Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A cheap way to feed your dog raw food

There's a lot of info out there on the web about feeding your dogs BARF (Bones and Raw Food or Biologically-Appropriate Raw Food), so I thought I'd post my own experience with how to cheaply feed your dog raw chicken while taking some of the best parts for yourself.

I have a Maverick Meat Grinder which you can buy for about $80, but it's not necessary.

Here's what I do:

When it's on sale at Safeway or Lucky, I buy Foster Farms Whole Chickens for $.79/lb. These chickens include the goodies like the neck, and the offal (the heart, liver, and gizzards) that are so good for your pup. When they're on sale at this price, I'l usually buy about 10 chickens to make up a bunch of food for our Pit Bull, Chelelo.

The first thing I do is pull out the neck and the offal and throw it into the 'to grind' pile. After sharpening my knives and setting up a spot in the kitchen to do my work, I start the butchering by cutting off the wings and setting them aside in my 'to grind' pile.

I then cut off the leg and thigh quarters, careful not to cut into the thigh meat. Next, I cut the thigh off of each leg, trying to keep as much meat as possible on the thigh by cutting almost parallel to the leg bone. I then debone the thighs and set them aside in my human food pile. Here are some instructions on how to debone a thigh. The bone and the leg go into the 'to grind' pile.

Next, I pull off the skin from the breasts and slice off as much breast meat as I can in a single filet, cutting from the top of the breastbone. I put the boneless skinless breasts in the human food pile.

In the last bit of butchering, I use my kitchen shears and cut the remainder of the carcass into two big pieces -- the front and the back of the chicken. (This photo shows the same process being achieved with a knife.)

Because the breastbone/ribs and back are a pain to cut up into pieces that are easily grindable in my small Maverick grinder, I throw them into some tupperware or plastic bags and put them in the freezer for my pup to eat as-is. These parts of the chicken contain the smallest and most pliable bones that are very easily digested.

The last step involves using the meat grinder, and is really optional. In the 'to-grind' pile, we have: wings, necks, drums, thigh bones, and the offal, plus any skin you've peeled off of the breasts and thighs. In reality, most larger dogs won't have any problem chewing any of these bones, but the leg and thigh are technically weight-bearing bones, and some in the BARF community recommend against feeding your dog bones as strong as these. From my perspective, I appreciate the convenience of being able to feed my dog indoors from time to time, so in this formulation, of the whole chicken, about 1/3 goes to me, 1/3 goes to the dog in ground-up form, and 1/3 goes to the dog as a big, meaty back or breast bone.

I grind everything (including the bones) in the 'to-grind' pile and store it in 4-lb gladware containers in my freezer. Just for fun, I did the math on one chicken to see how much I was saving by getting my own chicken for human consumption and making my dog's food this way:

1 Whole Chicken: 5.61 lbs @ $.79/lb = $4.43

Here's how the chicken broke down...

Total weight: 5.6 lbs
Breasts (boneless, skinless): .94 lbs
Thighs (boneless): .67 lbs
Remainder (dog food): 4 lbs

If I were to buy the boneless skinless breasts and the boneless thighs, here's what I might normally pay at the supermarket:

Breasts (boneless, skinless): normally $6.49/lb
Thighs (boneless): normally $4.49/lb

This means that at 'regular' prices,

Total Cost: $4.43

- .94lbs Breasts: $6.10
- .67lbs Thighs: $3.00
Remainder: (4 lbs): -$4.67 (-$1.16/lb for dog food)

So the dog food isn't just free, it's like you're being paid to feed your dog! :) But to be fair, one can usually find thighs or breasts on sale for about $1.99/lb. So here's the cost if you use the sale prices:

Total Cost: $4.43
- .94lbs Breasts: $1.87
- .67lbs Thighs: $1.33
Remainder (4 lbs): $1.23 ($.30/lb for dog food)

30 cents a pound for dog food is, quite frankly, an amazing price -- especially considering how healthy a BARF diet is when compared to canned food or kibble. Of course, one's time is never free, but at the end of butchering 10 chickens this way, here's approximately what you get for about $45:

