Balancing Big Country Raw Products for Adult Dogs (NRC)

DISCLAIMER: Recommendations are based on NRC guidelines for adult dogs and are based on nutritional analysis provided online on bigcountryraw.ca. These recommendations are NOT appropriate for cats or puppies.

Nutritional analysis obtained from BCR website on June 2020.

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Why BCR Dinners May Not Be Complete For Your Dog

The BCR Dinners are NRC complete when fed with fatty acid supplements. For each of their NRC balanced dinners, they state on their website:

Disclaimer: Big Country Raw® follows the Minimal Requirement (Amount/1000kcal for Growing Puppies After Weaning & Adults Dogs) suggested by The Nutrient Requirement for Dogs and Cats by the National Research Council (NRC). For the nutrients P, Na, K, I, Co, Mn, and Vit A, E, D & B group (no minimum requirement provided) recipes match the NRC Recommended Allowance. For Essentiel Fatty Acids (LA, ALA, EPA, DHA) we strongly suggest adding fish, Thrive® Herring Oil or Thrive® Hemp Seed Oil to meet the NRC Recommended Allowances.

This means that on their own, the dinners lack the essential fatty acids needed to make these blends a complete diet using NRC standards.

However, adding fatty acids alone may not make this a complete diet for most dogs. This is because BCR Dinners were formulated to NRC using ME requirements, which assumes that the dog is a very active pet dog. (The NRC uses an energy factor range of 95-130 for average domestic dogs, and ME requirements were set using a factor of 130.) For most dogs, this means that in order for the dog to get the minimum level of nutrients, we may need to feed way more food and calories than the dog needs.

So, for owners who would feed less calories – and less food – than is recommended by BCR, this means that the dog is may not get enough nutrients.

I have analyzed the 8 BCR Dinners and set some guidelines below for each recipe to better meet NRC requirements when feeding below feeding guidelines. Please keep in mind that these recommendations may not be right for your dog, especially if your dog needs a specific formulation. Please read the section How to Use These Guidelines for instructions on interpreting the charts provided below.

Thank you for Pierre-Oliver Champagne for compiling and providing the nutritional analyses, and to Savannah Welna for providing a peer review for this article!

Overall Thoughts on the Recipes

With the exception of the Fish Dinner, these are high fat recipes. Some dogs will not do well with 50-65% of calories coming from fat – in cases like those, I would highly recommend replacing part of the meal with a lower fat ingredient (see replacement charts for more details). With high fat recipes, it’s important to supplement choline. These recipes may be low in choline, so I would recommend supplementing with eggs.

Many dinners also contain minerals in excess, especially calcium and phosphorus. Because of that, I would not recommend these blends for seniors. Of the dinners, the lamb and pork dinners have the most reasonable levels of minerals without being in excess.

Looking at the ingredient lists for these dinners, some specific minerals and vitamins requirements may have been met with ingredients without great bio-availability. Because of this, I recommend supplementing manganese, Vitamin E and D for most recipes. Recommendations were made to stay below Safe Upper Limits, and Vitamin E recommendations are set to account for the additional Vitamin E needed for high levels of PUFA in the recipes.

Beyond These Recommendations

If you want to make further substitutions, or if you want to take a closer took at the nutrient profile, I highly recommend using a diet auditing tool like the RFN Spreadsheet or Cronometer to fine tune these recipes. This is the best way to supplement or substitute these recipes for your individual dog.

How to Use These Guidelines

Recommendations are made based on an energy level of 95-105. If your dog’s energy requirements are higher or lower than this range, these recommendations may not be accurate for your dog.

Determine How Much BCR To Feed

  1. Use the RFN Calorie Calculator to determine how many kcal your dog should eat per day.
  2. Find the energy density of the BCR blend you want to feed per 100g. For example, for the Beef Dinner, it lists that it’s 181kcal/100g as fed.
  3. Divide the amount of kcal you should feed by the kcal of the food, then multiply by 100g. For example, if your dog needs to eat 1000kcal per day, for Beef Dinner, you would feed: 1000/181 x 100= 552g per day.

How To Read Supplement Charts

  1. Use the RFN NRC Requirements Tool to determine your pet’s Recommended Allowance (RA) for each nutrient per day.
  2. Supplements charts list which nutrient you should supplement, with quantities expressed as percentages of your pet’s RA. For example, if the chart lists that 50% of Manganese should be supplemented, and your pet’s Manganese RA is 2.5mg, you should supplement 1.25mg to the food daily.

RAs will differ based on the weight of the dog. If you have dogs of different sizes, you should calculate RA and supplement quantities for them separately.

Supplement% of RA
Manganese50%
Example

How To Read Replacement Charts

For each BCR dinner blend, I write recommendations for mixing the blend with different proteins, or with other BCR blends.

In the Replace column, is the amount of BCR dinner to remove with the replacement ingredient to add instead. In the Quantity column is how much of the replacement ingredient to add.

For example, if it says “15% with oatmeal – 2.5x”, this means to remove 15% of the BCR blend and add 2.5 times as much oatmeal to replace it.

