Four Feet and Food (now with some training too!)

Doing our best to keep our furry children healthy by being vigilant about what we feed them and how we also keep them mentally stimulated.


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Chile’s Chicken Jerky

Yesterday I finally got around to making some homemade chicken jerky.  It was very easy and turned out pretty good for a first try.  Just like the sweet potato chews this is probably much faster with a food dehydrator but the giant cupboard in the garage where I keep my kitchen gadgets is approaching maximum capacity and an oven seems to do the job just fine.

The instructions are as follows:

  • Pre-heat oven to 210 degrees
  • Cut boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces into 1/4 inch (or preferred size strips)
  • Lightly grease a cookie sheet with olive oil to prevent sticking.  I covered the cookie sheet with foil for easier clean up and brushed it lightly with some EVOO.
  • Place chicken strips in a single layer on the cookie sheet as spread out as possible.

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  • Place cookie sheet on middle rack of the oven and check on the strips after about thirty minutes. (The “recipe” I found online said 20 minutes, mine were not even CLOSE to being jerky at 20 mins).
  • Continue checking on the strips every thirty minutes until they are firm and look chewy.  I had VERY small strips and pieces, it took about 3 hours and 30 minutes. 

The pieces did harden up a bit after I turned off the oven too. 

I’ve stored them in the refrigerator because I’m not sure how long they will last at room temperature without any preservatives. 

Chile absolutely loved them and I don’t have to worry about any recalls !

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Homemade Sweet Potato Chews

With all of the circulating reports of dogs falling ill or even dying after eating jerky treats, I no longer feel confident feeding Chile most store-bought chews.   She is a dog, however, and loves to have chewy treats to gnaw on and I like them because they keep her busy if we are out at a restaurant with her or shopping, etc.   I decided to try making some sweet potato chews at home and it was actually pretty simple.  Chile loved them and my husband and I even ate some as a snack ourselves.

I made them in the oven so it tsweet potato treatsook a few hours but if you have a food dehydrator that would probably be faster.

The “recipe” is as follows:

  • Pre-heat oven to 250° F
  • Scrub the sweet potato (I used one large, organic sweet potato), no need to peel.
  • Cut the sweet potato into the desired size, I cut them into chip-sized discs because Chile has a smaller mouth. The ones you see sold in stores are usually cut lengthwise to make them look like jerky. The thinner you cut the slices the shorter your baking time.
  • Place the slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 250° F for three hours (slightly chewy) or longer for crunchier.  Keep an eye on them because your cooking time will vary depending on your oven and the thickness of your slices.

One single, simple ingredient that’s delicious and nutritious!  (Much cheaper than buying a bag at the store too!)


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A Few Good Treats

It seems every week the FDA’s list of dog treats that are under investigation in connection with making dogs sick gets longer and longer.  How do you know which brands to trust?  About a year ago the local dog and cat health food store that I shop at, Dexter’s Deli, stopped carrying any treats that are made in China.  I think this is a great first step since most of the food and treats that have been recalled were sourced from China but I still prefer to do my own research when it comes to the health and well-being of my pets.  I start by carefully reading the information provided on the manufacturer’s website and then personally contacting them with any questions I may still have that were not answered on the site or just to have them verify any concerns.  Remember, just because a product is labeled “Made in the USA” does not mean all of the ingredients used in that product come from the US.  Usually I just ask them up front if any of their ingredients are sourced from China.  Some companies, such as Dogswell that makes Vitality treats, admit that their chicken breasts are from China because it’s a much cheaper source.  For me  saving a few dollars on a bag of treats is not worth putting Chile’s health in danger so I don’t buy their products.  I have also contacted Cloud Star who assured me that all of their ingredients are sourced from and farmed here in the United States.  Zuke’s  is another company whose treats I have been a fan of because they use good ingredients and their mini naturals  are perfect to put in Chile’s Kong toy when we leave her alone.  I recently emailed them about where their ingredients come from and their response (listed below) was impressively thorough:

