This week I am talking to the lovely Jo Stevens who is North Ayrshire’s original raw-feeding specialist! She runs Ruff & Ready Raw in Skelmorlie and has had an impressive career working with animals her whole life. Here she is telling us more about why she is so passionate about what goes into a dog's food bowl.
I have always loved animals. I grew up with dogs, cats, guinea pigs, goldfish, hamsters & tropical fish. I also spent as much time as possible as an unpaid lackey in order to be near horses!
After school I attended the University of Glasgow & graduated with a BSc in Animal Biology. From there I went on to intern for Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys and at South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston SC, folllowed by working for SeaLife & Tropical Marine Centre in the UK.
In all of these positions I worked hands-on with a wide variety of species & classes of animals, teaching about them, preparing them for transport to new homes, acclimatising them when they arrived with us & preparing their food. Not one single animal was fed a processed diet. Not that I made this connection in comparison with our companion animals just yet.
2017 was basically a write-off for me due to serious illness, during my treatment & recovery I started reading about something called “raw feeding” and “biologically appropriate raw food”. The more I thought about it the more sense it made to me to feed my Springer, Harris, a diet made up of meat, bone & offal. Why on Earth had it never occurred to me how strange it was to be feeding him dry brown pellets that he had zero interest in?!
Beyond the cats & dogs in my life no other animal I had prepared food for had been expected to eat a biscuit made of grains & cereals sprayed with rendered meat & fats to make it palatable & colours to appeal to the owners - green = peas anyone? No, they all ate at least a local variation on the diet they would have eaten in the wild.
So in October 2017 I started feeding Harris a mixture of pre-made 80:10:10 minces & DIY meals. With the very first meal he went from a dog who was hungry & always excited for his dinner - until he saw what it was - to a boy who dances while his food was being readied; who ate every last morsel of every single meal & adored every single mouthful.
So many changes were apparent in such a short space of time - his coat was even softer than ever, that “doggy” smell was gone, his almost 6 year old teeth (which weren’t bad actually) cleaned up, he slimmed down, he calmed down but was still energetic & enthusiastic & his poos were tiny & far fewer than they were on kibble.
I was sold!
When I looked around for somewhere local to buy this food from, there wasn’t anywhere I could find. The closest place was a 40 minute drive away & that was beyond my capabilities mid treatment.
My husband suggested I look into selling it from home. It took a month or so but I checked all the requirements of local council, sourced a freezer & a supplier & bought stock to fill it. A group of my friends helped me come up with the name, another friend designed my logo based on the very vague description I gave him & also built my website.
Over the following years I amassed freezers & brought in additional manufacturers of raw and also 100% natural all meat treats & 100% natural herbal supplements & treatments. I’m extremely proud to be able to stock the items I do, I would not sell anything I wouldn’t use for my own dogs & cats.
The three things about my work that bring me most pleasure are: dog cuddles; meeting pet parents who are on the same wavelength as me or are ready to make the transition in the best interest of their pets; seeing the health benefits occurring for even the oldest, sickest dogs when they are fed a healthy, fresh diet.
Exciting plans: we have just about finished building my purpose-built, bespoke shop next to my house. As soon as it is entirely complete we will be moving all the freezers from the conservatory & all the boxes of dry stock & shelving from bedrooms & hallways freeing up our house! There are specialist veterinary scales so we can get a weight for your pet or keep an eye on their weight as necessary. Finally, I am embarking on further study into canine nutrition & behaviour. Never stop learning!
My number one top tip for dog owners regarding their dog’s diet is to really look into what’s in that bag of dog food - if it has additives/preservatives/chemicals you cannot pronounce, question what you are actually putting in your dog’s bowl. There are many excellent resources online or in print where you can read the latest research into the benefits of a real-food diet. Please let whatever decision you make be an informed one.
You can find me at:
Ruff & Ready Raw
26c Skelmorlie Castle Road
I am always happy to chat to anyone considering a dietary switch, no obligation or pressure.
North Ayrshire’s original raw-feeding specialist!