If you are feeding 500g of BCR, then that would mean removing 75g of BCR, and adding 187.5g oatmeal.

Keep in mind that replacements quantities have formulated such that meal, with the supplements, are still complete. If you want to replace more of the BCR dinner, make sure to audit the mix and make sure you are still meeting nutritional requirements.

You should still use the supplement chart if you are making replacements.

ReplaceQuantity
Chicken Egg1.25x
15% with Oatmeal2.5x
Example
Eggs

Eggs are included in the replacement charts, but can either be fed as a topper or replace part of the meal. (Which is up to you – if you are worried about the extra calories, or if your dog is small and an egg would be a large portion of daily kcal, I would replace. Otherwise, it may be easier just to feed as a topper.)

If you are choosing to replace, you can choose how much of the BCR blend to replace. I do not recommend removing more than 10%. Under Quantity it will list how much egg to replace it with.

For example – if it says “Chicken egg – 1.5x,” this means to remove any amount of BCR and add 1.5 times as much egg to replace it. If you are feeding 500g of BCR, and you want to remove 30g, then you would add 45g of egg.

Eggs can be fed raw or cooked.

Oatmeal

In the replacement charts, I use oatmeal as the generic energy dense starch. You can also use other cooked, nutritious starches like quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato or buckwheat. If using other types of cooked starches, you will want to account for the energy differences. For each 100g of oatmeal, use:

  • 65g cooked brown rice
  • 80g baked sweet potato
  • 80g cooked buckwheat
  • 60g cooked quinoa

Keep in mind that these cooked starches do have other nutritional differences besides just energy density. While these substitutions should still meet nutritional requirements, I would recommend auditing the diet if you are making significant substitutions.

Turkey Dinner

This blend is missing EPA+DHA, and needs a little bit more magnesium. Due to some doubt about the bio-availability of ingredients, I would recommend supplementing manganese, Vitamin E and Vitamin D as well.

This blend has about 50% of calories from fat, making it is higher fat recipe. You can lower the fat content by replacing with oatmeal or a lean protein (like ground beef 5% or leaner).

Supplement% of RA
EPA + DHA100%
Magnesium25%
Manganese50%
Vitamin E820%
Vitamin D100%
ReplaceQuantity
Chicken Egg1.25x
15% with Oatmeal2.5x
25% with 3% Ground Beef1.5x
25% with Fat Free Ground Turkey1.6x
40% with Fish Dinner*1.6x

* If adding Fish Dinner, you can skip the Vitamin EPA+DHA and Vitamin D supplements

Chicken Dinner

This blend is missing EPA+DHA, and is low on several minerals. Due to some doubt about the bio-availability of ingredients, I would recommend supplementing Vitamin E and Vitamin D as well. In addition to these recommendations, the Ca:P is high at 1.5:1.

This blend has about 50% of calories from fat, making it is higher fat recipe. You can lower the fat content by replacing with oatmeal or a lean protein (like ground beef 5% or leaner).

Supplement% of RA
EPA + DHA100%
Magnesium75%
Manganese50%
Selenium25%
Vitamin E700%
Vitamin D100%
ReplaceQuantity
Chicken Egg1x
15% with Oatmeal2.15x
25% with 3% Ground Beef1.3x
25% with Fat Free Ground Turkey1.4x
40% with Fish Dinner*1.4x

* If adding Fish Dinner, you can skip the Vitamin EPA+DHA and Vitamin D supplements

Beef Dinner

This blend is missing EPA+DHA, and is low on several minerals. Due to some doubt about the bio-availability of ingredients, I would recommend supplementing Vitamin E and Vitamin D as well. In addition to these recommendations, Linoleic Acid is low, so I would recommend feeding this in rotation with poultry dinners.

This blend has about 55% of calories from fat, making it is higher fat recipe. You can lower the fat content by replacing with oatmeal or a lean protein (ground beef 5% or leaner for example).

Supplement% of RA
EPA + DHA100%
Magnesium50%
Manganese50%
Selenium25%
Iodine75%
Vitamin E250%
Vitamin D100%
ReplaceQuantity
Chicken Egg1.25x
15% with Oatmeal2.5x
25% with 3% Ground Beef1.5x
25% with Fat Free Ground Turkey1.6x
40% with Fish Dinner*1.6x

* If adding Fish Dinner, you can skip the Vitamin EPA+DHA and Vitamin D supplements

Duck Dinner

This blend is missing EPA+DHA, and is low on magnesium. Due to some doubt about the bio-availability of ingredients, I would recommend supplementing manganese, Vitamin E and Vitamin D as well.

This blend also has very high levels of bone, with 400%+ RA for calcium and 375%+ RA for phosphorus.

This blend has about 60% of calories from fat, making it a high fat recipe. You can lower the fat content by replacing with oatmeal or a lean protein (ground beef 5% or leaner for example).

