Chicken Jerky Treats – Safe For Your Dog?

Hello to you and hello to the month of May!

For those of you who don’t know me well (or at all, for that matter),  the main reason I’ve created My Dog’s Breakfast is to inspire people to consider home cooking for dogs, by way of providing a variety of recipes that just might coax the wary into the kitchen, and to share recipes of interest with other home cookers.   I try to create recipes that are either easy, affordable, fun, festive, or a combination thereof.  The purpose of my website isn’t to slam the pet food industry and to chastise people about feeding their dogs processed food.  That’s not my way.   But today, be warned, I have to put on my serious face and talk just a little bit about shoddy pet food labels & pet food standards. Don’t even get me started on the topic of the stunning lack of regulations when it comes to pet food industry in general.  Even right here in Canada.

Over the years, people have become used to packaged and processed meals for themselves, and while lots of people are heeding the call to move back to cooking whole foods from scratch, that movement hasn’t really hit home yet in terms of how we feed our pets.  As an aside, I’m almost finished reading “Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture” (thanks for the recommend, Aunt Daphne), and the book reports on and analyzes a broad spectrum of goods, including food. You might want to pick it up, it’ll get you thinking.

The specific product I’m going to talk about may be cheap, but will it come at a high cost to you?  Since 2007, the FDA has received owner and veterinarian complaints of illness or death and has referenced three popular brands of jerky treats.  There have been at least 500 complaints filed to date.  READ THE FDA WARNING HERE. These products are manufactured in China – where the possibility of food contamination is much higher. Now, here’s where I get really P.O.’d. While The FDA has issued three warnings about chicken jerky treats from China since 2007, and has been running tests on them, there were no product recalls!  I’m sorry, but don’t you think that these corporations should’ve informed the sellers/distributors to remove the chicken jerky products from shelves until there was a conclusion? But because the FDA can’t find the contaminant, the chicken jerky treats have remained on the market. And I’m betting that you’ve never heard anything about it.  Because after all, they’re only dogs, right?

The FDA warning extends to any chicken jerky treats imported from China.  Remember the last major scale pet food scare in 2007? (Where it has been estimated that thousands of pets died, and tens of thousands were affected.) Over a hundred brands of pet food products were contaminated by melamine. Wheat gluten  - imported from China — was found to be behind the contamination.

I ask you, would you buy any product for yourself or your dog knowing that there is an FDA warning on it?  

The other day, my colleague brought the issue of chicken jerky from China to my attention.  Her Jack Russell had been suffering from a mysterious ailment, and after trips to the vet and an elimination diet, he was still ill. She didn’t suspect his chicken jerky treats as they weren’t fed to him daily, but as soon as she stopped feeding them to him – he started to get his spunk back. Of course she can’t be 100% sure that it was the chicken jerky, but its high on the suspect list.  We immediately scrambled to research whether or not there was a recall, and if the brands we had in our cupboards were indeed the ones that the FDA had named in it’s warning to dog owners.  I have been buying a popular brand of supersized bags of Chicken Jerky and Duck Jerky from a large chain store that’s known for selling quality products.  That general trust, plus the  (lack of) ingredients on these jerky treat labels led me to believe they were a pretty great purchase for The Boys.   Dehydrated chicken and duck are wonderful treats, in fact, and they were the only packaged treats that I’d been buying for The Boys.   I had recently run out of the Chicken Jerky, but I had the Duck Jerky package to look at. Now, don’t you think that they would say “MADE IN CHINA” somewhere? NOPE. They do however, say on the front of the package (in big strong font with a maple leaf graphic) Quality Checked in Canada!  Like, hello. That’s misleading. At a glance it looks like they are Made in Canada.   I guess that they don’t have to say on the package where the product is manufactured.  That is simply unacceptable.  There’s a lot they don’t have to say on pet food labels as a matter of fact, and most consumers have no idea just how different the standards for labeling/ingredients are for pet food.  It’s a disgrace.  Again, don’t even get me started!! .   But, I am to blame too, I am the consumer, and I have responsibilities as well – after all, the buck stops here.   I didn’t even think to check when I bought them to see where the products were made.  I assumed – and I hang my head in shame. As for the Chicken Jerky, upon careful inspection at the store today, I managed to find in teeny tiny print in the feeding instructions part of the label “Made in China”.  You would have to be looking very hard for it.  Am I the only one who finds that sneaky?   I would never have fed my dogs these treats had I known this in the first place (FDA warning or not). I am doubly shamed, because had I thought it through, I would have realized that there’s no way these treats could be made here and sold at that price point. They are simply too cheap. I made my own chicken jerky, and the portion you see here in this post is one breast.  About $2. It would cost me about $30 to make the same amount that you get in that giant bag. Since they cost less than $15 to buy off the shelf, you know that the cost of the actual chicken is a very small fraction of that selling price. I’m sure that those treats could never be made in Canada from Canadian poultry for that kind of money. From now on I promise to think harder about the cost and origin of all of our groceries.  Please, please, please – check the labels on your ALL OF YOUR jerky treats and carefully consider whether you think there is a risk to your dog or not.  ** UPDATE: A lot of you have been wondering if the Duck Jerky is safe – and my thinking is that while there isn’t an FDA warning on them, if they are made in China I would steer clear.  After some research online, I did discover that the duck jerky treats I had been buying are indeed Made in China.  Many of the same companies that manufacture the chicken jerky are also making the duck jerky .  Why take a chance?

