Pet jerky treats, which include chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats, have now been linked to more than 1,000 deaths in dogs, more than 4,800 complaints about animal illness, and three human deaths. Despite exhaustive testing, the FDA has been unable to find a contaminant causing illnesses. Read the full story>>
If you choose to feed your pet jerky treats, one option is to dry your own treats using a food dehydrator or your oven. This allows you to buy local, high-quality meats, giving you peace of mind about the safety of the ingredients.
Dehydration preserves foods by removing moisture, which inhibits the growth of microorganisms. You can dehydrate most raw meats, such as slices of beef, chicken, turkey, fish, or liver, as well as many fruits and vegetables, such as sliced apples, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
Several brands of small dehydrators are reasonably priced and easy to use. These machines have stacked or slide-out trays that hold the food to be dehydrated. A motor provides heat and powers a fan that blows hot air over the food. A tray at the bottom catches excess moisture.
You can also dry foods in your oven — on a cookie sheet — if it can be set at a low enough temperature. The lowest temperature for many ovens is 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s fine. Prop the oven door open a few inches with a towel so hot air laden with moisture can escape. This works well, but because your oven is also heating the air in the kitchen, it uses more energy than a food dehydrator would.
Store dehydrated foods in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Protect these foods from moisture and humidity, or they will spoil.
The American Veterinary Medical Association advises pet owners who feed jerky treats to do so in small quantities and only on occasion, especially with small-breed dogs.
Chicken Jerky Strips
The thinner you slice the meat, the less time it takes to dry. Popping the meat into the freezer for about 15 minutes beforehand makes it easier to slice thinly.
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast tenders, sliced into strips about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- Rinse off chicken breast and remove any fat. Fat slows down the dehydrating process and makes your jerky spoil faster. Slice the chicken with the grain. This will help make the jerky even chewier.
- Lightly coat the chicken slices with vegetable oil to prevent sticking.
- Place the chicken breast strips evenly on the tray, leaving space between them and making sure they do not touch each other.
- Once they are all in the dehydrator, turn it on and set the temperature to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The jerky will probably take between three and 12 hours to fully dry, depending on how thick you cut your slices. Start checking it once every hour after the first hour. To check it, open up the tray and take one slice out. Cut it open with a sharp knife and examine the inside. You should see no moisture at all, and it should be the same color throughout. If it’s not finished, put it back in for another hour. Once it gets close, check every half hour.
- Once your jerky is done, store it in airtight containers. Write the date you made it on them. Out of the refrigerator, the treats last about 10 days in an airtight container. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for approximately three weeks. They can also be frozen for up to eight months.
Recipe courtesy of Excalibur Dehydrator (www.excaliburdehydrator.com).
Treats should be fed in moderation. Consult your veterinarian any time you are making changes to your dogs food or diet.