Supplement% of RA
EPA + DHA100%
Magnesium25%
Manganese25%
Vitamin E600%
Vitamin D50%
* please see recipe summary
ReplaceQuantity
Chicken Egg1.3x
15% with Oatmeal2.6x
25% with 3% Ground Beef1.5x
25% with Fat Free Ground Turkey1.65x
40% with Fish Dinner*1.6x

* If adding Fish Dinner, you can skip the Vitamin EPA+DHA and Vitamin D supplements

Fish Dinner

This blend is only missing linoleic acid, but due to some doubt about the bio-availability of ingredients, I would recommend supplementing manganese and Vitamin E. In addition to these recommendations, Ca:P is low, so I would suggest supplementing a bit of calcium to increase the ratio.

I strongly recommend feeding this mixed with other blends, and not on its own. If you choose to use this in addition to other dinners, you do not have to use the supplement chart below.

This blend has about 35% of calories from fat, making it is low-moderate fat recipe.

Fish dinner should not be fed daily. From BCR website: “ Feed in moderate amount, 2-3 times a week. Feeding exclusively fish protein for a long period of time may cause coagulation concerns, due to the high omega-3 and vitamin D content. Fish Dinner is always recommended to be fed in rotation with other proteins.

Supplement% of RA
Linoleic Acid50%
Calcium60%
Manganese25%
Vitamin E400%

Pork Dinner

This blend is missing EPA+DHA, and is low on several minerals. Due to some doubt about the bio-availability of ingredients, I would recommend supplementing Vitamin E and Vitamin D as well.

This recipe does have a lower bone content, with calcium at 150% RA and phosphorus just over 200% RA.

This blend has about 65% of calories from fat, making it a high fat recipe. You can lower the fat content by replacing with oatmeal or a lean protein (ground beef 5% or leaner for example).

Supplement% of RA
EPA + DHA100%
Magnesium75%
Manganese50%
Selenium25%
Vitamin E720%
Vitamin D100%
ReplaceQuantity
Chicken Egg1.5x
15% with Oatmeal3x
25% with 3% Ground Beef1.8x
25% with Fat Free Ground Turkey1.9x
40% with Fish Dinner*1.9x

* If adding Fish Dinner, you can skip the Vitamin EPA+DHA and Vitamin D supplements

Lamb Dinner

This blend is missing EPA+DHA, and is low on linoleic acid, magnesium and selenium. Due to some doubt about the bio-availability of ingredients, I would recommend supplementing some Vitamin E and Vitamin D as well. If you rotate this recipe with poultry dinners, you may not need to supplement linoleic acid.

This recipe does have a lower bone content, with calcium at 150% RA and phosphorus lower than 200% RA.

This blend has about 65% of calories from fat, making it a high fat recipe. You can lower the fat content by replacing with oatmeal or a lean protein (ground beef 5% or leaner for example).

Supplement% of RA
Linoleic Acid25%
EPA + DHA100%
Magnesium75%
Selenium25%
Vitamin E300%
Vitamin D100%
ReplaceQuantity
Chicken Egg1.5x
15% with Oatmeal3x
25% with 3% Ground Beef1.7x
25% with Fat Free Ground Turkey1.9x
40% with Fish Dinner*1.85x

* If adding Fish Dinner, you can skip the Vitamin EPA+DHA and Vitamin D supplements

Bison Dinner

This blend is missing EPA+DHA, and is low on linoleic acid and several minerals. Due to some doubt about the bio-availability of ingredients, I would recommend supplementing some Vitamin E and Vitamin D as well. If you rotate this with poultry dinners, you may not need to supplement linoleic acid.

This blend has about 50% of calories from fat, making it a higher fat recipe. You can lower the fat content by replacing with oatmeal or a lean protein (ground beef 5% or leaner for example).

Supplement% of RA
Linoleic Acid50%
EPA + DHA100%
Magnesium50%
Manganese50%
Selenium25%
Vitamin E200%
Vitamin D100%
ReplaceQuantity
Chicken Egg1.1x
15% with Oatmeal2.25x
25% with 3% Ground Beef1.3x
25% with Fat Free Ground Turkey1.4x
40% with Fish Dinner*1.4x

* If adding Fish Dinner, you can skip the Vitamin EPA+DHA and Vitamin D supplements

Supplement Recommendations

  • EPA + DHA – Fish oils, such as Grizzly Salmon Oil, Nordic Naturals or Bonnie and Clyde
  • Linoleic acid – Safflower oil
  • Magnesium* – Magnesium bisglycinate, such as NOW Magnesium Bisglycinate powder
  • Manganese – Chelated manganese, such as Solgar Chelated Manganese tablets
  • Selenium – L-selenomethionine, such as NOW Selenium capsulesIodine
  • Vitamin E – Vitamin E with mixed tocopherols, such as Solgar Vitamin E Liquid or Softgels (NOW Dry E-400 is a capsuled powder alternative)
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D3, such as NOW Vitamin D3 Softgels

* magnesium supplements may cause GI upset. I recommend introducing magnesium supplements slowly, especially if your dog has a sensitive GI.