I really came to this idea of home-cooked dog food because of Chris’s experience. We saw how Zeus’s health was improved by the change in diet. We were feeding Vila one of the higher-rated but still affordable choices in kibble at the time.
Once I got over the mental problem of cooking for my dog, it became an easy choice to start making food in a similar way. Chris was cooking in a crock pot about every 10 days, and I wanted to cook only once per month, so I loaded up a large turkey pot with chicken backs and fish heads. I could cook enough for a month at a time. I thought I’d reached the pinnacle of my success with dog food.
Then one day Chris and I were discussing the food and trying to reduce cooking time in order to preserve more nutrients. We knew that what we were feeding our dogs was a quantum leap in quality above kibble - but since we were cooking all of this over a flame, it took 12-13 hours of cooking for the bones to be soft enough to eat. There is a lot of nutrient loss in that amount of time. So - we decided to try and do the cook in a pressure cooker.
Once we got the ingredients to test it out, it was an easy pick as to which way we could go forward. Cooking the bones of a whole chicken turned them into mush in less than 3 hours. Cooking a whole fish turned the bones edible in less than an hour. That was a huge improvement. And then - through the process of nutritional testing, we found out that our recipe had too much calcium, making the need for bones in the finished product almost non-existent.
After finalizing some recipes, we were able to reduce the cooking time drastically, which produces a finished product much more dense in nutrients, and it’s even tastier (from what Vila tells me).
So here we are. I’ve learned a lot about pet nutrition through this process. As an added bonus, a lot of the same information about dog food applies to cats as well. I don’t personally have a cat, but we have enough friends that do, and we decided to try out some cat recipes as well. It turns out that a lot of the same principles apply, but cats have a bit of a different nutrient profile since they are true carnivores.
We really hope that through the process of building up this business we are able to help out a lot of dogs and cats in the neighborhood. We believe that our food is vastly superior to anything commercially available. Check our FAQ page for answers why we believe this - and for comparisons of ingredient lists.
Like any pet lover, I've always tried to give my little buddy the best food possible. After trying dozens of foods; everything from freeze dried to raw, I finally settled on a dry kibble. It had pictures of wild animals on the label and was only available from my local pet food stores. Kibble doesn't need a lot of prep work like freeze dried and doesn't have the risks and cleanup issues of raw. He liked it, and it made all sorts of health claims so I happily served it to him day after day.
A few years ago I started to notice my once very, very active Boston Terrier was starting to slow down a bit. Nobody escapes father time. I knew the day would come that he wouldn't be the puppy he once was, but I didn't think it would start at 6 years old. While visiting our friends Bruce and LaDonna, LaDonna noted that he was becoming a "lap dog." "He's not running around crazy like he used to."
That was it. I wasn't imagining things, my little buddy was slowing down. During this time my dog was scheduled for a routine checkup. I asked my vet about it and he assured me that it's perfectly normal for dogs to slow down. Of course it is. Nothing against my vet, I mean, my dog wasn't "sick," but that wasn't an acceptable answer for me. So other than advising me to add a little flax seed to his meal to keep his coat shiny and soft, I was sent home with no real advice. That day I started researching. I searched the internet for any clue to what might be slowing him down so early in life. I bought books, read blogs, asked other dog owners... I literally spent every non work/sleep moment researching. After about a month of reading and asking questions I started to notice something. Many dogs with food allergies, mobility issues and general ailments seemed to improve with a diet change. But I was already feeding my dog a premium dog food that can't be purchased in a grocery store. And the label pointed out why it's blend of dehydrated, reconstituted, vitamin added food was better than the leading national brands dehydrated, reconstituted, vitamin added food. And my dog didn't have an ailment other than he was noticeably slowing down. So I was sure his diet couldn't be it. Or could it?
This is when I started to look into dog nutrition. Not just reading dog food labels. I wanted to know what science says about dog nutrition. I read books, studies, nutritional guides, anything and everything there was to know about dog food. As it turns out, that expensive kibble from my local dog food store isn't much better than the mass-produced national brand kibble (It is better, just not a lot better).
Armed with my new knowledge, I created a recipe. I added real foods like whole chicken, bone meal and vegetables. Everything my dog needs for proper nutrition. I cooked everything up in a large crock pot, let it cook overnight and the next day I had something that looked delicious enough that I wanted to try it. I put the food into plastic food containers and stored them in my freezer. I had enough food for about a week.
A week later...
My wife didn't fully know what I was up to. She knew I was concerned about our boy's health, but she just assumed I was making him some home made food as a treat in addition to his regular kibble. She was the first to notice. She started saying things like "What are you putting in his food. He's really got a lot of energy!" So I made more. Our friends that observed him becoming a "lap dog," who didn't know about his diet switch, were making comments like "he's acting like a puppy again." Again, I knew it wasn't just me, they saw it too.
How it became a business
Bruce and LaDonna have a dog as well so I gladly shared my recipe and my story with them. And I'm glad I did because after trying the recipe, Bruce showed me some ways to improve the recipe. Methods of cooking that preserved more nutrients and was a lot faster than an overnight crock pot. Not only that, but how to make more at a time. The trade-off for making home made dog food is time (and knowing proper nutrition). It takes time to buy the food, prepare the ingredients and cook and package. Because I worked from home I had that kind of time. But most people don't. So that's why we decided to start this company.