20 boneless skinless breasts (~10 lbs)
20 boneless thighs (6 lbs)
20 lbs ground chicken with bones
20 lbs chicken backs and ribs

That's plenty of chicken for my family for a few months, and about 3 weeks of food for the dog. If I had one of those American Eagle 1/2 horsepower meat grinders, I'd be inclined to see what I could do after Thanksgiving when turkeys sell for $.29/lb.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

AVCHD on the Samsung BDP-1500

A lot of people have experienced some difficulty getting AVCHD discs to play on their Samsung BDP-1500 Blu-Ray players (and for that matter, the Samsung BDP-2500) with any version of the Firmware after 1.3. The 1.3 firmware was more liberal about the formats it would play, and since the AVCHD format standard doesn't seem to be 100% set in stone, Samsung seems to have felt justified in enforcing their particular interpretation.

The underlying issue is that many so-called AVCHD discs (burned by Toast, Nero, ImgBurn, various camcorders, or downloaded from somewhere) are AVCHD-compliant discs compiled in a BD9 directory structure. Think of BD9 (or BD5) as Blu-ray on DVD. It's basically a conventional DVD that contains Blu-ray compatible video. It's similar to (though not quite the same as) what the VCD format was to DVD.

So while the BDP-1500 in firmware versions up to and including 1.3 would play these discs, subsequent firmware versions removed the ability to play BD9's. The funny thing is that some Blu-ray players actually require AVCHD discs to be in Blu-ray format to play, so there are a number of guides out there on the web (like this one) that show you how to make your disc 'more compatible' by making it look like a Blu-ray disc. It's possible that the PS3 needs AVCHD discs to have this structure.

Here's the Blu-ray (or BD9, or BD5) structure:

Most of the ISOs you download from the interwebz will look like this. If you see a CERTIFICATE directory at the root, you've got a Blu-ray directory structure.

The 'pure' AVCHD directory structure should look like this:

Note: no CERTIFICATE directory at the root; no AUXDATA, BDJO, JAR, and META directories, no BDJO directory under BACKUP.

So you've got a Samsung BDP-1500 and you want to play AVCHD discs, what do you do?

You have two options:

1.) Downgrade the firmware to 1.3.
- Pros: Play AVCHD discs burned in almost any software
- Cons: No BD Live, no bug fixes, no DivX/XviD support

2.) Keep the latest firmware; 'Convert' your AVCHD movies before burning them to disc.
- Pros: keep up to date with the latest bug fixes and features like BD Live and DivX/XviD support.
- Cons: Conversions are quick and easy, but still a manual process; not feasable if you've already got a big collection of BD9s; it's possible that 'pure' AVCHD discs will be less compatible with some players.

For option 1, download 080808_01_BDP1500_XAA.RUF and copy it to the root of a USB memory stick. Make sure there's no disc in your BDP-1500, turn it on and insert the memory stick. Then just follow the prompts.

For option 2, follow these steps:

Go here and download avchd_leer.zip:


The guy's instructions aren't exactly clear, so here's what you do:

1.) Unzip avchd_leer.zip to some folder on your hard drive.
2.) Navigate to the AVCHD\BDMV Folder.
3.) Open up your BD-on-DVD path in another window and copy the CLIPINF, STREAM, and PLAYLIST folders into AVCHD\BDMV, overwriting the existing files there. (Use the first image above to make sure you've got the right structure.)
4.) Burn the BDMV folder to a DVD in UDF 2.5 mode in Nero. (ie. the root of the DVD will contain ONLY the BDMV folder.)

Alternatively, in your BD-on-DVD file structure, just delete the AUXDATA, BDJO, JAR, and META folders. Ignore the CERTIFICATE folder and burn the BDMV folder to a DVD in UDF 2.5 mode in Nero. (ie. the root of the DVD will contain ONLY the BDMV folder.)

I hope someone finds this useful. It took me long enough to figure this stuff out...

First Entry

Every now and then I actually complete a technical task after searching the web for hours where people in forums post unhelpful nonsense like 'do a google search, idiot!' I think I'll use this blog to post random bits of information that I've learned while playing around with my various tech toys.