Thank you for writing us here at Zuke’s! All of our products are made in
the United States, with all of our meat, fruits and veggies not only
being ‘Human Grade’ (things you would find in your farmer’s market!),
but also sourced from the USA (with the exception of the Wild Rabbit and
Venison, which comes from New Zealand). Even our glycerin is sourced
from domestically produced palm oil. There are a very small number of
ingredients, such as the phosphoric acid, chondroitin, sorbic acid and
glucosamine that we have to source from China. We unfortunately have our
hands tied on this one as they are not available in the USA without
almost doubling the cost of our treats, and some of those ingredients
are only available from China. We are constantly looking for ways to
source everything from the USA and have not given up in our quest!!  We
do have certificates of origin for our ingredients, and we also perform
tests on our final products to ensure they are safe. All of our
ingredients are also Human Grade, as we would NEVER feed our own pets
anything we wouldn’t eat ourselves!!

From what I’ve seen only a few of their treats (clearly labeled) contain chondroitin and glucosamine, and as far as the other ingredients that they do source from China I think the amounts are very minute.  I would have a much bigger issue with them if the protein was sourced from China.  We continue to give Chile Zuke’s treats but we are very conservative with them so her daily intake of treats is quite minimal.  She usually gets about two of the small training bites in her Kong when she goes into her dog run in the morning.  If she gets any treats at night they are most likely carrot pieces from our salads or homemade sweet potato jerky (I will post a recipe later).  Chile really enjoys treats made by Salmon Paws and I like them because their products are 100% Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon.  If you are feeding Salmon Paws be careful to put any opened packages in the refrigerator immediately as these will get moldy very quickly.  I’m sure there are many other manufacturer’s that are just as responsible when it comes to sourcing their ingredients, the ones listed here are just a few that I have personally researched and trust.

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A Vegetarian’s Best Friend– a meat grinder?

After my first round with preparing Chile’s raw meat diet I was a little discouraged by how long it took me and how much it grossed me out.   Also, as mentioned in my previous post, I had not been able to give Chile the turkey necks which are supposed to be part of her weekly meal plan.  I tried asking the butcher at Jimbo’s if he could grind them for me , unfortunately the gentleman that had helped me before wasn’t there, and this new guy told me they wouldn’t grind the necks.  When I relayed my dilemma to Sabine she suggested that I might want to invest in a meat grinder.  She recommended the Tasin TS-108.  I am obviously meat grinder ignorant so I sent the link for the Tasin to my co-worker Rob, who I know makes sausages, to see what he thought or if he had another one he might recommend.  Rob told me this is the first time a vegetarian has ever asked his advice on a meat grinder but that the Tasin seemed well equipped for what I needed it to do (including grinding some bones) and that he is now thinking about getting one for himself!   So I ordered the grinder and it arrived shortly before Christmas.  With all the craziness of the holidays and our being out-of-town I didn’t get around to using it until New Year’s day.  Let me tell you, it is fabulous!  I was done preparing a week’s worth of food in less than half an hour.  Without the grinder it had previously taken me over an hour.  After ordering the Tasin I had watched a couple of videos on ts108_electric_grinderYouTube to learn how to operate it properly.  During the first run through I didn’t have the grinding plate on properly so the meat wasn’t coming all the way out of the chute and gathering on the sides of the plate.  I realized I must have done something wrong because that’s not how it looked on the video.  It was pretty easy to figure out the problem and fix it so that I had a properly functioning grinder that was a cinch to use!  The cleaning was a lot less difficult than I anticipated too.  I would recommend this grinder to anyone thinking about making their own pet food and particularly those that are nauseated by man-handling raw meat like I am.

At this time we are still transitioning Chile from her commercial raw diet to the fresh one by gradually adding more and more to her daily meals.  I thought I could handle changing Chile’s diet in conjunction with all the hosting we were doing in December but was reminded, by the Universe once again, that I’m not Super Woman and decided to just take it slow.  So far we haven’t noticed Chile having any problems with digesting the new food and no upset stomach or diarrhea has been observed.  I definitely think having the grinder will make all the preparation more convenient in the future and will make it easier to keep Chile on a fully homemade diet.

(Side Note:  I have not tried grinding the turkey necks yet because they took longer to defrost than the rest of the meat and were still partially frozen at the time. I will try those later this week. )