Happy Thanksgiving from the National Lacy Dog Association! We have a special holiday treat from our resident holistic care expert Betty Leek. She has great tips on feeding raw on a budget with Thanksgiving turkeys.

Not only is November good eating for humans, it’s great eating for dogs. At least it is for those lucky enough to be raw fed. Starting around the first of November, grocery stores start putting frozen turkeys on sale. Sales run from the turkeys being really cheap to discounts when you spend a certain amount of money on other food stuffs. Whatever turkey deal your grocer uses to get you into the store, take advantage of those cheap birds for your dog! I’ve seen prices as low as $.40 a pound for frozen turkeys, making it one of the cheapest ways to feed your dogs raw. If you have extra freezer space, buy as many turkeys as you can get and store them. The turkeys will be on sale through Christmas, so you have plenty of time to stock up on this really inexpensive raw food for your dogs.

The worst thing about frozen turkeys is just that, they are frozen. It takes such a long time to thaw them out so the dogs can eat them. But, unlike thawing turkeys for humans, you don’t have to worry about health issues when thawing the turkey for your dog. Any “bugs” the turkey gets while thawing won’t effect canines. Once the turkey is thawed, you can either feed it to your dog whole, or do as I do and cut it up into individual meals. I have found that there are a couple of easy ways to cut up the turkey. Both ways make use of my husband. I can cut the turkey up by myself, but it is much easier if he helps me with it.

For the cutting of the turkey, you can use a hacksaw or a mechanical tool called a sawsall. We use the sawsall for deer and elk, but for just one turkey we use the hacksaw. I start by cutting the skin where the drumstick is attached to the thigh. The skin is easier to cut with a knife or kitchen shears. The drumstick can be bent back from its normal position at the thigh and it is easy to cut between the bones at that joint. The thigh is much the same way, bend it back and cut at that joint. The wings need the skin cut also, then bend and cut at the joint where the wing joins the body. We then turn the turkey up on end and cut the back away from the front. This is where the hack saw is really needed, as you are actually cutting through bone here. We cut the back into quarters. The breast is cut into two pieces. We just cut along the breast bone, so one breast gets the bone and the other doesn’t.

Distribute these pieces according to the raw formula of 80% meat, 10% organs and 10% edible bones. The backs, wings, neck and tail are too much bone to be fed for one meal. If you do want to feed them as a meal, be sure and feed plenty of meat on the next meal. The gizzard and heart can be fed as a meat, along with the backs and such. And of course the liver counts as an organ too. My dogs don’t like turkey organs, so at my place they get seared a little in some oil and parmesean cheese so the dogs will eat them. If you do have to cook the organs for your dogs, remember and don’t really cook them, just sear them so they maintain their nutritional value.

For those who like to hunt turkey but don’t really like to eat them, feeding them to your dogs is an ideal way to put that meat to use. As a hunter and a raw feeder, one could just give the whole wild turkey to the dog and let it do what should come naturally. But to keep the mess to a minimum, most people will want to take the feathers off and gut the turkey. These pages on Bowhunting.net and Wild Turkey Zone have instructions on how to clean a turkey. When reading these articles, remember that you are dressing a turkey for your dogs, they don’t care whether the turkey has skin on or not. And don’t forget that the head and feet are good eating for your dog too. The head, including the eyes and brain, have good vitamins and minerals including omega 3s. The feet have calcium and chondroitin in them, which are good for the bones and joints.

Hunters also don’t need to keep the bird as cool as you would for human consumption, which is convenient if you are hunting spring turkey in Texas. When you get home with the turkey, either freeze it whole or it into meal portions while it’s still easy to work with. Then wrap the turkey in butcher paper or place it in zip lock bags and freeze.

All of the turkeys that you get put in your freezer, either through smart shopping or hunting, can stay in the freezer for some time. Even if you leave it there for too long and the meat gets freezer burn on it, the dogs will not care. Freezer burned meat is still be good food for your dogs. And they will be thankful all year for those Thanksgiving turkeys you put aside for them.