I was chopping up a round of turkey hearts on Wednesday, and realized that I should talk dehydrators. Not makes and models–I have one by Nesco that I bought because it was reasonably well rated on Amazon and not too expensive. I didn’t do extensive research.
Consider the following questions: Are you cheap? Are you a control freak? Does your dog have dietary restrictions? Do you have room to store a lightweight but fairly bulky kitchen appliance? Does your dog eat a good number of treats?
The more of those you answered yes to, the more you should just do it.
I don’t go to any considerable trouble with dehydrator recipes. What I’m looking to replace is store bought pure meat treats, because I KNOW what meat Silas can eat. Additional ingredients, like flour or eggs or whatever, are more sketchy for him. My process is: buy meat, chop up meat, dehydrate meat. If that skeeves you, you can boil the meat first, or start it in the oven.
Here’s the mathy part, if you’re interested:
Before the dehydrator, I was buying roughly four bags of treats a month. (We do a lot of training and counterconditioning.) A three to four ounce bag of freeze dried meat treats, in the brand we bought most often and a variety that Silas could eat, was $10. We’ll split the difference and call it 3.5oz for $10, or $2.8/oz.
My dehydrator cost me around $60. We’ll get to that in a second.
Today, I dehydrated two pounds of turkey hearts. This took me roughly 30 minutes of chopping and yielded 7 ounces of treats, plus a few ounces of fatty bits that Silas ate as-is. (Fat doesn’t dehydrate, it just makes your treats greasy. Take that into account when you’re buying meat. More fat is more waste.) The whole turkey hearts cost $3.50. So, $0.50 an ounce for the finished treats.
Using the math for just turkey hearts, which are a default for us, the dehydrator paid for itself 100% at around 28 ounces of treats, or in slightly less than two months. Anything beyond two months is saving me something like $30 a month, if I can get through the whole month without buying treats. If your dog can eat treats that aren’t insanely expensive, your numbers won’t be so impressive.
Costs that are not factored in here: electricity for the dehydrator, gas for the car to go buy either treats or ingredients, or my labor. I also did go back and buy some liners for the dehydrator trays, but I’m too lazy to look up what I paid for them. It wasn’t more than $10 or so, and they’re more of an easy-clean-up luxury addition than an essential.
These treats are apparently DELICIOUS, even to a non chowhound like Silas. Dehydrating makes everything better, apparently. I even dehydrated turkey hot dogs for him, which he hates plain, and he loved them. (Please watch the quantity with dehydrated treats. You would be amazed at how quickly your dog can eat way too much hotdog or liver. Don’t ask me how I know.)
I know exactly what is in them, what surfaces they have touched, and how and when they were prepared.
I can make them as large or as small as I like. This is the finished product I usually shoot for:
So, there you go. The low-down on dehydrating.