- Posted by howies
- 1 December 2009
I want my dog to eat proper, decent food, something that I would not mind serving up every day and wouldn’t have to hold at arms’ length. Something that would look lovely in my kitchen cupboard and didn’t feel that it needed to be segregated into its own ‘pet food’ cupboard where all the hanging out tongues on the front of the packages could hang out together.
After my dog just refused to eat any food I bought for her, I decided I needed to take the matter into my own hands and cook her up some yummy food that she couldn’t possibly resist.
And that’s how it all started... I needed a delicious food in a handy – recyclable – container that I would love feeding her every day. Humans love caring for and nurturing their best friends and feeding her something that she so obviously enjoys was an important part of our relationship.
The Pet Food industry is a huge, faceless industry run by four major FMCG’s. It’s on a massive 4 million cans-an-hour scale. It’s an industry that runs its spreadsheets to 4 decimal points as each 10th of a penny makes a big difference to the profit margin.
It’s worth knowing that an aluminium tin bought straight from the aluminium maker costs 15p. The biggest selling pet food in the UK retails for 57p a tin – running the numbers back, this would equate to around 3p of ingredients per tin. Not very appetising.
Looking down the biscuit aisle or the ice cream counter and gazing at all the amazing ingredients we are now so conversant in – spelt flour, cardamom, organic lemon oil, lavender flowers makes you realise how far we’ve come from Raspberry Ripple and Neapolitan flavours. The food industry in general in the UK has transformed beyond recognition from where we were, say just 5 years ago.
But the pet food industry has been stuck in a time warp where price has been the one and only driver. As consumers we have been drummed into asking, ‘Where’s the discount?’. Drive through any town and see how many signs you find for ‘Discount Pet Foods Sold Here’.
How have we, a nation of pet lovers, got to the stage where we are on a mission to feed our best friends the cheapest food available, without questioning how is it possible to make something remotely nutritious for a few pence?
As well as the conversation around ingredients, there’s also the eco angle: pet food packaging is one of the biggest landfill offenders. Obsession with convenience has led to many pet foods now being sold in pouches – which will never breakdown – three layers of reinforced foil and plastic that withstand the cooking process at very high temperatures are not designed to breakdown, even after hundreds of years. Even those large bags of dry food are made from plastics that are not recyclable.
It’s time to really look at what goes into pet food. How have we been so gullible! I fed Lily for a long time on a variety of mass produced food without ever questioning the juicy pictures of plump vegetables, gravy and succulent pieces of meat on the label. It was only when she went on hunger strike that I really took the time to see what was behind the label.
After 18 months of bad skin, itchy ears and general listlessness, I talked to my brother – a vet – and decided I had to do something about this. There must be people out there who would be happy to buy a proper meal for their pet! A cappuccino sets me back £2.70 – more than a day’s worth of yummy food for my dog.
We turned the paradigm around by asking – ‘How good can we make this’ not, ‘How cheap can we make this’. We added lots of vegetables, fruit, a dozen herbs and lots of good meat into each recipe and set out our stall.
Being a pet food evangelist has spread from Lily and I, to our customers…! We have so many emotional emails from them to say how thankful they are.
I just need to bring my teenage daughter round – she still finds it hard to tell her friends what her Mum does for a living: “Mum – I CAN’T tell them you make pet food”!