Cooper and Tooey love jerky — especially those chicken breast and duck breast jerkys made by Cadet. They’ll even race into their crates when they know I have a piece of jerky in my hand. When no other treat will motivate them (particularly Cooper who is often not motivated by food), these poultry strips will work.
Unfortunately, the Cadet strips are made in China. I personally have never had any trouble with them, but widely reported incidents of dogs becoming quite sick from treats made in China have made me wary.
So I thought, what if I bought chicken and made the strips myself?
One requirement is that I must start with flash-frozen chicken breasts. My vet has explained to me that, if I must feed my dogs raw meat, I should feed them flash-frozen meats. Those will have had the least exposure to bacteria during processing. Fortunately, flash-frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are easy to find.
Then I need a dehydrator. Check — got that.
Then I need to figure out a way to slice them easily. It turns out that if you thaw the chicken breasts until they give just a little bit but still have ice crystals in them, they slice very nicely into 1/8″ thick slices using a very sharp (and very clean) knife.
Thawing took overnight in our refrigerator, and slicing 4 breasts took only about 10 minutes. An added bonus of the flash-frozen breasts is that they were apparently frozen on a flat surface — giving them a flat side that stays very stable on my (also very clean) cutting board.
Then all I have to do is lay them out on the dehydrator racks, and turn the dehydrator up to its highest setting — which is 145 degrees on mine. I started that process this morning. I expect the drying to take all day.
At the end, for an extra precaution of safety, I’ll pop the strips into the oven at 200 degrees for several minutes, just to kill any remaining pathogens.
I’ll store these in the freezer (if I can find room around all the frozen ducks and pheasants we have in there), and put just enough for several days into the refrigerator.
(If you want to try this, I’d recommend reading this post about dehydrating chicken strips. Of all the Internet resources I consulted, this one is the clearest to follow.)
Now to the economy part. The frozen, skinless, boneless chicken breasts came out to $2.44 per pound. That pound will dehydrate down to about 1/2 pound, making the homemade strips about $4.90 per pound. To compare, the Cadet brand strips were about $16.00 for 2 pounds, or $8.00 per pound) of dried chicken strips.
So, if we don’t count my labor, then these strips come out to be much cheaper than the Cadet brand treats. And I think next time, I will consider buying organic chicken breasts. It’ll be more expensive, but still probably not as expensive as the Cadet treats.
Now all we have to do is see if the dogs like them.