and Always Keep Exploring!

Here are the Raw Squad Chronicles where Erin from Raw Pets Rule and I discussed ratio diets & balance even more! ⬇️⬇️⬇️

📢Disclaimer: Any information shared is to be used at your own discretion. I am sharing what I personally have learned through my own independent research as well as formal education. I am not a licensed veterinarian, and any information I share is not intended to replace the advice of a holistic or integrative veterinarian.

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