I think it’s pretty safe to say that chicken is a staple food for many if not most raw feeders. It’s inexpensive, it’s easy to source, and the bones are edible for a wide range of pets. Some people part out whole chickens or feed them whole, others have favored parts for one reason or another. One of these favored parts is the “back”. What is a chicken back, anyway, and how suitable is it as a food item as part of a raw diet?
Very loosely speaking a chicken back is section of bone and tissue that surrounds the spine of a chicken. It’s a part that is underutilized in modern North American human diets, as it doesn’t consist of any large muscle groups like the legs and breast meat. Unfortunately most people these days buy their chicken stock in cans and cartons instead of making it from fresh parts, including the backs. Too bad for them, but often good for raw feeders! Chicken backs can be a really economical source of food for a dog. There is a discrepancy in not only in what defines a back, but the value of them, however. That’s mostly what I’m looking to illustrate here.
The value of any chicken back is not only about getting the most “bang for your buck”, but is important to consider when it comes to building a wholesome diet that may include backs. Some backs (like many that you buy at large grocery chains and box stores) have been very effectively stripped of meat — meat is where the money is for them. These minimal backs can still be good, but the less meaty an item is the more it’s really just a lot of bone. Some backs are really small, whereas others are quite large. The taxonomic cousin of the “chicken back” is the “chicken frame”. I’ve noticed this term seems to be more popular in Britain and Australia than it is in North America. Usually a “frame” refers to a bigger section of a chicken where the breast and leg meat has been removed, but as with backs, frames vary greatly from supplier to supplier. As with any other food item, always take care to match the size of a piece of food with the size, skill, and enthusiasm of the dog eating it to avoid choking and other problems.
Unfortunately, even though I pored through years and years worth of photos as I was putting this together I couldn’t find any photos of the average store-bought pack of chicken backs. I don’t use them often, but I know I have. One of these days soon I’ll spend the couple bucks and create some photos to add to this page showing what’s available to me at the grocery store.
Following is a series of photos that I took after getting our annual autumn haul of fresh chickens from a friend who raises them. Each photo is of the same bird as I parted it for freezer storage. I urge you as you look at these to not only consider what you might want to be looking for as raw pet food, but if you participate in groups or communities where you discuss raw feeding, remember that one person may say “chicken back” referring to a dried up bony morsel, while someone else may be talking about a really meaty challenging chunk, with quite a lot of organ tissue included. For anyone who follows a “prey model” style of feeding that hinges upon knowledge of the average proportions of meat to bone to organ and what various animals are “made of” these photos might help with that, too. Yes, modern chickens — even ‘heritage breeds’ — have been modified from their wild birdy ancestors by quite a margin, but noting body composition of any animal is informative. It’s worth noting that in chickens and other birds, a lot of organ tissue is nestled in really close to the bone structure, and it’s virtually impossible to have a chicken back that doesn’t have an organ content, even if minimal.
Without further ado, the photos!
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