Monday, October 5, 2009

These bones were all that was left after making my second batch of homemade dog food... baking a turkey, saving the breast portions for the humans of the household, and boiling all the rest (including fat, bones, juices, all the bits and pieces) and simmering for half a day.

It's not every day we cook a whole turkey for a pet, but last year at Thanksgiving, we stocked our deep freeze with meat on sale, and turkey was between 59 and 69 cents a pound...that equates to 6 or 7 dollars for a ten pound bird. We've been very happily eating....and eating...and eating our way through those turkeys from last year, and are about to hit the one year mark and there are still some to go.

With our recent adoption of Kaleb, our beloved Australian Shepherd (yayyy!!!dream come true), we found that kibble prices for the healthier mixes are quite pricey. My parents always fed the lowest grade kibble to our family dogs growing up, and I guess I just thought most of them are created equal. Kaleb wasn't picky, and we started out feeding him just that...low-end kibble. Then I read the ingredients list more carefully and did some reading on the internet, as well as consulting with my esteemed Aussie Mentor, and decided that was probably going to cause more problems than it solved. So those extra turkeys languishing in the deep freeze have found further purpose.

If we had a pressure canner, I'd have turned them all slowly into canned turkey stock by now, but since that hasn't transpired yet, they are the base I use to add to a small bit of quality kibble and healthy leftovers Du Jour. As a result, Kaleb is pretty enthusiastic about mealtime, and will nudge and nudge me at the same two feedings times a day and literally give me The Meaningful Stare while he licks his chops...too cute! If it's a day I work nights and sleep days, I get hijacked from Dreamland by a slight whining sound beside the bed, and here is what I see when I roll over and look beyond the covers...

If that doesn't work, this wet nose gives me Morse Code alerts....Food, Lady! SOS...

The cooked portion of the mix is all the meat, juices, "bone dust" (whatever part of the bones that will crumble in my hand to powder after cooking so long..and it's amazing how many will)and so one from the actual turkey. Then I add in any leftover bread, some rice and oats and garlic powder, and any green veggies or squashes that are leftover from the fridge...bits of meat or fat from other leftovers, and that's it.

That gets frozen into smaller portions, a few days' worth at a time, and I thaw them in the fridge as he eats his way through them daily. We're still working with his portion size, but it works out to about 1/3 quality kibble plus 1/3 turkey mixture plus 1/3 raw shredded leaf lettuce or cabbage or cooked squash, etc. Just NO onions..they're harmful to dogs.

I haven't done the price estimate, but I know each serving of the turkey mixture comes to pennies because the quantity off of just one sale-priced ten pound turkey is huge...two stockpots full when I made some more today. And I'm talking large stockpots. I add water as it all cooks and dont add the final ingredients till just at the very end. I only have a handful of turkey bones left when all is said and done, and I freeze them to stew in the next batch...minerals! I have at least 5 or 6 gallons of great food to supplement our furry fellow, and I don't have to worry that he's getting sub-par by-products below consumption-grade.

The results may take some time, but I'm shooting for a healthy weight for him, improvement to his coat condition, and less shedding. And a happy dog, of course!

I've never thought of myself as an "Animal Chef" type of person, so this started off more as a practical way of getting some high quality for low cost. Normally I'm entirely stingy about freezing all our poultry and beef stock to use for soups. I have so much frozen just now though, it's not an issue. It's nice to know that for 6 or 7 dollars plus some excess pantry item contributions we have at least a couple months of dog food it would have cost us MUCH more to get at the store.



Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Always worth it for our pets :o)

Mel said...

I thought, turkey was harmful to dogs, but don't quote me on that... doublecheck with a veternarian. I must say, it looks good.

Robbyn said...

Ken, yes :)

Mel, just checked on that and all I could find was concern about feeding straight meat of any kind, or large quantities of fatty things. I also found dire warnings about feeding almost any kind of real food...veggies, grains, etc, and only using pre-fab food. I'll doublecheck to make sure I'm not causing my pup any problems, but whatever my vet recommends, I'll be trying to implement some homemade solutions instead of being entirely reliant on manufactured ones. Thanks for the heads up! :) With the addition of an entire pumpkin, rice, oats, greens, water and garlic, it considerably dilutes the broth and boiled-down carcass. But you can be sure I'll check!

Annette said...

I have often thought of making the food for Odis - have not gotten off my rumpus yet to do it.
I am curious on what your vet says about what to include. Dogs of the past had no problems eating whole foods cooked at home and then whatever dead things they found outside (bleck).
Please update when you find something out.

Killi said...

On sites about my big lad there are warnings about feeding him too much protein ~ Russkaya Psovaya Borzayas were given grain & table scraps.
Quite how that worked when they were Royals dogs, I'm not sure, unless it was the Keeper of the Hounds that fed them. I feed him commercial food ~ Pedro Gold (2/3), Redmills Racer or Tracker (1/3) & meat scraps from the local supermarket butcher once a week. The Pedro has dried meat lumps & lots of flaked maize (doggy cornflakes). Local farmers feed their dogs on Tracker or Racer & Perata (livestock flaked maize which my poultry & horses also get). I add the Redmills as it's cheaper, higher in protein & ideal for my dogs who are sort of workers. When I just had Lurchers they had Dr. Mole in Somerset, but the same feed from the same company in Ireland was 3 times the price c& The Redmills is for working greyhounds/lurchers/hunters. Skoryy is champion egg thief & he loves his eggs.
Robbyn, do you read Rhonda's blog? She always makes her own dog food & I think she always has. There is a site (Dogfood Secrets) who hate commercial American dogfood, especially as they say that the commercial stuff contains any dead animal, including euthanized dogs & cats.

To make you feel even more grossed out ~ my lot ate the puc goat after the nanny killed him & they're all lively & alert. Twilight catches & eats rabbits & pheasants.

Garlic is good for worming. I'm not sure how they can eat garlic & not onion as they are both allium & Mum's allergy to onion extends to garlic.