What is an American FFA degree holder to do when his mother’s freezer is full of more than 100 pounds of chicken livers, leftovers from a successful poultry proficiency project? Well, Duane Unruh of rural Peabody decided to make dog treats, and after some experimentation, came up with a winning recipe.
“The first time I tried it, I made about five different recipes,” Unruh said. “I narrowed it down to the one that was the easiest to make, used the most chicken livers, and tasted the best according to my dog, Max.”
He said the idea to make dog treats came out of necessity when his parents, Harlin and Doris Unruh, needed their freezer space back.
“I butcher and sell about 1,000 broilers each year,” he said. “The chicken sells real well, but it was harder to get rid of the livers. People just didn’t buy enough of those.”
Unruh said he thought about making dog food, but because that involved a lot of moisture, it spoiled rapidly. He searched on-line for some other ideas and came up with a recipe for chicken liver brownie dog treats.
“I make two kinds now,” he said. “The first kind is baked but needs to be refrigerated. Those are small squares and they stay good for about two weeks.”
Unruh also makes a crunchy second variety, dehydrated in a food dryer, and cut out in the shape of dog bones.
“Those stay good for months and don’t get bad,” he said.
With Christmas just around the corner, Unruh said the chicken liver brownies would make great pet gifts.
“They sold real well this summer and I have a lot of repeat customers,” he said. “When they find out I am making batches for Christmas, they will likely sell pretty fast.”
Unruh’s dog treat recipe includes simple ingredients such as chicken livers, eggs, corn meal, and wheat meal.
“They are edible for humans but are really only marketed for dogs,” he said. “The four ounce bags of square treats sell the best. They can be used for all sizes of dogs.”
The dog treats, which customers order from Unruh’s rural Peabody home, also come in an eight-ounce size. He continues to sell pasture fresh, free-range eggs, and the broilers from the farm as well.
“Right now I have around 240 laying hens and get about 20 dozen eggs a day,” he said.
The eggs are sold at stores in Newton, Peabody, and Goessel. Unruh has an egg seller’s license and is a member of the South Central Kansas Farm Products organization.
Unruh, who started making and selling the chicken liver brownie dog treats this summer, won a National FFA Proficiency Award in 2010 for his pastured poultry business. This October he traveled to Indianapolis, Ind., to collect a hard-earned American FFA degree. He is currently a junior at K-State majoring in entrepreneurship with a minor in animal science. He also works part-time at Home Depot in Manhattan.
“Right now the dog treats are just a sideline business,” he said.” But they help me turn a profit with the rest of my poultry products.”