Only the best for Fido: it’s gourmet time for hairy hipsters
Ever more chefs are toiling away in kitchens that produce posh nosh for well-off four-legged darlings
With menu options including turkey and mac ‘n’ cheese, or venison and squash, it could be just the latest hip dining hot spot in New York. However, these tasty treats are not meant for people but their four-legged friends, with the opening of the city’s first kitchen dedicated to daily production of fresh dog food.
Pet owners will be able to come into the store, on Manhattan’s Union Square, and watch as the chefs whip up 900kg of food each day. Seven such kitchens are already operating in California, and capitalising on a growing trend.
US sales of fresh pet food in groceries and pet stores jumped 70% between 2015 and 2018, to reach more than $546m, according to Nielsen, a data company.
“Just as people have become sceptical of highly processed foods for themselves, they’re looking critically at their pets’ foods as well,” said Amy Zalneraitis, part owner and chief brand officer of We Feed Raw, a 10-year-old raw food meal plan service in Maine. “They think: ‘How could something with a shelf life of over a year be better than real, fresh food?’”
Petco plans to open a series of other kitchens over the next four years, in collaboration with the California-based Just Food For Dogs, a company that launched in 2010. When the two companies announced the tie-up, Rebecca Frechette, Petco executive vice-president, described Just Food For Dogs as the “inventor of the most radical change in pet food in decades”.
And it is not just the pampered pooches of Manhattan that are dining out on fresh, organic meals. San Francisco-based NomNomNow, which makes proportioned fresh meals specific to each pet, sends hundreds of thousands of meals a month to customers in 48 states. “The general health consciousness of Americans is transferring to their pets, because we do consider pets as part of our family,” said Lynn Hubbard, the general manager of NomNomNow’s production facility in Nashville, Tennessee.
But the trend is an expensive one. NomNomNow’s service costs up to $3.80 (about R54) per meal for a 16kg dog, and up to $2.80 per meal for a 5.5kg cat. Normal pet food can cost about 55 cents (about R8) a can. Just Food For Dogs, meanwhile, sells its venison and squash dish for $11.95. The company is the largest buyer of human-grade venison in the US.
Some vets have questioned the trend of feeding human-quality food to dogs, especially if it is simply supermarket-bought meat. “There are so many essential nutrients, from all different classes, that need to be considered,” said Lindsey Bullen, a pet nutrition specialist with the Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas. “If they are too high or too low, it can cause significant problems for that pet in months or years to come.”Bullen recommended that her clients add canine and feline supplements to fresh foods, to ensure the animals get the correct nutrients.Deb Colgan is a recent convert to a raw-food diet for her dogs, working with her vet to add vitamin E, salmon oil, probiotics and a joint supplement. “It’s very much a relief my dogs are so healthy, and we do believe it’s because of how they eat,” said the Oconomowoc, Wisconsin resident. “I can’t imagine us ever going back to commercial.”– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)