It may not be cheap – but it is so easy to make your own -

Chicken Jerky

Ingredients:

Chicken Breasts – that’s it!

Basically, we are dehydrating strips of chicken. Dehydrating is the process of slowly removing all of the water. The dehydration process retains almost 100% of the nutritional content of the food.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Thinly slice the chicken with the grain. The slices should be very thin, I’m always scared of cutting myself, so these aren’t thin as they could be :)
Place the strips on the baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 3 hours, just check on it once in a while.

Remove from oven and cool.

Easy, right?!

You can store the jerky in the fridge for about 3 weeks. If you make a big batch, you can freeze for later use.

You can feed your dog these treats and feel secure in the knowledge that they are healthy and safe. And they have one super special ingredient that no store can sell – L-O-V-E.

PLEASE WARN OTHER DOG OWNERS: SHARE ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER, ETC.

I’m neither a vet nor an animal nutritionist.  This recipe is not meant to replace a proper and balanced diet for your dog.  You should to speak to your own vet before trying new recipes or feeding any home cooked foods to your dog.

7 thoughts on “Chicken Jerky Treats – Safe For Your Dog?

  1. I had no idea it was so easy to make Chicken Jerky for my mischievous little monkey (who is really a dog) ! Thank you Jen for the heads up warning and the easy-peasy recipe. I accidently leave my chicken in the oven for too long anyways, so works well for me!
    I love the original thoughts and information you put into these articles. So helpful and fun to read! Keep writing….and we will keep breakfasting with you!

  2. Pingback: Talkin’ Jerky – The Pet Network

  3. I just bought a dehydrator and have been dehytrating sweet potatoes and boneless, skinkless chicken thighs. My 2 dogs LOVE IT! I’m planning to make turkey squares and carrots, plain, no seasonings. I packed them in vacumm sealed bags. At the beginning I was hesitant, but then I realized I had been trusting all these companies that I do not even know if the ingredients in the bags are real….

    • Awesome! I’m thinking about getting a dehydrator myself – seems you think it’s worth it, good to know!! Feel free to send some pics of food items that you think work the best so I can post them in the community cookbook!! Cheers!

  4. I have been making chicken jerky treats for years for my Chow Chows. I buy the breasts and freeze them first – then take them out and let them thaw just a bit. Makes it much easier to slice them very thin. I dehydrate them for about a day in a dehydrator. They are very hard & dry and need no refrigeration. Do beef sometimes too.

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